FRISCO - Through his first two years with FCD, injuries limited fans to glimpses of the magic that Mauro Diaz brings to an MLS field. That changed in 2015.
Mauro was healthy for the first time, and the Argentinian playmaker made the most out of his playing time by solidifying himself as one of the MLS’ most creative players.
Number 10’s playing time rose to a career high of 2,384 minutes played last season, close to double the 1,477 minutes logged in his two previous seasons combined. This rise in minutes also marked career-bests for Mauro in both goals and assists, scoring 8 times and creating 11 goals for his teammates.
“I was lucky to have less injuries last year, I was able to play more minutes, which was what I needed,” Diaz said through a translator. “Thanks to changing my eating habits, and the hours I’ve put in with ‘profe’ Bazan, who has really helped me a lot.”
'Profe' Bazan, of course, was FC Dallas’ first-year Strength and Conditioning Coach Fabian Bazan. One of the architects behind this return to form, the fellow Argentine is quick to praise Mauro’s wish of becoming the best player he can be, and his willingness to changing his habits.
“The most important thing, at least since I’ve been here, is that I see his willingness to becoming the best," he said through a translator. "[Mauro] wants to be the best player in his position, and he wants to win. That’s where the changes start. He realized he needed to change both off and on the field in order to get what he wanted.”
Mauro’s changes started in training and nutrition habits, but even visits to a dentist and some of the world’s best doctors were needed to bring Diaz into full health.
“He had to go to the dentist because he had muscular infections in his mouth. [And] he radically changed his nutrition,” Bazan said. “We also arranged a visit with Messi’s personal doctor [in Italy], which he paid for himself. He was next to [Javier] Mascherano and [Sergio] Aguero the day he saw him.”
Conditioning-wise, Bazan has drastically modified Mauro's training regime.
“He has daily strength training because his lower body isn’t strong due to his lack of playing time the last four years. He also had surgery on his meniscus when he was very young, which has caused him problems in his knee.”
Not only has playing time increased, but Mauro’s physical workload on match day is also on the rise with coach Bazan.
“We’re also asking more of him physically. When we took him, he was running nine thousand meters [a match] and doing 10 to 12 high intensity sprints. Now, he’s running eleven thousand and doing 25 sprints. We realize this wears down the body, so we have to take that into account and be careful with him.”
The outlook for this year, however, is optimistic. All things considered, the expectation for this season is that Mauro will play more which should bring great things to FC Dallas.
“Expectations are very high. We want him to be there in all matches,” Bazan said. “In theory, Mauro will be even better this season”.
However, Bazan and the coaching staff know that Diaz is a commodity and won’t think about it twice if they need to hold him back both in practice and matches to take care of him for the long run.
“Will we make special arrangements for Mauro? Yes we will, like other teams make special arrangements for their star players,” he said. “But last year we had him on the field when we needed him. And that's what we'll try to do this year too.”
And for Mauro, his focus is on playing more too.
“I have to work hard. Just like last season, I want to play more minutes,” Mauro said. “I want to be able to be on the field more and help my teammates as much as I can.”