FRISCO, Texas — FC Dallas may not have made any major splashes in the summer transfer window, but the signing of Colombian midfielder Abel Aguilar will be of key importance once the postseason arrives.
Entering in the 77th minute on Dallas’ 4-2 victory Saturday over the Houston Dynamo, Aguilar provided an element that was lacking for Dallas: a closer — a man to set-up shop, slow the pace of the match down and focus on killing any momentum the opposing team had.
In 2017, Victor Ulloa was that late defensive midfielder sub. He came on as a substitute in an attempt to see out the result. Now, Ulloa is a starter. The next best option Dallas has is Jacori Hayes, whose form has declined since his red-hot start to the 2018 season. While Hayes can do the job, the addition of an experienced player such as Aguilar can prove to be vital in a do-or-die situation.
Aguilar has plenty of experience, playing in Italy, France and Spain throughout his career. He showcased in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, starting in the Colombians’ second match against Poland. His start was cut short with a left adductor injury and he did not play for the rest of the tournament. As a free agent, Aguilar caught Dallas’ attention and the club brought him in.
Two days after Dallas announced Aguilar’s signing, the club lost 4-3 to the San Jose Earthquakes on Aug. 29. Four goals were scored from the 51st to the 62nd minute, and the only midfield options Pareja had were Paxton Pomykal and Pablo Aranguiz, both offensive minded players. The match was wide open and frantic at times.
Pareja spoke about wanting a player to calm things down in games like that — a player like the one he just signed.
During the Houston match Saturday, the Dynamo cut FCD’s lead to 4-2 after Alberth Elis’ 72nd-minute penalty goal. To kill the momentum of the match, Aguilar was brought on.
He did that job while Dallas switched to a 4-3-3. Aguilar completed 12 out of his 13 passes, including a period in the 85th minute, where he completed three passes on the left-hand side. While small, it slowed the pace of the match and allowed Dallas to catch a breather and control the ball.
Pareja loves the ability to bring on someone like that. He spoke about the effect Aguilar had on the match after the victory.
“Good and refreshing to see a player with such a great experience to come to our group and be available to bring us that peace in the game when we needed, when it was a bit hectic, when we needed someone to pause the game, someone to put a foot on top of the ball and dictate the tempo,” Pareja said. “We have lost points that have been in the last minute, or results that have been resolved already. It was just because we couldn’t manage it well.
“I hope Abel brings that to us and the young players that play around the team see that and it is a way for us to grow as a group, also.”