Questions for Big D Soccer
B&RU: After being signed last year, Mauro Diaz has been on fire so far this season. What does he mean to FC Dallas and did you expect this much this fast?
BDS: 'm not surprised by how much of an impact he's had this season. He signed with FC Dallas in July 2013, so he's been with the team for almost a full year. He had the end of 2013, offseason, and preseason to acclimate to the locker room and MLS in general. We saw little hints of his skill toward the end of last season. I don't think many people were paying attention to FC Dallas as we continued the downward plunge out of playoff contention, but Mauro got a few minutes of time on the field and impressed us in North Texas. We knew that this year would be big for the Argentine.
With David Ferreira returning to Colombia, Diaz is the clear starter in midfield for FCD. His creative spark h: s taken up where 2010 League MVP Ferreira left off. He is taking a lot of fouls though. Last time I looked, Diaz and Darlington Nagbe are 1 and 2 for fouls suffered so far in 2014. However, Diaz is young and bounces back quickly. He will continue to be a core strength for the team through the end of this year.
B&RU: Obviously, the FC Dallas front office has wanted Oscar Pareja for a long time; were you sold on the hire during the offseason, and are there any possible criticisms of him so far?
BDS: Oscar was always the #1 ideal candidate to take over after Schellas Hyndman, so there was no selling to be done. If Hunt Sports Group hadn't been able to do it, I think there are some FC Dallas supporters who would've gladly chipped in to help buy him out of Colorado.
If the timing had lined up a little bit differently, OP could have been plucked straight from the youth academy and in to the first team. However, OP has been deserving of this job for quite some time, and he left us for Colorado a couple of years ago. That was well deserved and a great opportunity for him to cut his teeth in coaching the league, although it wasn't with FC Dallas. Now that he is back in North Texas, we've been very happy and excited to see what he is doing for the organization.
Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Hyndman achieved some great heights with this club, but things became stale under his charge - it was time for a change. OP was top of the head coach wish list. The only criticism I've noticed comes from a few fans questioning some of the substitutions that OP has made. However, we are still learning his tendencies as a fanbase, and he is still adjusting to his new role at FCD. Those issues will iron themselves out with time; I don't think there is any squabble of note. "In OP We Trust."
B&RU: Two years ago, FC Dallas was off to a great start, got destroyed by D.C. United in April, and then was never the same the rest of the year. Do you think the team can sustain its torrid start this season?
BDS: Short answer is yes. What's the difference? Depth and trust. It has become a recurring theme in my weekly question exchanges with our colleagues all over the country and in Canada, but the deciding difference between Oscar's style and Schellas' is that OP trusts the youth. Hyndman focused on his favorite 11-13 players and ran them into the ground playing every match possible. This was especially true when FCD entered the CONCACAF Champions League in 2011 and tried to make a run at the US Open Cup. Pareja, in contrast, has made statements that this is a team of 30 players and that they all must be ready to step up when the time comes. We've already seen evidence of Oscar's system this year when he played Kellyn Acosta for an injured Zach Loyd and Moises Hernandez for an injured George John. Victor Ulloa went from perenial bench warmer to waived in the offseason to saved by Pareja to getting his first MLS debut against Portland. Players are more interchangeable than they have been in years past, the depth is greater and of a better quality than in years past. I think FC Dallas will keep pace or at least be of a caliber to make the playoffs etc. if the team does dip from its current form.
B&RU: Projected lineup and predicted score.
BDS: DC United is my second team. I lived in the District for a short while. As much as I want to say that this battle ends in a draw, I think FCD will punish Ben's boys hard on set pieces. Dallas wins 3-1 or 2-0.
Seitz, Benitez, Hedges, Keel, Acosta, Michel, Thomas, Castillo, Diaz, Watson, Perez
Again, with a new coach, we are still learning his habits. OP has said and shown that he wants to rotate the roster to keep everybody healthy and fresh for the full season. So variations could be Loyd for Acosta, Hernandez for Benitez, Moffat for Michel/Thomas, and/or Texeira for Perez.
Escobar (back) and John (hamstring) are still out on the injured list.
Questions for Black and Red United
BDS: I spent some time in the District; I watched Ben Olsen's last match in black from Molly Malone's. His appointment to head coach after Curt Onalfo was intuitive but ambitious. Here we are in Ben's (almost) 4th full year at the helm and United's standing hasn't improved the past couple of seasons. 2014 is off to an ok start at 2-2-2 after 6 matches, but how much pressure is on Ben Olsen to win? Is his time running out?
B&RU: Ben Olsen is under double pressure to perform well this year: his team played terribly last season and he is in the last year of his current contract. If the team is in the bottom three in the East, he is definitely out; if he misses the playoffs, but is close, I still think they move in a different direction but they could keep him on. If he makes the playoffs, I think they renew his contract, simple as that. United have never had a coach as long as they have had Ben Olsen, and I still think that Ben Olsen can improve by leaps and bounds.
BDS: Eddie Johnson is getting some praise for the work he's done off the ball and helping DCU offensively, but he has yet to score a goal in 500+ minutes. Being an international and a league veteran, how is Eddie helping this team, and how is DCU helping Eddie's chance at that coveted plane ride to Brazil?
B&RU: EJ is helping the team so far, but not as much as everyone hoped when they traded for him. So far, Johnson has been able to provide good hold-up play and serve as a distraction that opposing defenses must watch, allowing players like Fabian Espindola and Nick DeLeon to run rampant. However, he will be needed to score goals if United is to make the playoffs this fall. I personally do not think that his World Cup spot is at risk, but many other pundits do think so. I think you have to look at what he did over the course of qualifying (as well as the goal that should have counted in the most recent friendly) and take him based on that. I don't really see any strikers that are so hot that they would knock EJ out, and their time to prove it is almost over.
BDS: With Cruz Azul being crowned continental champion this week, I wonder what do you think DC United's chances are in the CONCACAF Champions League later this year? What, if anything, will they need to do differently in order to prepare?
B&RU: The complete overhaul of the roster in the offseason was the first step in preparing for the Concacaf Champions League. The next step is one or two players coming in the summer window to give the team more challenges for starters across the board. However, even with all of those moves, I'm not too excited by D.C. United's chances; getting out of the group stage would be a clear victory for this team, especially coming off of last year.
BDS: Predicted lineup and score?
B&RU: I will go with a very optimistic D.C. United 2-2 FC Dallas. Lineup will be Andrew Dykstra; Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Jeff Parke, Christian; Nick DeLeon, Davy Arnaud, Perry Kitchen, Chris Rolfe; Fabian Espindola, Eddie Johnson.