FRISCO - Just a few weeks ago, Michael Barrios found himself on the bench - a place largely unfamiliar for the winger who has started 54 league games for FCD in the last two years. Oscar Pareja said he liked having the explosive Colombian over the last 30 minutes of a match, but Barrios took his benching to heart and has taken his game to another level in the two matches since.
“I think what I have improved on has depended on being benched,” he said. “The work I did during those days was focused on improving the physical part. I think it has been fundamental in me and what I have been able to contribution to the team.”
It’s not just Barrios that has improved though. In the last two games, the Dallas offense has found life to generate its most chances of any weeks this season with 18 shots and three goals against RSL and 17 shots against NYCFC. In the latter, the winger alone created five chances - the most of any one player in a game this season.
“It’s great news indeed for us to have Mikey with the level that he performed at in the last game,” Pareja said. “He was a sharp player in the right that was breaking the line and getting in behind, producing a lot of sequences there…I was happy to see his level and hopefully Mikey can continue because that’s the player that he is.”
“He has that ability to beat someone one-on-one and that’s something you definitely need in a winger,” said Tesho Akindele, who has played opposite of Barrios on the wing at times this season. “You saw him do that a lot of times, especially on Kellyn’s goal and it’s something huge he brings to the team.”
Barrios coming into his own again in 2017 isn’t just a testament to his physical work he’s put in though. It’s a part of the larger picture in the improved Dallas attack.
He tied for FCD’s lead in scoring last year with nine goals in 32 games, but only found the net three times over his final 15 games, due in large part to the departure of his counterpart on the opposite side, Fabian Castillo. Without a dynamic threat down the left, opposing defenders knew that Dallas’ attack was going to work through Barrios on the right and in turn could focus their sights on the winger.
This year, the addition of Roland Lamah and use of Akindele on the wing opposite of Barrios, as well as the in-game switches from one side to the other and back have Barrios back to his lethal self.
“Sometimes the high performance of one player depends a lot about the work somebody else is doing behind him, or beside him or in front of him,” Pareja said. “n this case, Roly did a lot of stuff. He can open those spaces, Maxi [Urruti] has done it and Hernan [Grana] has done it and the midfield. It’s good compliment and analysis.”
“The addition of Lamah to the team has helped a lot in order for me to be able to play more minutes,” Barrios said of the improved attacking face. “The ability to create opportunities, to train and practice that way has showcased the day of the game and that is what [Pareja] wants, what I want and what all my teammates want.”
Through just five starts and nine total games this year, Barrios has set a career-high already with three assists. With more pure goal scorers surrounding him, we’ve seen his role in the attack transition from finisher to play-maker and scoring threat, something that could prove dangerous in the coming months.
“We have been loyal to our motto of playing here,” Pareja said. “We like the external game. We need people on the flanks who can make things happen, create chaos there, unorganize teams, be vertical and getting behind players. The players have done that job and have proven it one more time. In this case, like Mikey, that is very important for us, and crucial in the way we do it.”