CCL Preview: Group leaders FCD expect strong Pumas
FRISCO, Texas — Just more than a month ago, in the first match of the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League, FC Dallas marched down to Mexico City and beat Pumas UNAM to become the first MLS side to win in Mexico.
The 1-0 victory – with the lone goal coming from Marvin Chávez – paved the path for more MLS teams to enter Mexico with their chests swelling; a week later, the Seattle Sounders duplicated the feat against defending CCL champions Monterrey.
On Wednesday night at Pizza Hut Park (8 pm ET, FOX Soccer), Pumas will visit FC Dallas. And contrary to their first meeting in August, the felines brought their “A” team to Texas.
“I think they underestimated MLS,” stated FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman about the lone Mexican representative in Group C. “When we won, we were the first team. The next week, Seattle wins. I think there are some strong statements right now in Mexico saying not to take the MLS teams so lightly.”
Through three matches, FC Dallas currently sit atop the group standings with seven points while Pumas stalk from below, sitting third with four points.
Hyndman spoke earlier in the tournament about the team’s goal of reaching the 10-12 point area, and with three points on Wednesday, FCD are all but assured of a spot in the elimination rounds.
“What we have to do is continue to focus on what we can control,” continued Hyndman. “We got three games left and our mentality is how well can we play tomorrow and also put ourselves in a position where we can lock in a spot. If we can lock in a spot, then I think it’ll give us some relaxation and start focusing more and more on MLS.”
While Pumas are expected to field a strong squad, FC Dallas will be without both of their fullbacks, as Jair Benítez and Zach Loyd received their second yellow cards against Tauro FC last week and will serve a one-game suspension.
George John and recent acquisition Jack Stewart will man the center of defense, with Jeremy Hall and Ugo Ihemelu positioned on the flanks.
Since joining Dallas on loan from the NSC Minnesota Stars of the NASL, Stewart has yet to see playing time in MLS, but he proved valuable against Toronto FC earlier in the group stages, heading home the game-winning goal in the 1-0 win.
“Jack was thrown into the game when we played Toronto,” said Hyndman, “but it’s a different game [against Pumas] because these are very technical, very quick players, and so this gives us a wonderful opportunity to look at Jack.”
Robert Casner covers FC Dallas for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached on Twitter: @robertmcasner