So here we are, another offseason where we have to discuss Mauro Diaz and FC Dallas. Typically in the past, it has all been about wanting him healthy or in the case of last year, an update on his recovery.
But as I look at the end of 2017 with an eye on 2018, all I can see is that things need to change in a big way between the club’s top player and the club itself. How he is treated, who is brought in around him, and everything else in-between. I really only see three options on the table that have to be explored with him too. A couple that we’ve seen the team dive into in recent years, and one that may be for the best in the end.
Find the right back up
For the third year running, we’re in an offseason wondering who will back up Diaz. Two years ago it was saved by bringing in Mauro Rosales. This year it was signing Javier Morales. Neither lasted more than a year.
Let’s look at Morales real quick as he never really fit in well on the field with the team. When Oscar Pareja opted for a 4-4-2 look to begin the season, it limited the amount of time that Morales was put on the field. In retrospect, the 4-4-2 seemed to be the better option for the club while Diaz was recovering.
When you look back at Rosales, the plan actually worked nicely for FC Dallas with him in 2016. He wasn’t an everyday starter until the end of the season and he never really was a like-for-like replacement for Diaz when it came down to giving Diaz rest during the season. It was only when Diaz went down that we saw that Rosales was not the right fit to actually replace Diaz in the 4-2-3-1 look.
So that leaves us with another offseason looking for a backup to Diaz. Outside of the lack of center back depth on this team right now, there is probably no bigger hole than what backs up Diaz. Again. It almost feels like Groundhogs Day writing this again that we need a back up to Diaz.
Maybe it isn’t just the need of a backup but the need of a new formation for this group. We know the 4-4-2 can work with the right parts. We also know the 4-2-3-1 can work when Diaz is truly healthy and has the right attacking partners around him (Roland Lamah never quite fit what Diaz needs on the wings if we’re being honest).
In the past, we know that Pareja has longed for a 3-5-2 type look with more emphasis on the wings getting forward out of the back. Again it comes down to who the club has and will bring in this winter to make this type of set up work. The original thought for 2017 was that Anibal Chala would be that guy on one side and maybe Jose Salvatierra on the other. Well, we know both didn’t pan out as one got loaned out of MLS and the other got cut due to not passing a physical.
I’ve often wondered that if the main offensive responsibilities weren’t all on Diaz, like we sometimes saw in 2016 when Rosales was on the pitch, that it may not matter what formation the club is in as long as he is out there, with an additional playmaker and the right attacking support around them.
Pull the plug
At the end of it all, I think it is certainly time to end this experiment with Diaz. Between the body language, the fragility, and probably the mental aspect from coming back from an Achilles injury, he continues to create more problems than he is worth.
I say all of that because I really don’t know if you can build a team around him anymore. You look at the top teams in the league right now, especially the two that made it to an MLS Cup again this year, they’re built with a main playmaker but they also have the right supporting cast around them. I see this as a two-fold issue right now, Diaz isn’t the same playmaker anymore (much like how we saw David Ferreira’s quality decline after his injury) and this team isn’t built to suit him.
Look, I love watching Diaz play when he is at his best but if we’re being totally honest, we haven’t seen that type of play since before his injury in 2016. I know an Achilles injury can be a rough one to recover from but we also know how fragile Diaz is even when he isn’t recovering from a nasty injury. Just take a look at these numbers:
Mauro Diaz Stats
He’s no longer a Designated Player for the team, so there is at least that but I think if they can find someone to pick him up, even for a small fee, that may be for the best. It would certainly signal a massive reboot to the team offensively but that may be for the best.
What option do you see making the most sense for FC Dallas in 2018? Do you stick it out one more year or do you go all in on looking elsewhere?