When Maicon Santos arrived at FC Dallas in August in a trade for Eric Avila, it seemed like the perfect fit.
Struggling for a focal point up front after the fruitful Milton Rodriguez-David Ferreira partnership was destroyed by serious injury to the latter, Schellas Hyndman’s Dallas side had persisted with pretty much anyone they could find up front, including many who were not even close to being suited to lead the line such as utility man Jackson and talented-yet-lightweight winger Fabian Castillo.
Maicon, who had fulfilled the role at previous club Toronto FC with some aplomb, seemed right for a system where players consistently break from midfield to support a striker whose role is to link up play arguably more than merely finding the back of the net. As if to emphasise the reliance on goals from midfield, 26 of the club’s 42 goals last season came from midfielders.
Meanwhile, Avila’s exit was seen as a loss, but one which was not necessarily too disheartening. The 24-year-old had won a place in fans’ hearts with a super-sub display in 2010’s Western Conference Semifinal, coming off the bench to score the winner in the home leg against Real Salt Lake.
However, he failed to fully build on last season’s promise and was marginalised somewhat by the emergence of youngster Ruben Luna and Brazilian newcomer Ricardo Villar, making just five starts in 2010 as a consequence.
Still, while Avila impressed enough north of the border to be protected by Toronto coach Aron Winter in the Expansion Draft, Maicon had no such luck, and his tenure in the hoops of FC Dallas could be brought to an end after just four months as the club declined their option on him. At the very least we will see a renegotiation on what one can only assume will be far less favourable terms than the $126,000 salary currently taken home by the Paracambi native.
A powerful yet erratic striker with a hammer of a left foot, Maicon instantly draws comparisons with fellow Brazilian Adriano. While not quite reaching the world-beating status of the former Serie A star, the 27-year-old has the same tendency to produce the unthinkable and spectacular in front of goal.
This was best shown during his 13 months in Toronto, where his strong partnership with Dwayne De Rosario added an aspect of entertainment to Nick Dasovic’s damage-limitation job in the second half of 2010.
Unfortunately his eye for the unexpected has also been realised in the spectacular and often unfathomable misses such as the one for Toronto against Chivas USA in April, surely leaving coaches tearing their hair out in frustration.
When De Rosario left for New York in April a conveyor belt of strike-partners followed due to Winter’s persistence with 4-3-3, but at first this did not seem too much of an issue as Maicon both earned the club captaincy and came close to recognition in the MLS All Star XI over the summer.
However the all-too-frequent lack of a recognised crosser may have frustrated the striker, who began to shoot from increasingly ridiculous positions as the season drew on. While that strategy may be endearing at first, particularly if it results in a wonder-goal or two, eventually fans begin to look at shots-to-goals ratios and don’t enjoy what they see.
This was perhaps more of an issue in Toronto, a club which barely has the luxury to persist with one low-scoring striker, let alone the several to have graced the turf at BMO Field in 2011. To put things in perspective, while De Rosario and Koevermans scored 23 goals between them in just 35 starts (and a further four games from the bench) in the last two years, the countless other forwards to have turned out in the same time period found the net just 37 times in 139 starts and 63 substitute appearances.
However, while the relative urgency was less in Texas, this also made Maicon more dispensible, with less of an opportunity for him to play himself back into form. In that sense, his return of two goals from 12 appearances is hardly surprising, but at the same time the league’s financial structure – coupled with the turn of Ferreira in 2012 – may have convinced Hyndman that the club’s money would be better spent elsewhere.
When a similar fate befell Adriano at Inter, the solution was a (initially temporary) return to his homeland with Sao Paulo. It would certainly be a shame to see Maicon do the same, as his contribution to MLS over the last 18 months suggests he still has plenty to offer.
He just needs to find a club which can afford such a luxury player, and the concern for him will be that these kinds of club are becoming fewer and further between.
Tags: FC Dallas, Maicon Santos, MLS