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Quick Burns: What is FC Dallas’ best lineup without Mauro Diaz?

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We know Diaz is going to be out for a while, so now what do we do?

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at FC Dallas Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The loss of Mauro Diaz is going to be a tough one to overcome for FC Dallas. Between the assists and creativity he provides on the field, to the his set piece ability, replacing him is going to be a tall order for Oscar Pareja.

Our staff has been discussing what makes the most sense for FC Dallas as they enter the post season without their MVP. Here is what we think our best lineup should look like.

Cody Gamond - Bunker and Counter.

The last few months with Diaz have seen the team become more possession oriented, but with his loss it is time to play deep and hit teams on the break. This will require younger, pacier players, who can run the length of the field. This was the strategy when we had Castillo and no Diaz, and the 3-0 in Columbus last year is a good model to follow. As such I am leaning towards a 4-4-2.

GK: Seitz; LB: Figueroa; CB: Hedges, Zimmerman; RB: Harris; LM: Hollingshead; RM: Barrios; CDM: Acosta/Ulloa, Gruezo; ST: Urruti, Akindele

This lineup plays to Akindele and Barrios biggest strengths, by giving them open space to run into and Hollingshead does well on the break also. This saves Rosales and Pescadito to come on late and possess the ball if the team needs a goal.

Ben Lyon- Depends on the opponent.

‘Busca la Forma’ is very real, and of all the years to have your best player shelved for the season (and, unfortunately, beyond), this team is well-engineered to thrive. The secret sauce of youth combined with early veteran status and team chemistry should give the club cohesive game plans, young legs, and experience playing without their maestro.

11 points from 6 Mauro-less games this year (3-1-2) is a small sample, admittedly, but it’s enough of one not to forecast doom. Here’s how they’ll do it:

  1. Same formation with either Kellyn Acosta or Mauro Rosales as the ‘10’. Mauro Diaz isn’t a commodity item that you can replace off the shelf from Costco. His combination of guile, footwork, vision, and big picture thinking on the fly makes him unique in MLS. That said, Rosales (low mileage this year thanks to man management) should be game for 60+ minutes down the stretch, provides playmaking spark, and delivers a good ball on set pieces.For Kellyn, what he lacks in the creative department, he makes up in range and aggression. In many ways, a 4-2-3-1 with Kellyn as the most advanced midfielder would more closely mimic what Colorado Rapids have done to deliver a successful season this year. Kellyn can be your ‘10’ for road games while Rosales conducts at home.
  2. Defend and counter 4-4-2. FC Dallas has used this as a recipe to good effect without Diaz this year. One benefit of this is that Rosales slots in on the outside (where he seems more comfortable), and the team still ends up playing to a strength (organized D). In all likelihood, chance creation would suffer a bit, and FCD won’t be as dangerous in this alignment now that Fabian Castillo is gone. Even minus Castillo, Dallas can still be lethal on the counter. People often forget Barrios as striker, but 2015 MLS Cup finalists Columbus sure don’t.

Phil Luetchford - Where we’re going, we don’t need a #10

Having gone to nearly every FCD home game and several away games over the last three years, I can honestly say that Diaz is my favorite player. Of anyone. All-time. I wear my signed Diaz jersey with pride. I'm always looking forward to seeing what spark and touch of magic he will bring to a game. No single player has had more of an impact on this team's success. He is irreplaceable.

That said, we’re moving to a 4-4-2. When Diaz was out in April, we played a 4-4-2, winning two and drawing two. The strength of this team is a stout defense with the ability to draw a team in and hit quickly on the counter.

At forward, I’m pairing Tesho with Maxi. In April when Diaz was injured, Tesho scored 3 goals in 4 starts. This is because Tesho is much better suited as a second striker than as a winger. He gets more effective the closer he gets to goal. Maxi and Tesho will rotate who drops into midfield to pressure opposing DMs, like Torres and Griezmann in last year's Champions League.

I’m bringing Ryan Hollingshead into the midfield. But I’m putting him on the right side and shifting Michael Barrios to the left. This is because Ryan and Atiba Harris make a good partnership, Ryan tucking inside and Atiba overlapping. In an opposite way, Mikey and Maynor partner well as Mikey can stay high up the pitch and cut inside while Maynor Figueroa stays wide and sends in crosses for the two forwards. With the news coming out that Kellyn is doing fine, I’m starting him next to Carlos Gruezo like Papi prefers, with Vic ready to step in when needed.

As always, Matt Hedges and Walker Zimmerman anchor the backline and provide key set piece goals. Mau Rosales will come in for the final 30 minutes to hold the ball and deliver late-game free kicks in the Michel mold.

Nathan Hill - Trust in Papi

While I have jokingly toyed with the idea of playing every dmid we have and letting Urruti and Barrios run on to balls, I think we are too late in the season to introduce a major formation shift. I do think bringing Tesho and Urruti as dual strikers can be a start, with both willing to come deeper to get the balls. However, I probably prefer giving Rosales the start in place of Diaz even if he can't go the full 90. If you want a real gutsy change, then move Atiba up as a winger and let Hollingshead take RB?

The good thing is that we know against LA all we need is a draw to claim the Shield. Expect FCD to play some disciplined defense first and take their chances on the counter or with set pieces. Whatever formation Pareja goes with will likely be a preview of what is to come.