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Scratching the Chalkboard: Who’s the heir to Fabian Castillo’s left wing spot?

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There are a couple good replacements waiting on deck to take over the left wing spot.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at FC Dallas Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

With Fabian Castillo officially sold on loan to Trabzonspor, a vacated spot on the left wing is up for grabs for the rest of squad. FC Dallas has a stacked roster and are several players deep across nearly every position, including left wing. Obviously there’s no one on the roster, or even in the league that is a like for like replacement for Castillo in terms of his speed and ability to slalom his way through defenders and deliver the final product on a fairly consistent basis.

But Dallas is not without options here, nor are they in a position where they have unknown products waiting in the wings (pun kind of intended?). Dallas has trotted out several players on the left side in the past against other MLS sides, so they are not completely left out in the cold here. The only thing that Dallas may have some regret, would have been the sale of Alex Zendejas, who while not a natural left winger, could’ve provided some significant minutes on the left side. But there was no way the Front Office could’ve anticipated such a weird and unexpected transfer of a key player. In the meantime, here’s what Dallas has to work with:

The Potentials

At various times this season, FCD has trotted out Ryan Hollingshead, Tesho Akindele, Michael Barrios and even Agustin Jara on the left wing. At this point in the season, I’m not anticipated a “left wing by committee” type situation where the minutes are rotated. I do anticipate Oscar Pareja settling in on one player as his primary starter to get him fully acclimated with the set up. And because of that, I’ve narrowed it down to either Ryan Hollingshead and Tesho Akindele as the replacement, with Carlos Lizarazo as the dark horse.

I would’ve loved to have been able to include Timo Pitter, but given his lack of minutes, I just can’t see him busting into the starting lineup. I’ve also scratched Mauro Rosales as an option given Oscar’s exclusive use of Morales as a late game sub this year.

Comparing the players is a bit complex, given that Castillo has played almost exclusively on the left, with several minutes up top sprinkled here and there. Hollingshead has seen minutes with Dallas in his career at both full back spots, left and right wing and even a brief cameo in center midfield too. (Not to mention his goalkeeping debut this season.) Akindele has primarily operated on the right, with a few chances up top as a the lone striker or paired with Maxi Urruti at times, though he’s logged some minutes on the left too.

The Case for Hollingshead

What is underrated in Hollingshead’s game is his ability to get past the first defender. At a 48.72% success rate, he actually eclipses Castillo in that regard, though his attempts are fewer and this statistic is skewed because Hollingshead has had the luxury of taking on defenders from the fullback spot where there is more space.

Hollingshead also brings greater aerial strength on the attack and much better defensive sensibilities to the side. Last week against Vancouver, we got to see Hollingshead perform the most attacking duties we’ve seen this year.

Hollingshead vs Vancouver:

(Green - successful pass. Red - unsuccessful pass. Yellow - key pass.)

(Green - tackle. Red - unsuccessful tackle. Orange - recovery. Blue - interception.)

(Green - successful take on. Red - unsuccessful take on.)

An advantage Dallas will have from Hollingshead is better care of the ball. Castillo earns his paycheck by attempting high risk, high reward maneuvers where Hollingshead will be the opposite. By being able to maintain the ball in more advanced positions, Mauro Diaz will benefit by getting more time on the ball. And it’s obvious that the more Mauro has the ball, the better it is.

The Case for Tesho

Akindele definitely has a legitimate shot to get the starting spot here. Tesho was hand picked by Oscar Pareja, and was claimed a “reach” pick for Dallas back in 2014. I’m sure those comments left a foul taste in Pareja and Tesho’s mouths and having the chance to show up those critics is extra motivation.

Tesho doesn’t have the defensive acumen that Hollingshead will bring, but he will deliver the final product on a consistent basis. Every year, Tesho’s shot accuracy has been 62% or above. Some of this is by nature of where Tesho plays, his shot selection and game state but make no mistake, Akindele is one of the better, if not the best, finishers on this Dallas side. If Oscar is looking for goals, Tesho would be a good bet to provide that.

My gut says the starting spot will be Hollingshead’s to lose. Along with Zach Loyd, Hollingshead possesses one of the highest soccer IQs on this team. He reads the game insanely well, knowing exactly when to slide behind the back line and knowing when to stay back to slow the game down. Hollingshead also provides another dimension when it comes to speed of play. Castillo’s at his best when he’s playing at one speed (fast). His moves are predictable, but nobody can keep up that it doesn’t matter. Hollingshead provides a bit of both. He can play fast when he needs to get behind or a slower, methodical approach when Dallas needs to unbalance and stretch the opposing defense.

Dallas will no doubt be a different side without Castillo, but they are not without adequate replacements.