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Thursday, February 2, 2012
Sizing up the battle at right mid

By Todd Date

Many consider Panamanian forward Blas Perez an absolute lock to start up top for FC Dallas this season, so that would leave just two spots where FCD could have a new starter. One of those positions, center back, might not be an issue because there is still an option for George John to man the middle come opening day alongside Ugo Ihemelu once John returns from his loan with second-division English side West Ham United.

So, that would leave right mid as the only question mark heading into the season. At least that’s how they’re characterizing it on the club’s official website.  It has been a busy off-season in that corner of the pitch. Dallas traded Honduran speedster Marvin Chavez to San Jose late last year and it was just a few weeks ago that news surfaced that Jackson, who was considered by some as the heir apparent there, would be playing in his native Brazil on loan in 2012.

Even with Chavez and Jackson departing, there are still several viable options and here’s a look at all of them.

Fabian Castillo---If there’s one thing that could set this talented Colombian youngster above everyone else vying for this spot, it’s the incredible pace this kid has. Everyone who saw him play last year as a rookie saw that on full display and the mere thought of seeing him get up and down that right flank, where he can deliver crosses to Perez and FCD’s central midfielders is enough to make most Dallas supporters salivate. However, if Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman is anything, he’s consistent. He expects his players to be good on both sides of the ball and unfortunately, that does not describe Fabian, at least not yet. Hyndman acknowledges that Castillo has made some big strides in that area since joining the team in 2011, but will it be enough for him to start there to begin the year? As it is with every player, it’s a classic debate of risk vs. reward but the potential plusses of playing him on the right look fairly considerable.

Daniel Cruz---Many thought heading into the season that Cruz and Ricardo Villar might be battling for a midfield roster spot. That hasn’t exactly been the case. Cruz is bothered by a knee issue, one that he feels needs surgery, so he has been on the sidelines with several FCD veterans like David Ferreira, Daniel Hernandez and even Ihemelu before his recent return to practice. Hyndman said point blank that he was disappointed that the club didn’t get a bigger contribution from Cruz last summer when FCD needed him the most.  Hyndman also iterated that this preseason was huge for Cruz and his possible future in Frisco. With no date set for his return or the strong possibility that Cruz doesn’t practice at all during preseason, it looks like his days with Dallas are definitely numbered.

Carlos Rodriguez---First of all, can we just nip the practice of calling him C-Rod in the bud right now? It’s a complete give up and tired to say the least. Now that we have that out of the way, it’s tough to say how this guy may or may not fit here because his first practice with FCD came during this week’s trip to Cancun, Mexico. But before his club headed south of the border, Hyndman raved about Rodriguez's versatility, that he can play both as a flank midfielder and a fullback, most notably on the right side. The fact he can play both positions likely means he’s a much better two-way player than Castillo, but how is his pace? That’s a question that few will be able to answer until we can see this newcomer up close and personal, which won’t come until after the club returns in the middle part of next week.

Ricardo Villar---Villar’s time with FCD didn’t start off so well as he wasn’t too good in his MLS debut against San Jose last March. But to his credit, he put in the work to acclimate himself in MLS and also to bounce back from a preseason injury and by the middle part of the year, he was a viable option in the middle for a team that sorely missed reigning league MVP David Ferreira. The Brazilian-born midfielder clearly has great vision, a good nose for the game and has displayed an ability not only to deliver a killer pass, but also to be quite formidable on set pieces when called upon. I still think he does his best work in the middle of the field, but that experience, vision and great crossing ability could definitely be put to good use on the right flank but his lack of speed is a big downside to him playing out there.

Andrew Wiedeman---You have to give Wiedeman some credit. He came to MLS as a forward by trade and made a decent transition to playing in a spot completely foreign to him, defender. Wiedeman definitely showed some promise during his time at left back, but Hyndman admits the rationale behind moving him to the back was more about FCD’s lack of defensive cover than it was about the Cal product playing there on a permanent basis. Wiedeman has also played flank midfield in a number of reserve games and scrimmages and honestly, he can deliver a nice ball from the wing and has a high soccer IQ. But it looks like he could be well behind Castillo, Rodriguez and Villar when it comes to being considered for this spot. Still, having someone like Wiedeman to provide midfield depth is never a bad thing. He could also play in the back on an emergency basis if needed.