Mauro Diaz’s injury was too much to overcome, but FC Dallas had an amazing season

FC Dallas are not the MLS Cup champions and they have not made history with a domestic treble. Despite a valiant effort in the conference semifinals vs. the Seattle Sounders on Sunday, the loss of Dallas’ best player, Mauro Diaz, right before the playoffs was just too much.

But that’s not to say 2016 wasn’t a success for a young FC Dallas team built around academy products and team stalwarts. They won the Supporters Shield and were the champions of the regular season. They won the U.S. Open Cup and they advanced into the quarterfinal of CONCACAF Champions League which will start next year. And they did it with the lowest team payroll in the league.

They entered the playoffs badly damaged by the season-ending injury of Diaz, their creative playmaker and arguably the league’s best playmaker. They counted on him throughout the regular season, but especially down the stretch, and he was crucial in helping set the tempo of the attack and create chances. But a torn Achilles tendon in the second-last match of the regular season meant Dallas would have to continue without Diaz.

FC Dallas midfielder Mauro Diaz was injured right before playoffs started. (Photo by Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

Dallas had coped without him before by attacking down the flanks more, but it was before they lost Fabian Castillo, their best and most creative winger. To lose Castillo in the summer was one thing, but to then lose Diaz just before playoffs began was bad timing that left coach Oscar Pareja without any great options.

Pareja had to figure out a new temporary identity for Dallas as they entered playoffs, and it just didn’t work. A defensive 3-5-2 in the first leg of the conference semifinals vs. Seattle was ineffective at the plan of absorbing pressure and countering, and Dallas went down 3-0. Then, a more proactive effort in leg No. 2 on Sunday fell just short, despite Dallas pulling the series closer. They finished the series behind 4-2 on aggregate.


With Dallas at the top of the Western Conference after clinching the Open Cup in September, it was easy for Dallas supporters to envision their club making history by becoming the first team to win the domestic treble of major trophies. They managed just two of the three trophies, but even without an MLS Cup to complete the treble, FC Dallas proved what was possible with by investing in youth.

FC Dallas came into the 2016 season with the lowest payroll of any team in MLS. That was largely due to relying on academy products like Kellyn Acosta, one of the team’s assists leaders and a regular U.S. national team call-up in recent months. Dallas have also tended to draft well and develop the rookies they’ve selected, such as Tesho Akindele, who finished the season in the top three on assists and goals.

To get knocked out in the Western Conference semifinals is not what FC Dallas wanted. But to label their season as anything less than success wouldn’t be fair. They’ve accomplished a lot with a little, and while they may not have won MLS Cup, they were the best team in the league until Diaz went down. And they figure to be the best team in the league to start next season too.