Hard-working Urruti redefining forward success at FC Dallas

The forward didn't score on Saturday, but his hard work supporting the defense and stretching the Galaxy back line, something he learned from an ex-Barca boss, was key.

FRISCO, Texas — Forwards score goals. That's their job, that's what they're there for. Maxi Urruti didn't score for FC Dallas on Saturday night. He doesn't lead the team in goals, nor do his eight league tallies put him in MLS' top 25. And yet, with FC Dallas closing in on the Supporters' Sheid after a 1-0 victory over the LA Galaxy, it's clear Urruti is crucial for the team's chances of lifting the MLS Cup. 

In the win over LA, Urruti had a number of chances to score, including a beautiful curling shot that found Galaxy goalkeeper Brian Rowe's far post and a less glamorous miss in the 78th minute when Robbie Rogers made a clearance after the forward had looped the ball over Rowe's head. But it was the work he did pressuring the Galaxy back line and stretching the field that was most critical as FCD hung on to a 1-0 victory.

"Maxi’s work is exemplary. It’s tremendous. He’s our first defender. That’s the model that we have, that’s the philosophy that we work with," coach Oscar Pareja said in the news conference. "He helps us create chances. He hasn’t found the net, and today he could’ve had probably two goals, he was in a great position. But then you had what he brings when we don’t have the ball. That generosity, that discipline, that tactical movement that he makes when we pressure is putting defenders under pressure and forcing them to play a ball that is not as clean. It’s tremendous for our model."

While it works well with the system Pareja runs, it's something Urruti said was learned at the feet of a South American coach that has achieved even more success than FCD's Colombian boss. After coming through the Newell's Old Boys youth system, he was promoted to the first team in Argentina and played under Gerardo "Tata" Martino. Urruti would win a championship with Newell's in 2013 before he moved to MLS and before Martino took over at Barcelona.

The Argentine forward credits Martino, who was announced this week as the head coach of MLS expansion side Atlanta United, with his hard-working mentality and skill tracking back to help the defense.

"It started when I was playing at Newell’s with Tata Martino. He asked me to do this kind of work. It didn’t bother me, on the contrary, I liked it because I knew it helped the team," Urruti told Goal USA. "After that, I went to Portland where I also did this work. I’m a forward who has this characteristic and I like to put in that work for the team, not trying to always be forward and think only about myself, but trying to help when I might not be able to score a goal, contributing to the team by defending."

"Today it was that kind of game, and I’m really happy that the group took all the points. Now, it’s time to rest and get ready for the next match."

Getting the result was big for FC Dallas, which guaranteed it will miss out on the play-in matches and, while it could be surpassed by Colorado, has a decent change to lift the Supporters' Shield. While center back Walker Zimmerman headed in the winning goal, his fourth of the season and the fourth time the assist has come from midfielder Mauro Diaz on a set piece, Urriti's work also didn't go unnoticed by his teammates.

"Maxi runs an insane amount and covers a lot of ground for us up there," goalkeeper Chris Seitz told Goal USA. "Center backs get nervous on the ball when they know Maxi’s around, and for us it’s a huge weapon."

In hockey there are trophies given to the defender who helps the attack the most and the attacking player who gives the most in defense. In soccer, the game may be too fluid for that, but only two forwards have more clearances than Urruti and his pressure would put him on the Frank J. Selke Trophy watch list were such a thing to exist in MLS.

The 25-year-old Urruti came to Dallas after lifting the MLS Cup with Portland and already helped FCD to the U.S. Open Cup title this year, snapping a 19-year trophy drought.. If he's able to reunite with the MLS Cup in Dallas, the thought of winning an individual award for his hard work won't cross his mind. He'll be happy enough to have been a major player in yet another title-winning team.