The second of a four-part chat with FC Dallas Technical Director Fernando Clavijo about offseason roster building, Homegrowns, expansion draft and more
FRISCO - It’s undeniable that FC Dallas is not the same without Mauro Diaz over the last two years, but that will have to change in 2017.
With Diaz suffering a torn Achilles in the home finale against Seattle, he will miss at least the first few months of the year working his way back. No one can match the skill and mindset of the crafty No. 10 who makes the Dallas attack go, but it’s Fernando Clavijo’s job this offseason to find the next best thing – at least for the short-term.
“It's already challenging to find somebody like Mauro. It's not easy and you don't want to put all your eggs in one basket because we know we have Mauro,” he said. “We're not looking for an attacking midfielder that is the best in the league for the next 20 years. We're looking for an attacking midfielder that can help this team win games, who understands the league, who is good enough to fill Mauro's shoes and is ready for those challenges that we may have.”
It’s something easier said than done, Clavjio added.
It's tough to find someone willing to accept, at least on the surface, a half-season starter role. But just because Mauro returns at some point during the summer, doesn’t mean that whoever gets brought in is guaranteed a back seat for the second half. Oscar Pareja has proven he rides the hot hand – just look at the rise of veteran Chris Seitz this past season, taking control of the starting goalkeeper job while Jesse Gonzalez was away.
“I won't say that he's going to come out after Mauro is ready because at the end of the day we all have to play, and we all have perform,” Clavijo said. “If the guy is performing, Oscar is going to keep him [there].”
And add into the equation that with CONCACAF Champions League secured for 2017-18 and a title-defense on the line in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play, whoever does fill the role will see meaningful minutes for the club in the second half, MLS or not.
In Mauro’s absence for the final few games of 2016, Mauro Rosales occupied that attacking mid role. The 35-year-old’s contract option for 2017 was not picked up, but the possibility that he could return for another season is still there. Dallas also already has on their roster a crafty midfielder from their Academy ranks – Paxton Pomykal, who played a similar role on the 2016 USSDA U-18 National Championship squad.
Mostly though, the club is looking for a proven vet, ideally with MLS experience, to come in and fit right away in Pareja’s system and hit the ground running on February 23, the first leg of a CCL Quarterfinal matchup with Arabe Unido of Panama.
“It's been very difficult because not only are you trying to find a really good No. 10, but that fits all the other things that you need him to,” Clavijo said. “But I'm confident that we will be able to find someone else of quality to help us go forward.”