Things have moved quickly for FC Dallas in the offseason. Between the Homegrown signings and the new international players added to the roster, one of the biggest signings may be that of free agent midfielder Javier Morales.
The veteran spent ten seasons with Real Salt Lake before joining Dallas last week. Most people believe that he is here to be the Mauro Diaz replacement while the Argentine recovers from an Achilles injury. So what does the club need to do to help make this transition a smooth one? Our staff looks into it.
Jason Poon - Wait and See
This one is a bit tricky to sort out because of the changes to the attack on multiple fronts with Roland Lamah also coming in with the expectations of replacing Fabian Castillo on the left wing. If it were the middle or late season acquisition, then Morales’ role would simply be “Get ‘er done” which at the latter stages of the season meant securing a point here and there and just doing enough to advance in the playoff rounds.
However, that is not the case and thankfully these transactions have taken place way early to where Oscar Pareja will have the luxury of time to assess his new players and find ways to integrate them together with his old squad. If Lamah can effectively be a dangerous force on the wing from the get go and not need the longer adjustment period, then the necessity for Morales to be Diaz 2.0 will be lessened.
In the worst case scenario, we see Lamah not able to adjust quickly from the start of the season, then the expectations for Javier Morales to be the main conductor of the club’s offense will fall squarely on the 10-year MLS veteran.
Something to watch will be how much more defensive work Maxi Urruti will be asked to perform to compensate and free Morales to focus his efforts on the offensive side of the ball. It’s certainly something that Urruti can do better than anyone in this league from the striker position, but be wary of those “He’s not scoring enough to be our starting striker” voices that will inevitably come.
Nathan Hill - Stay healthy
FCD is placing a lot on Javier Morales, and that should worry FCD fans a little. He’s been a stellar playmaker in the league and for RSL. The question is how much he has left in the tank in 2017. Those legs ain't getting any younger.
I feel confident that FC Dallas will continue to tinker with other formations so the pressure will not entirely be on Javier. If we get that No. 9, will we see the 4-4-2 more? Some sort of 3-5-2?
Here’s my final answer though: Javier needs to give us half a season as a 90 minute starter. Give him breaks on the road, but let him be a straight replacement for Mauro at home - hopefully effective. If we can get that, we will remain in contention for more hardware.
Ben Lyon - Good Fit with Huge Caveat
In an ideal world, Javier Morales is pretty close to a like for like switch while Mauro Diaz is on the mend. Although you lose some of Diaz’s guile on the ball, Morales possesses similar passing touch and vision and may even be a tad better on restarts. Combine that with the fact I think he’ll enjoy an upgrade in support from his defensive midfielders, and he could be in line to replicate his form from 2013-2015.
With that said, FC Dallas will kick off the season in late February in the CCL quarters by which time Javi will be 6 weeks in to his 38th year on the planet. Javi’s got a ton of miles on the odometer, and counting solely on Morales’s aging legs (with 17 year old Paxton Pomykal as the understudy) seems very risky for a club with big ambition.
Frankly, it’s no sure thing Mauro’s back to old Mauro ever again, let alone this year. Is a 37 year old attacking mid going to be a stop gap or a go to? One silver lining is that in each of the previous 5 seasons Morales has nearly equaled or surpassed the total league minutes Mauro Diaz played in 2016 (Mauro’s most active year). Even with that in mind, a hedge on Morales’s mileage seems advisable.