How good is Dallas? Champions League sees FCD show its Diaz-less potential

Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

A four-goal explosion in the CCL quarterfinals showed MLS' Shield holder can survive without its brightest star.

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FC Dallas won two trophies last year and is aiming for more in 2017, starting with the CONCACAF Champions League. Going by its performance to kick off the new campaign, well, why not?

Dallas overwhelmed Panama's Arabe Unido in a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg Thursday night in Frisco, Texas, and the chief question heading in -- what will it look like without the injured Mauro Diaz -- was rendered a footnote thanks to two offseason additions: Cristian Colman and Roland Lamah.

The heralded new signings certainly were electric as Dallas made clear that, whatever else the 4-0 romp suggests, it's charging toward the March 4 Major League Soccer opener at top speed; or, at least, top speed for this time of year.

Colman, the 22-year-old Paraguayan forward and new Designated Player, scored a fine opening goal and could have had more thanks to three other good chances. Lamah, the Ivorian-Belgian winger who's played in the English Premier League, Spain’s first division and France’s Ligue 1, was even better:

  • scoring an early goal, on which he was offside but would have been onside had Urruti's feet been quicker after Colman failed to corral Carlos Gruezo's fine ball over the top;
  • forcing a huge stop from Arabe Unido goalkeeper Miguel Lloyd with a blistering volley after Lloyd had pawed away a Hernan Grana shot;
  • getting in position for another volley, from closer range, that rocketed high;
  • niftily dancing out of a dead end at the right post to feed Kellyn Acosta's first goal, a blast from 21 yards to the upper-left corner;
  • teaming nicely with Acosta for the chance moments later that Colman absolutely should have finished;
  • turning a dying half-chance into a near-own goal at the right byline.

Lamah is not quite as dynamic as Fabian Castillo, but his presence was mammoth, and imagine what he could do with Diaz spraying the ball around. We won't find out until sometime this summer, when the Argentine playmaker returns from the ruptured Achilles that killed the FC Dallas’ MLS Cup dreams last fall.

Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Until then, the lineup and formation Oscar Pareja trotted out makes sense. Colman and Urruti teamed up top -- they weren't always as connected as desired, but it's February -- and with Gruezo and Acosta so effective both ways in the middle of midfield, longtime Real Salt Lake creator Javier Morales was on the bench, at least for the first 70 minutes.

Morales is the like-for-like switch with Diaz, who commands a 4-2-3-1 alignment, but he's 37 and not as spry as he was when he was igniting RSL’s attack a few years ago. The 4-4-2 was effective, and Dallas has the personnel to make it work.

Oscar Pareja’s team is special when Diaz has the reins. Without him, they're merely a very good MLS team -- maybe as good as anyone else in the league. But special? No.

Tuesday's victory is a good omen, to be sure. So many players looked good -- we'd be remiss not to tout Grana, the new right back, who might not have put a foot wrong -- and with a four-goal lead, Dallas can ease a bit through Wednesday's second leg in Tibas, with Pachuca or Saprissa waiting in the semifinals.

But what does it mean, exactly? That's tough to tell. Arabe Unido, which beat Monterrey twice in the tournament’s group phase, was outclassed throughout, created nothing of consequence, and wore down faster.

Was Dallas really, really good, or was Arabe Unido just a subpar foe? We'll likely know more when Dallas visits the LA Galaxy in another week and a half to open its Major League Soccer season.

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Scott French is a reporter for FourFourTwo. Follow him on Twitter @ScottJFrench.