MLS in Focus: Maxi Urruti and Dallas

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by RYAN BRISTER

It didn’t receive the attention of Major League Soccer’s new acquisitions, but one of the most important moves of the MLS offseason was a re-entry draft signing. The Portland Timbers, fresh off of winning MLS Cup, allowed Maxi Urruti’s contract to expire, and he was picked up by one of their Western Conference challengers, FC Dallas.

So far, Dallas’ decision to move up in the re-entry draft is paying dividends.

In three seasons with the Timbers, 25-year-old Urruti appeared in 65 matches. Most of those were off the bench, usually as a substitute for Fanendo Adi; in the games Urruti started, he was often subbed off for Adi. As Adi established himself as the superior option in 2015, Urruti’s place in Portland became expendable. Dallas, meanwhile, was in search of a reliable forward given the departures of David Teixeira and Blas Perez, neither of whom were scoring enough to fill that role.

So far in 2016, Urruti has started all eight of Dallas’ games, and played nearly every minute of them. He has three goals and two assists already, well on pace to best Teixeira’s output. But it’s his work on the other side of the ball that deserves acknowledgment here. With that effort, Urruti played a key part in beating his former team last week.

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Urruti was not credited with a secondary assist here, but it’s his harassment of Jack Jewsbury that directly lead to Dallas’ first goal. For a team that has had trouble breaking down defenses at times without Mauro Diaz, Urruti’s work here provided Dallas with an opportunity to spring forward before Portland’s defense was set.

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Dallas’ second goal was almost a carbon-copy: Urruti poked the ball away from Jack Jewsbury to Fabian Castillo, who sprinted forward into the space available.

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I can only imagine that Jack Jewsbury was sick and tired of Urruti after just half an hour.

Urruti was a pest all the same in Dallas’ win over Sporting Kansas City on Sunday.

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That’s the 88th minute of Dallas’ second game in five days, and Urruti is putting in the work not just to slow KC’s push towards, but to win the ball and kill more valuable time off the clock. Not every forward would be willing to do that.


Beyond his work rate on the pitch, Urruti exemplifies a youth movement in Dallas that extends far beyond their training facilities. The club is rightly praised for the success of their academy; in one game last year they started five homegrown players. But Urruti arrived via trade. Designated player Carlos Gruezo just turned 21, with Bundesliga experience under his belt. Castillo and Mauro Diaz, 23 and 25 respectively, were acquired from South American clubs. All told, eight of the 10 outfield players Dallas started against Kansas City are 25 or younger.

Oscar Pareja has built a team that is arguably the best in the league so far this season. What’s more, he has built it to last.