FRISCO, Texas -- There have been two distinct FC Dallas teams during Mauro Diaz’s five years with the Major League Soccer club.
There was the one that was among the best in the league and qualified for the 2018 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League, when the Argentine playmaker was healthy.
And there was the one that experienced an uneven 2017, missing the MLS Cup playoffs as the No. 10 was sidelined for the first three months of the season after tearing his Achilles in the penultimate match of the 2016 regular season.
Diaz’s influence is felt beyond his impact on the field. Without him in the lineup, FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja was forced to change his preferred 4-3-3 formation to a 4-4-2 for much of the year.
After injuries limited him to just 27 appearances in his first 18 months after arriving from River Plate in late 2013, Diaz put together back-to-back MLS MVP-type seasons as the engine of the FC Dallas attack, leading his team to its most successful stretch to date -- winning the 2016 MLS Supporters Shield, capturing the 2016 U.S. Open Cup title and reaching the 2016/17 SCCL semifinals.
Here’s a look at his statistics from his last three seasons
2015: Games Played-24; Goals-8; Assists-10
2016: Games Played-27; Goals-5; Assists-13
2017: Games Played-19; Goals-2; Assists-8
Diaz controls tempo, unlocks defenses with killer passes and is a threat on set pieces as he showed in a preseason match against Chattanooga FC when Matt Hedges latched onto his perfectly-placed free kick for a goal.
“Mauro is looking good,” said Pareja. “The first thing that I notice is that his mentality is good and physically he’s training like any other player.”