RSL Soapbox: Fabian Castillo has really caught fire in 2014. He has a lot of attributes similar to RSL's Olmes Garcia but Garcia hasn't broken out quite yet. What has been the difference this year for Castillo and why is he having a breakout season?
Big D Soccer: Oscar Pareja is a major factor and has had an incredible impact on Fabian's growth and maturity this season (and even since Castillo joined MLS). Oscar invited Castillo to live with him he first arrived from Colombia and was acclimating to a new country and league. OP is a coach that is close to his players, and that mentorship was missing the past couple of years while OP was in Colorado and I think might have delayed Castillo's development. Now that Oscar is back, Fabian is flourishing. Even when we've seen Fabian makes mistakes like his suspension earlier this summer, he is bouncing back quickly. Pareja was a Colombian international with World Cup experience playing in MLS's early days; now, Fabian is a Colombian playing in MLS with national team aspirations. The two have a lot in common, and after watching Colombia excel in Brazil this summer, I think Castillo has all the motivation he needs.
On the field, I think the new acquisitions are clicking well with Fabian's style. Tesho Akindele, Andres Escobar, and Mauro Diaz all play a similar style of soccer as Castillo. All of those combined with Blas Perez and FCD's defense, I think this team is really coming together in a way that appears purposeful.
RSL Soapbox: FC Dallas is almost assuredly going to the Playoffs. What team do you fear most in the West?
Big D Soccer: I am concerned that Seattle will make a lot of noise. While LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake are dangerous in their own rights, Seattle has the "go big or go home" mentality this season that will be very very dangerous during the MLS Cup playoffs. Seattle only has 3 ties in league play this year. Coupled with the momentum from the upcoming US Open Cup Final, I think the Sounders will be brimming with confidence for a deep run at the MLS Cup. There has been a quiet expectation that Seattle needs to make the next jump at silverware since winning 3 USOC trophies since joining MLS, and Sigi has been given the personnel to win.
RSL Soapbox: Oscar Pareja turned Colorado around, and seems to have done the same with FC Dallas. What is it about Oscar Pareja that makes him such a good coach?
Big D Soccer: Oscar is not afraid to take a risk with the youth of the team. And especially in Dallas where he was Academy Director for many years, the players appreciate the chance and are driven to reciprocate that trust through on field performance. Pareja has been blunt with the roster. During preseason, he was fairly quick with loaning out or releasing players he couldn't use. Everyone else is expected to play. This is different for FCD because in seasons past we have seen HGP or rookies languish on the bench, getting minimal substitute and reserve game minutes. When you have a coach that is willing to put his trust in you, I think that draws out the players' potential. Each player is working extra hard because he knows that if he impresses Oscar, he WILL get minutes on the field. Oscar has also been very smart his his gameday selections and allowing for roster rotation. That's a very difficult skill to grow in salary-capped MLS.
*Questions from Big D Soccer to RSL Soapbox*
Big D Soccer: At this point in the season, it is clear that Jeff Cassar is succeeding at continuing on Jason Kries's philosophy at Real Salt Lake. What kind of challenges has Cassar had to overcome to maintain success, or has everything been smooth sailing in Utah?
RSL Soapbox: I would not say that Cassar has faced too many challenges that Kreis himself would not have faced. Losing Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando to the World Cup as well as Alvaro Saborio to World Cup and injury has proven to be a difficult obstacle since that was when Real Salt Lake went through a bit of a slump. What has made Cassar's job easier is that there are so many veteran players on this team that they already understood the philosophy of the club and could bring the younger players with them. Statistically speaking, at this point in the season last year RSL had about the same amount of points accumulated so you could argue that they should be better this year than last, but with all the absences and coaching change, things have gone pretty well.
Big D Soccer: I think it all started with Javier Morales - RSL's knack for showcasing under-the-radar talent found abroad and at home. Can you identify the next diamond in the rough that RSL will unearth? Will we see him on the field in Dallas?
RSL Soapbox: There are a few players that come to mind, actually. I don't know that Luis Gil is under-the-radar, but over the course of the past few games he has really started to break out and play at a very high level on a consistent basis. The other two players I think have the potential to be special are Olmes Garcia and Sebastian Jaime. Garth Lagerwey has stated on air that Garcia could be a player very similar to Fabian Castillo with a bit of time. Sebastian Jaime is a new signing for RSL so he won't feature for at least another match or two, but he is an Argentine that has been playing in Chile and it does not take more than a You Tube search to see what the guy is capable of doing.
Big D Soccer: Late in the week Tim Howard announced a sabbatical from the USMNT until September 2015, what do you think Nick Rimando's chances are of capturing the coveted #1 spot in the interim? Is there anything that Nick can do to improve his standing with Klinsmann?
RSL Soapbox: My opinion is that Rimando's chance to be the #1 USMNT keeper are slim. I think Klinsmann wants to start preparing Guzan for the next round of big tournaments. Nick Rimando did not feature in any of the World Cup qualifying matches whereas Guzan did. Rimando exceled in the Gold Cup, but I don't think anyone can argue that the Gold Cup is nearly as important as qualifiers. The thing that Rimando has going for him is that he is playing as well as he ever has. Also, his record when starting for the USMNT is astounding. I don't think he has lost yet. We know that winning matters to Klinsmann, but if I were to put my money on the table, I would guess that Guzan gets the nod for the next year or so.