The first two months of the season have been fairly good for FC Dallas. Right now they are the only unbeaten team in MLS and they were able to get pretty close to advancing to the CONCACAF Champions League finals.
All of this without arguably their best player in Mauro Diaz. Our staff got to thinking who have been the most crucial to this early season success. Here is who some of our staff sees as the most important pieces to the puzzle so far.
Nathan Hill: Hedges, Acosta, Urruti
We are certainly missing Mauro Diaz and can only wonder what our Magical Little Unicorn might be concocting with Colman, Urruti, Barrios, and Lamah.
But this is a tough one. Right now, our success comes from the spine of the team. A few weeks ago, I would have had Chris Seitz in here, because he’s been a rock for this team, a veteran presence, a stoic barrier against offensive attacks. How quickly things change? Meanwhile, Matt Hedges, no offense to Zimmerman, remains this team’s leader and potentially best all around player. He makes Zimmerman better, even if Zimmerman may have more upside long term. Kellyn Acosta has been the perfect Mauro Diaz replacement, scoring goals, playing fearlessly, and showing beyond his age. Meanwhile, Maxi Urruti is the energizer bunny of this team, making sure that no one in that lineup can take a play off while he hustles on both sides of the action. What you get in the end is a high bar for other players to aspire to which only makes this team better and owes to their early season success.
Cody Gamond: Hedges, Gruezo, Zimmerman
We are all aware that the offense hasn’t clicked yet and despite that this team is unbeaten in 6. Acosta deserves the praise he receives for his form so far, but our defense has been more crucial than anything else.
Zimmerman and Hedges have locked down basically any attempt to score against Dallas. Crucial means can’t live without, and right now this Dallas team can’t live without those two in defense. Gruezo has made there job that bit easier by controlling midfields and eating # 10’s for breakfast, as well as launching attacks with his tackles. Those 3 are currently crucial, everyone else is just adding to their defensive dominance.
Etan Cohn: Hedges, Zimmerman, Acosta
Together, Matt Hedges and Walker Zimmerman were the best center-back tandem in the league. This year, they have been even better. Hedges is a no-brainer and everybody should have him in this list. Zimmerman has been almost as good, and teams have had a really tough time trying to break them both down.
Acosta is a tougher choice. Gruezo has been huge for FC Dallas, but I think Victor Ulloa would be a more than competent replacement for Gruezo if he were gone. There really aren't great replacement options behind Kellyn to start in that position. Jacori Hayes could be an option, but I think he needs more time to adjust and should get rotation minutes before starting. Acosta has really stepped up this year and provided valuable goals as well as his usual passing skills and ability to cover ground and help out defensively.
Jason Poon: Hedges, Urruti, Acosta
Regardless of whether he dons the armband or not, this team goes where Matt Hedges leads. He brings the best out of this defense, and has elevated Walker Zimmerman into an budding international player. With Seitz out for a bit, the vocal leadership will fall to Hedges even more to direct and organize the defense.
Related to Hedges and the defense, Urruti as the “first defender” mantra has given this side a tremendous amount of success. Teams are hurried into playing balls up the field into the waiting
arms heads of Hedges and Zimmerman to turn the ball over. Maxi will bring the goals, but he’ll also commit 100% to the team’s defensive posture and shape.
Finally, there’s Acosta who has taken the scoring responsibilities in the absence of Diaz. He’s moving out of the #6 and turning himself into a true #8, doing a little bit of everything and driving this team forward when he can. Be interesting to see what happens when Diaz returns and occupies that space in front of Acosta.
Jeff Loftin: Gruezo, Urruti, Hedges
With all of the attention that has been headed to Acosta, Gruezo has been a bit of a man forgotten. His performances have been fantastic, and he has been anchor in front of the back four. He has shut down many attacks and has contributed as much as anyone to the stellar defensive record that FCD has put up so far this season.
Matt Hedges has been excellent this year also, part of the triangle in the middle of our defense that shuts down attack after attack. His ability to not just win balls in the air using his size, but to win 50/50 balls against quick, nimble attackers has been a big help to the Dallas defense. Something that isn’t talked about enough is his quickness, agility, and proper positioning - all of which contribute to his amazing play this season.
If we look at the Dallas attack, we can look at the new additions or the acceleration of Acosta’s attacking capabilities but we’d be missing the leader of our attack thus far. Maxi has led by example in so many ways: willingness to chase down the ball on defense, tracking back when the team is caught out, sprinting into the box time and time again even though our service from wide has been less than stellar, and lastly - scoring goals. Urruti’s ability to do whatever has been asked of him makes him crucial to our success and it helps us wait for the new guys to adapt.
El Chico Carmona: Hedges, Acosta, Gruezo
For me, it's pretty simple, the Captain, the MVP, and the best DP. Hedges anchors one of the best defenses in MLS, and is so reliable that the phrase "Death, Taxes, and Matt Hedges" comes to mind.
Kellyn "MVP" Acosta has simply been the most dynamic player on the field. He's everywhere, on the attack, in the defense, on corners, on set pieces, he's simply at the right place at the right time all the time. I've been trying to figure out just how MVP does it, and I've figured it out! MVP has one of these:
Hmmm, maybe "Doctor" Kellyn Acosta, has a better ring. Or "Doctor MVP", oh well, I'll figure it out.
Carlos Gruezo is simply a beast. Gruezo is out there taking opposing players lunch money in plain site. The FCD counter attack, usually starts with a Gruezo interception. This pretty much sums up every attack that encounters Gruezo:
Which three players do you think are most crucial to FCD’s success so far? Let us know below.