FC Dallas’s hopes for an historic domestic treble have suffered a significant blow as playmaker Mauro Díaz is set to miss the entirety of the MLS Cup playoffs. The Argentine suffering what appeared to be an Achilles tendon injury toward the end of Sunday's defeat of the Seattle Sounders. Díaz is scheduled to have surgery in North Carolina on Wednesday and club officials fear he may be lost for up to eight months.
Dallas ended an MLS-record 19-year trophy drought last month with a victory over the New England Revolution in the U.S. Open Cup final. Díaz was masterful that night at Toyota Stadium, tallying a goal and three assists as the hosts claimed the title with a 4-2 win. FCD was atop the MLS standings as well, and talk of the treble hit high gear. The club has been using images of the Open Cup, MLS Cup and Supporters' Shield in a recent marketing campaign along with the slogan “Take ‘Em All.”
Dallas (17-8-8) leads the Colorado Rapids by two points and needs only a draw at the LA Galaxy next Sunday to secure the Shield. That would ensure home-field advantage through the MLS Cup final. But getting there, and then winning it, will be a lot tougher without Díaz, whose skill and vision was exemplified by the audacious chip that led to Carlos Ruiz’s late game-winning goal last weekend.
It was Díaz’s seventh game-winning assist this season, which leaves him tied with New York Red Bulls midfielder Sacha Kljestan for the league lead. FCD’s good fortune wouldn't last, however. Although his side held its lead, Díaz was stretchered off the field in stoppage time following a foul by Seattle’s Tyrone Mears. It was the fourth foul committed against Díaz during the match.
FCD technical director Fernando Clavijo expressed his frustration following the game.
“They need to be more aware," Clavijo told Goal.com. "It’s funny because I have mentioned throughout the year with PRO [Professional Referee Organization], with the league, that they are taking turns, players on the field, so they don’t get a yellow card right away, to hammer the most skillful players on the field.
"It’s not only Mauro. It’s around the league, and they don’t do anything about it or if they do something about it, then it’s not enough. I look at the play with Mauro, maybe it’s a yellow card. I don’t think it was a vicious tackle But it was 33 games of that that I have concern with. If he didn’t get kicked for 33 games, maybe that tackle is just another tackle.”
FCD coach Oscar Pareja is well known for his use and trust in less experienced players, and his “next man up” philosophy certainly worked following the summer departure of winger Fabián Castillo. Now it will be tested again at the most important time of a potentially historic season.
“We have had in these two and a half years since we started this process, we have had many where we didn’t have Mauro or Fabián,” Pareja told SI.com following Castillo’s transfer. “That just gives the opportunity to somebody else that can be developed and somebody else that can find different ways to help this team be successful.”
FCD’s CONCACAF Champions League fate also is undetermined. Before playing for the Shield in LA, Dallas (1-0-2) must travel to Guatemala for Thursday's winner-take-all group stage finale at Suchitepéquez (1-0-2) . A win or advancement via a draw would mean quarterfinal play early next year, when once again FCD's prospects will suffer absent Díaz.