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FC Dallas forward Maxi Urruti, newcomer Dominique Badji hope to form strike partnership

May 25, 2018; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; FC Dallas forward Maxi Urruti (37) warms up before the start of their game against Toronto FC at BMO Field. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

FRISCO, Texas — FC Dallas forward Maxi Urruti’s work rate up and down the pitch is a unique trait that goes back to his days under Tata Martino at Newell’s Old Boys. It’s helped him score six Major League Soccer goals this season for the Supporters Shield contender.

While FC Dallas’ coaching staff admires Urruti’s work rate, he sometimes seemed tired when pressuring the midfield and sprinting forward to get in scoring position. To counter that, FCD coach Óscar Pareja at times added another forward who plays higher in the formation. In the early part of the season, it was Cristian Colmán. Two weeks ago in the 3-2 victory over Sporting Kansas City, it was Michael Barrios.

Now with the recent acquisition of Dominique Badji, there could be a more permanent solution. Technical director Fernando Clavijo said last week he hopes Badji can take some responsibility off Urruti.

Urruti talked about working with Badji after training Wednesday.

“We know he’s a good forward,” Urruti said through a translator. “He’s a piece needed in our team, so we’re just going to do what the coach asks us to do.”

Badji also spoke positively of Urruti and the off-the-ball pressure he provides on the offensive end.

“It’s awesome,” Badji said. “Today we did a couple of drills where I was partnered up with him, and you can tell he loves to come back, get touches on the ball. When he turns and faces forward, he wants to play forward, and as a forward, you love that because you know he’s going to create a lot of opportunities.”

Dallas has been preparing for this system, listing Urruti as a No. 10 in pregame lineups in a 4-4-1-1, sitting behind the forward. It’s not really a change from the 4-4-2 the team ran earlier in the season. The 4-4-1-1 is how the team played on the offensive end, as Urruti dropped deeper and the other forward stayed higher up the pitch. Both forwards are comfortable in a two-striker set and both are excited to work with one another.

“I’m comfortable,” Urruti said when asked if he liked playing with a second striker. “I adjust to what the coaches say. If I have to be behind and play like a No. 9, I can do that as well.”

Badji has experience playing with a strike partner during his time with Colorado. This season, Badji played in a two-striker set in 13 of his 15 starts. He spoke about what it brings to him as a player and how both players can benefit.

Jul 14, 2018; Commerce City, CO; Colorado Rapids forward Dominique Badji (14) in the second half of the match at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

“I love playing with two strikers,” Badji said. “It allows one to push a little bit further and it’s two more people that the defense has to worry about as opposed to just one. That creates a lot of spaces and opportunities.”

Pareja has been more flexible this season, switching around formations when needed. He sees the Badji-Urruti partnership as a possibility. He also can see the two playing together differently, with Badji as a potential winger.

“I see Dominique as a forward that can play eventually as a winger,” Pareja said. “Dominique will provide us flexibility whether he plays with two up front or linearly toward one of the sides. He can do that.”

This week will be Badji’s first full week of training with his new team. He did not play in FCD’s 3-1 loss against San Jose and is slowly getting acclimated to the team. The Texas heat is one of the adjustments Badji is making, which has been a noted home-field advantage for the club throughout the years.

“It’s nice to be able to get a full training in,” Badji said. “It’s hot out here, slowly getting used to that but it’s nice to be out with the guys and getting touches and starting to build chemistry.”

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