Every year in almost every league in the world, there is a side whose heavy reliance on one man sees crushing failure come as a result of any unavailability.
Aaron Ramsey’s two-month layoff cost Arsenal the championship in England last season, likewise with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi in Spain. In Germany, however, Borussia Dortmund’s against-the-odds battle for glory took a huge blow, as the absence of numerous key players decimated their line-up.
As was heavily discussed at the time, BVB faced Real Madrid in the Champions League knock-out stages without seven of the 11 that had battered the Spaniards to a pulp a year earlier.
While Mario Gotze had moved on to Bayern Munich, the remaining sextet of Neven Subotic, Marcel Schmelzer, Sven Bender, Ilkay Gundogan, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Robert Lewandowski befell various fitness concerns and suspensions that, when combined with problems for top defender Mats Hummels earlier in the campaign, ruled out any faint hopes of success, domestically or on the continent – some quite incredible misfortune.
FC Dallas struggles
On the other side of the Atlantic, FC Dallas have suffered the same fate this term.
Having begun 2014 with five wins from seven matches, injury and idiocy would rob the Burn of the services of Mauro Diaz and Michel, coinciding with an eight-game winless run. Star winger Fabian Castillo would later receive a suspension for confronting an official, and the Hoops’ season appeared to be over.
However, the returning trio have had a momentous impact, and the Texans now haven’t lost in the league since the end of May. In the eight games since, no team in Major League Soccer can match their record.
In an extremely competitive Western Conference, Dallas lie third, and just five points off the summit of the Supporters’ Shield standings. It has so far been a tale of twists and turns, but Oscar Pareja will hope that his men can remain on-course for a title tilt – particularly after the sting of a penalty exit in the US Open Cup semi-finals on Tuesday.
Key to form is fitness
As evidenced by their form across the year, the key to any potential triumph will be to keep Diaz, Michel and Castillo fit and firing. An elegant playmaker, a set-piece specialist and a mazy dribbler, their talents perfectly fit alongside the power and pace of rookie forward Tesho Akindele as one of the best all-round attacking forces in the MLS.
Even with this quartet in full flow though, the Burn have failed to live up to their billing against their rivals at the top of the table. Draws with Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake don’t look quite so impressive when sat alongside defeats at the hands of DC United, LA Galaxy, and twice Seattle Sounders FC.
With three of the aforementioned set to visit Toyota Stadium in the coming weeks, it’s time for the Hoops to prove their mettle and avoid the excuses that nonattendances have previously allowed them.