To get everyone ready for Atlanta United’s midweek matchup against FC Dallas, we spoke with Big D Soccer’s Drew Epperley to get his take on their midseason success, their weaknesses, and the likely transfer of Mauro Diaz.
DSS: Dallas is currently 2nd in the West with a match in hand on Sporting KC. What’s been the keys to their success midway through the season?
BDS: For me, the key has been roster rotation and depth. I know some folks laugh when I bring up FC Dallas’ depth this season, but I don’t think you get to this point in the season with only two losses on the road and not have quality depth. Oscar Pareja has also brought in a lot of different looks between a 4-3-3, a 4-4-2, sometimes the old standby in the 4-2-3-1, and from time to time even a 3-5-2. All these looks and rotations have kept the roster competition at a much higher level than what we saw last season when the team struggled in the second half of the year.
Outside of those things, the defense has been strong so far this season with Matt Hedges and newcomer Reto Ziegler manning the middle of the park and the emergence of Reggie Cannon on the right wing. All have played a big part in improving the defensive group that leaked in goals late last season.
DSS: What do you think Dallas still has to work on?
BDS: Finishing is always an issue with this group, but it is getting better with some guys like Roland Lamah stepping up, and before long, Santiago Mosquera should go off on MLS teams. But for me, the set-piece defending and scoring has always been an issue with this bunch. They tend to be prone to giving up goals against teams with good aerial abilities. On the other end, the service on set pieces has lacked drastically this season as only two goals have come off set pieces this entire season.
DSS: Mauro Diaz looks set to leave for a club in the UAE. How impactful is his loss?
BDS: On the offensive side of things, it is huge as Diaz is easily one of the best assist-men in the league. There are some locker room side of things that will cause the team to miss him as well, but really it is all on the field as Diaz isn’t a big impact leader in this locker room. Dallas will have to figure out who steps into that creative role quickly or else could see this team go very defensive for the rest of the season.