Through the first several matches of the season, we are getting a good indication of what teams look like powerhouses, what teams have a lot of work to do, and what teams are the darkhorses. It has made for an interesting opening several weeks. Through it all, FC Dallas has emerged as one of the few teams that is actually doing right what was expected of them.
Of all the teams in the Conference Finals in last year’s MLS Cup playoffs, only Dallas is not in one of the bottom two spots of their respective conferences.
Nobody has grabbed the attention of viewers quite like Mauro Diaz. The FC Dallas creative catalyst has one goal and three assists on the year. And yet, he has not even present for their last three matches – which is what brings me to my point.
Any team that can cope with the absence of Mauro Diaz by looking just as good as they look with Mauro Diaz is deserving of some serious attention.
In the first four matches, Dallas ran with a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Diaz in that classic No. 10 role that he excels at. He is flanked by Barrios and Castillo, which is like duel wielding two-handed swords. Behind him in the supportive roles sit Carlos Gruezo and Ulloa. It’s a beautiful little quintuplet that is a fearsome force to fend off.
To remove the central cog that makes the rest of the cogs function seems like it could be a bad ordeal. But it’s been anything but. With Diaz out, FC Dallas has turned to a 4-4-2 with everyone in the same position, only Gruezo and Ulloa have shifted up to fill the two midfield roles and Tesho Akindele comes in next to Urruti to add more striking power.
While the defense has seemingly let off a bit with the formation change, the offense has not, and that’s the surprising part. It’s like FC Dallas has this contingency plan for if/when Mauro Diaz is hurt. Which, given last year, is probably a wise option to have.
But to see it in it’s full effectiveness is something else. It’s like the offense doesn’t even miss a beat. Dallas has so many powerful weapons in that midfield that can make even Mauro Diaz feel like just another piece of the puzzle. That’s saying something, seeing as how Diaz is the MVP favorite if he can stay healthy (big if).
It’s scary to think that Dallas actually got better than last year, but how couldn’t they? The young core of the team is still there and they are going to keep churning them out, using their academy to provide prolonged success instead of trying to court overaged stars from overseas.