FFT Snap Thoughts: Boom or bust for RSL's kids; Dynamo's secrets to success
We talk all the time about playing the kids. If you’re committed to developing Homegrown Players, you have to be committed to putting them on the field and dealing with their growing pains.
MLS clubs have shown that commitment to varying degrees. The best examples are FC Dallas with Jesse Hernandez, Victor Ulloa and Kellyn Acosta, and the New York Red Bulls with Tyler Adams. There may be no club in MLS more perfectly set up to create a new standard for homegrown players than Real Salt Lake, however.
RSL is in a building mode. It is going to take time for them to get back to the standard of the Jason Kreis-Garth Lagerwey era. But one thing is quite clear: RSL is a better team with its homegrowns on the field. After returning from under-20 World Cup duty, the foursome of Brooks Lennon, Justen Glad, Sebastian Saucedo and Danny Acosta helped RSL to their best performance of the season. Glad’s presence in the middle of the backline, especially, made a noticeable impact, but Lennon and Acosta were confident and deserving of starting roles and Saucedo added a lift on the bench.
It’s not going to be perfect down the stretch, but RSL has a chance to build around a core of young Homegrown Players. The hope is that coach Mike Petke will continue to trust those players to be consistent starters -- and it sounds like he’s ready to hold them to that standard.
“The choice is theirs for the future,” Petke said on Saturday night. “They can either have 12-15 more years playing professional soccer doing something they love or they could be the guy that after a couple of years they say, ‘What happened to that kid who had all that promise playing in the World Cup and he was starting for Salt Lake a couple of times?’ They have to be the best players every day in practice. It doesn’t matter, I don’t care how old they are or lack of experience they have. They have to come, them especially, and push it every day.
“Hopefully it is the start of something great for all four of them, it was great to have all four of them out on the field, but it really comes down to them, they have to continue to work hard.”
-- Paul Tenorio
Will MLS’ best playmaker actually find a place on the field?
Mauro Diaz returned for FC Dallas this week, going the full 90 in the midweek U.S. Open Cup triumph over the Tulsa Roughnecks and coming on for the final 22 minutes of Saturday's 1-1 draw at Vancouver, his first MLS action since snapping his Achilles in last season's penultimate game.
The Hoops need to figure out how to play with their Argentine playmaker again, and that's likely to take some time. Diaz isn't ready to take full command of the squad, and patience will be required as he finds game fitness and then rediscovers the kind of form that drove Dallas to the Supporters' Shield. He can only do so in games, so Oscar Pareja will need to tinker some with his system to make it work.
Don't be surprised if Dallas’ current swoon -- just one win in six games since a 5-0-3 start -- goes on a bit longer. Diaz did a few nice things after coming on in the 68th minute Saturday night, but the connections aren't there, no surprise, and he's a defensive liability. Vancouver started finding paths through midfield to create a bunch of late opportunities, with Cristian Techera bending in a free kick for the 74th-minute equalizer.
Diaz needs a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 alignment to be most effective -- Dallas used the former last season -- and it's better if Ryan Hollingshead, just returning from fractured vertebrae, is in one of the wide slots, given his defensive acumen. Carlos Gruezo can provide a foundation between the backline and Diaz, along with rising Kellyn Acosta, who has taken a more prominent role in the Hoops’ attack. It should be interesting to see how he and Diaz connect going forward.
-- Scott French