As the calendar rolls into the final months of season, the games begin to pick up in terms of intensity and meaning. But also in that time we begin to see some players stepping up to help FC Dallas out in pushing for the playoffs and a MLS Cup.
Last year we saw guys like Ryan Hollingshead, Zach Loyd, Jesse Gonzalez and Je-Vaughn Watson emerge as quality players that stepped up big. But who needs to do that in the final months this year? Our panel debates it:
Nathan Hill - Tesho Akindele
Yeah, there are plenty of other options, including the unknown Getterson, the rollercoaster-esque Ryan Hollingshead, and the mysterious Mauro Rosales (why isn’t he getting more minutes anyway), but this is the make or break moment of Tesho’s young career. Does he have a future in Frisco? Is he anything more than a nice squad striker/winger? With Fabian Castillo’s exit, the door is wide open. Heck, you could drive a Lincoln Navigator through it. It’s time for him not to just flash some quality from time to time but to put all the pieces together. Otherwise, I think one of those expansion teams come calling with an offer FC Dallas can’t refuse.
Scott Hiney - Ryan Hollingshead
I praised his ability to fill in on the wing when Castillo was loaned and I still believe in him. Like all major changes, it will take time for him to mesh in that spot, but I still think he has plenty to offer. He will win virtually every arial ball that comes his way off goal kicks and can be much more decisive in the final third and with the ball near the end line than Fabian. We saw his effectiveness in the playoffs last season, including his goal against Portland when the team really needed a jolt facing elimination. He has plenty of reasons for doubt –– and that’s fair –– but I think he’s a stable presence in the attack and late in the season when you need someone to simply contribute and play his part, he’ll do that. Often times, players can try and do too much in pressure situations and I think Ryan really understands how to fit into the Diaz-led offense. He might not put the team on his back and win a game single-handedly, but he certainly won’t lose the team any and can combine with whoever’s playing up top.
Cody Gamond - Maxi Urruti
Urruti is a good striker, but he has been almost worthless in several games this season. While some may disagree, I feel this is just bad form. Urruti has the ability to be the starting striker for this team, but it is imperative he start to show it.
All the goals he hasn't scored this season are starting to haunt the Castillo-less attack. If Urruti can't find form this year then Dallas is going to have a rough time in all competitions. This team needs a consistent goal scorer and Urruti needs to become that player.
Phil Luetchford - Carlos Lizarazo
Out of all the players on this roster who could replace Fabian Castillo, the only one who would be a direct replacement is Carlos Lizarazo. Fabian and Carlos even came up through the youth ranks at Deportivo Cali together. ‘Lizard Man’ has the pace and trickery to disrupt opposing defenses, if only we could get him on the field.
When we signed him on loan, I had high hopes that he could be ready to step up if Castillo was sold. I was hoping that his year at Cruz Azul was the outlier, one wasted by injury, and that he could become a breakout player. Sure, it would take six months to adapt to MLS and get fully fit, but if anyone can get the best out of a Colombian in MLS, it's Oscar Pareja.
His two-goal performance in the Open Cup against Oklahoma City in June was the turning point, I thought. We've had no such luck as he has only played sporadically since then. But if I could choose one player to step up and make a big impact, I think that Lizarazo would add a lot of danger to our starting lineup.
Edin Halilovic - Michael Barrios
With Fabian Castillo’s departure, Dallas lost an explosive goal scoring winger who offered the team so much up front that it rendered the lack of a high scoring striker to be an irrelevant or unnecessary issue. But with Fabi’s move to Turkey, Dallas lost that wild card option but still possess another in Michael Barrios, who is also a goal scoring winger in his own right.
The reason I suggest Barrios is not because I believe he’s underperforming this year, but because if anyone is going to replace what Fabi offered from this current roster, it’s him. He’s got pace, movement, tenacity, and unpredictability etched into his game and can be a match winner on his day if used correctly. He may not have the athleticism or the dribbling abilities that Castillo has, but he does tick all the other boxes and can be a lethal weapon if he can re-settle into that inverted left wing role between now and the playoffs.
Barrios has managed 17 goals since arriving at the club last year but he spent much of that time as the tertiary attacking option after Castillo and whoever the striker was at any particular time. This is what makes me believe that we haven’t seen the best of Barrios yet since he’s never had the opportunity to lead the attack here yet. With Fabi now gone and Urruti’s form being hot and cold in front of goal, Barrios could establish himself as the team’s biggest attacking threat and should the offense figure out how to play to his strengths, he could be very effective and important as the season reaches its climax.
Jason Poon - Carlos Lizarazo
With Fabian Castillo sold, this was his chance to step up and get some minutes and show why he was so highly rated and why there was some genuine excitement about his loan. So far he’s shown nothing but rust and has done nothing but continue the disappointing loan spells from the past four seasons in Erick, Andres Escobar, Ezequiel Cirigliano. None of those men managed to stick around their initial loan spell and by the look of things, Lizarazo is on his way out too. Which is a shame, given he does possess the skills to weave his way through traffic and a cannon of a shot in his repertoire. Right now Dallas is lacking a little bit of that extra juice when it comes to the offensive end, and Lizarazo is the one with the skills to do it. Whether he can get it together in time for the last few months is the question.
Drew Epperley - Kellyn Acosta
It may be a lot to ask of the young Homegrown to step up even more but for me Acosta may be the cog in the midfield that makes or breaks a game for FC Dallas. I mean that by saying he is the link between Carlos Gruezo and the defense to Mauro Diaz and the attack. I want to see Acosta make that jump to the next level as it is and this would be the perfect time to see him do that.
Who is one player in your mind that needs to step up in these last two months? Hit us up below with your thoughts.