FRISCO, Texas – Speed. Quicks. Wheels. However you want to describe a player being fast, it certainly applies to FC Dallas' young Designated Player Fabian Castillo.
The precocious 21-year-old’s performances on the field have often been maddening for FCD fans to watch, though.
There are the flashes of brilliance when he motors past a defender on the wing, or weaves his way through defenders into the box. But those are often accompanied by an unnecessary turnover or an ill-advised shot bypassing an open teammate in a dangerous position.
And this is a perception Castillo wants to change.
“I like having speed, but I also want to be known for my technical abilities and for my intelligence on the field,” Castillo recently told MLSsoccer.com through an interpreter. “I’m going to continue doing that and taking advantage of the speed that I have while at the same time being a technical and intelligent player with the ball.”
The Colombian forward has been recognized for his potential, by being named to MLSsoccer.com’s 24 Under 24 list in each of his first three seasons in the league. But there has been noticeable growth in Castillo’s game this season beyond just being the fastest man on the pitch. He has learned to make a pass and run off the ball rather than take on take on defenders in hopeless situations.
“I think Fabian is probably playing the best soccer of his life,” FCD head coach Shellas Hyndman said. “[What] you deal with young players is consistency, and I think that’s what we’ve been going through. We’ve seen some wonderful moments form him, and then we’ve seen some ugly moments. I think what we’re starting to see now is more and more of those wonderful moments, more often.
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“At times you look at him and think, ‘Wow, he’s the best player on the field for us.’ He’s playing that well.”
Castillo is quick to credit his improvements to extra work he’s done after practice all season long with assistant coach Brent Erwin.
“I think now when you see Fabian go toward goal, I think you see the mechanism going to where he’s thinking about, ‘OK, here’s what I need to do in this situation,’” Erwin told MLSsoccer.com. “I think that sometimes brings itself up in assists. So now, he’s looking at where the goalkeeper is at, he’s looking where the defenders are and he sees this is a moment where he needs to hit the cross.”
Castillo is clearly showing more patience in the area and finding open teammates, as evidenced by his career-high six assists on the season, which ranks third on the team behind playmaker David Ferreira and free-kick specialist Michel.
And with three games left on FCD’s regular season schedule, Castillo has already eclipsed a career-high in minutes.
“Having that playing time... let’s me feel much more comfortable on the field with my teammates and aware of what they are doing,” he said. “I know what I can do, and to have faith of the technical staff to let me go out there for 90 minutes as opposed to a substitution role has really helped my game and my confidence.”
Erwin believes all that’s left for Castillo to become the complete package as a forward is the simple part – scoring more goals.
“Fabian is so talented on the dribble, he’s so fast that I always think that the next mountain he has to climb is just finishing more,” Erwin said. “His conversion rate could be higher and part of it is him having the confidence to shoot earlier, shoot at will... if you’re a defender right now going against Fabian, you’re thinking, ‘Please don’t dribble past me, please don’t dribble past me.’ Because he’ll make you look bad.”