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FC Dallas hopes Mauro Diaz's return sparks languid attack

Goal.com logo Goal.com 29-05-2017

FRISCO, Texas — It would've been too perfect. When Mauro Diaz came onto the Toyota Stadium pitch for his first game action since tearing his Achilles on the same field seven months ago, the stage was set for him to set up a goal. The storybook ends with him unleashing a beautiful free kick into the back of the net and earning FC Dallas a rivalry victory.

The true ending is much more drab. Diaz put in a fine 10 minutes and even took a set piece but couldn't lift FCD past the Houston Dynamo in a scoreless draw.

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"I’m happy to see him and I think he lifted our spirits a bit in a game that was not easy to get into. When I saw him on the field, I think that brought up great memories for every player," coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. "We were all hoping something marvelous was going to happen and we were about to get it, but we were so delighted to see him back on the field. I’ll take that tonight. It just relieved my heart to see him dressing again and being around the team and being around the ball."

FCD fans are caught between panic and calm, with the team in unfamiliar circumstances but still sitting well. Their 1.67 points per game tops the Western Conference and is good enough for third in the league. The team has lost just twice, with one of those defeats coming Thursday with an alternate team deployed for a trip to Chicago ahead of Sunday's home Texas Derby contest.

Then again, Sunday's stalemate was the fourth consecutive match FCD failed to win and the fourth straight home game that saw FCD settle for something less than three points - something that hasn't happened since 2013, before Pareja arrived as coach.

"We’re just lacking that final touch, that thought in the final third and it’s been ineffectiveness," midfielder Kellyn Acosta said. "We aren't as dangerous as we usually are. We need to reevaluate ourselves and each of us needs to take one gear up and step up. I know it’s just a phase right now. We’re going to bounce back, the goals are going to come, the wins are going to come but we need to be patient and just keep moving forward."

Diaz could be an enormous part of that. The playmaker has undoubtedly been one of MLS' best attackers when he's been healthy. The team looked to build a stronger Plan B without Diaz at the start of the year but the new additions from outside MLS — winger Roland Lamah and forward Cristian Colman — haven't been able to settle in as the team as hoped, while former RSL midfielder Javier Morales is yet to notch an assist since his winter arrival.

It's had many in North Texas pining for Diaz's return, but leaning on the Argentine is the same strategy that saw FCD fall short of MLS Cup last season when the No. 10 went down with an injury.

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"I think it’s a collective thing. We can’t rely on Mauro to do everything," Acosta said. "Everyone needs to step up their game and play. He’s not the only one. We have 11 guys out there to make a difference. I think if everyone steps up we’ll be in good shape."

The man himself shrugged off suggestions he's coming back as some sort of attacking savior, saying the team's eight shots on target Sunday is the kind of attack performance that can win games with better luck, better finishing, or both.

"I think the most important thing is to create chances," Diaz said. "When there aren't chances being created, that’s when you have to worry. We’re in a bit of a streak where we’re not scoring, but we’re calm. The season is long and it only started recently. I think creating chances will produce results."

No one created more chances for FCD than Diaz last season, and the team hopes his return will lead to many more opportunities created, and, perhaps more importantly, taken advantage of.

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