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Mauro Diaz’s return proves to be the difference maker for FC Dallas

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FCD is an entirely different team with Super Mauro

MLS: Toronto FC at FC Dallas Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

If you attended the match last night against DC United, you were treated to a double-header of fireworks with FC Dallas launching explosives into the Texas night sky and on the pitch too as FCD dismantled a struggling DC side 4-2. After a slow start that saw DC take the lead from a beautiful strike from Ian Harkes, Dallas seemed to snap out of their “tired-legs” funk and kick it to second, then third gear to secure the three points that they desired thanks to a second consecutive brace from red hot Roland Lamah.

Roland Lamah now has 8 goals for the season, after struggling without a goal in the first 10 games of his FC Dallas career. In his first 657 minutes, Lamah managed 10 shots, 0 goals and 1 assist in offensive output. In the 495 minutes since, the Belgium international has 14 shots, 8 goals and 0 assists.

What’s been the cause of this significant turn around? A possible answer is the return of a certain Argentinian #10.

Mauro Diaz is a difference maker

Everything changes when Mauro Diaz is on the field for FC Dallas. It’s not just the way the team plays or the formation or the chance creation that Diaz brings to the table when he’s on the ball, but his mere presence also dictates how opposing teams will line up and set up their defensive lines.

A #10 of Diaz’s caliber occupies at least one defender’s attention at all times. Wherever Diaz goes on the field, at least one defending player must track his movement and there’s a tendency for players to drift closer to Diaz and pull themselves out of position in relation to their team’s defensive positioning. On the flip side, if you choose not to track Diaz as carefully and let him wander, he’ll find pockets of space between the lines and cause even more havoc as he’s suddenly in a position to play that lethal final third ball that’ll turn into a goal scoring opportunity. In other words, it’s a choose your own poison kind of scenario.

Diaz’s passing chart

Though Diaz didn’t get on the score sheet last night with a goal or primary assist (he was credited with a secondary assist), his presence was very much felt as he routinely found himself on the ball in advanced positions to help generate chances for Dallas.

Lamah’s shooting (circles) and passing (squares) chart

Take a look at Lamah’s offensive chart from last night. This is a pretty typical game from Lamah. He’s not on the ball a ton. He doesn’t take people on 1v1 very often (didn’t do it once last night). He gets a few shots off, usually in pretty good positions. There’s not a noticeable difference from his movement, or involvement from the first 10 games of the season to his current run of form.

The difference is he’s converting his chances and having Diaz on the field is certainly helping. Lamah no longer needs to concern himself with link up playing, or creating chances for his teammates. He’s in full on “winger-poacher” mode (term coined by Scott Hiney) and is solely focusing on just making runs and getting into goal scoring positions and nothing else. And that is something you can afford to do, when your #10 is back on the field.

When did Lamah go on his tear of goals? His 7 goals since June 1 is most in the league. Who returned to the field on May 28th? Yup. Mauro Diaz.

Though, to be fair, Lamah did score his hat-trick against RSL before Diaz took the field. But the point still stands that Diaz is a difference maker and elevates the entire team to another level. Those of us fortunate enough to have watched Diaz and FC Dallas over the years know this, but here’s some statistical proof to confirm our eye test.

Barrios embodying “Busca la forma”

The player who’s also enjoying a bit of a resurgence after a slow start to the season is Michael Barrios. While Lamah’s been on his seven goal run since June 1st, Barrios is also enjoying a seven assist run during that same time frame as well.

For some context of his seven assist run, which puts him in the league lead for 10 assists this season:

Barrios was noticeably struggling offensively without Diaz. His lone goal of the year was back in April against Minnesota United, but has “found a way” to still contribute and keep his spot in the starting lineup by developing his crossing ability.

In fact, this addition to Barrios’ bag of tricks was already noticeable way back in March by our managing editor, Drew Epperley:

Take a quick look at his passing chart from last night:

Barrios’ passing chart

That’s four key passes to go along with two assists. It is probably only a matter of time before Barrios starts shooting the ball into the back of the net again with Super Mauro back and taking over the chance creation department. In the mean time, Oscar Pareja can be thanked for instilling the team’s mantra “Busca La Forma” (find a way) for years and is now and has been, reaping the rewards of challenging his players to embrace it.