When FC Dallas names a team MVP for the 2008 season later this year, Pablo Ricchetti's name is sure to be at the top of the list of candidates. For most of the campaign, the veteran Argentinean has played the defensive midfield spot and has been a stabilizing presence for FCD in that role.
However, last Thursday, he started at center back for the first time since he played there some years ago. With captain Duilio Davino set to miss his fifth consecutive game with a toe injury and Drew Moor serving a suspension for yellow card accumulation, Ricchetti will likely start there for a second game in a row on Saturday when the Hoops face D.C. United at RFK Stadium.
Ricchetti admits he prefers the central midfield but will play anywhere FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman needs him.
"I'm more comfortable in the middle," he said. "It's my position and where I like to play but I can play anywhere. If the coach needs me in the back, I can play there. I did it against Colorado and think it went pretty well."
Hyndman was pleased with how well Ricchetti fared in his backline debut and expects to see even more against United.
"I think Pablo did a pretty good job (against Colorado)," he said. "I was pleased at his acceptance of the role and embracing that position. It wasn't like we got beat by Colorado because of a mistake by our defense. We had a second where somebody got free on a corner kick.
"I think what Pablo does for us is he brings a lot of communication, a lot of maturity, experience and he's a player that can bring the ball out of the back through the center. I think all those things are great benefits," Hyndman continued. "But make no mistake, we're going to miss him in the defensive midfield role. All those things I just talked about being his strengths, he was a little bit more in touch with the team by being in the midfield."
While Ricchetti was pleased with his performance in the 1-0 loss to the Rapids, he knows that United, who have better offensive players, present a different kind of challenge.
"This is a better team than Colorado," he said. "They have very good forwards and we have to be concerned with them. We have to do the same work that we did against Colorado but can't make the same mistakes. They didn't have a lot of chances to score. As a team, we have to have better passes, first touches and hold the ball better every time we have it."
He and goalkeeper Dario Sala are two of the elder statesmen on the FCD roster, so Ricchetti admits even though he knows what to do at center back, it's still good to have a fellow veteran such as his countryman in goal.
"He (Sala) is always talking and everything but when I play, I know what to do," Ricchetti said. "I played before as a center back in Argentina and in Spain, so I know what I have to do. But it's always good to have an experienced goalkeeper behind you telling you what he sees and giving you some instruction in the game. It's always good to have Dario there but I have to play like I know I can."
The versatile Ricchetti is quick to credit his fellow defenders for their strong play alongside him.
"I think we are pretty good in the back," he said. "(Aaron Pitchkolan) has been good back there and Adrian (Serioux) is pretty experienced too. It's my work but it's easier when you have players around you who are playing well. They have done really well. I don't have to talk to them too much."
Ricchetti might enjoy playing in a new spot but has no illusions about returning to his old spot once Davino and the rest of the other central defenders are available in the near future.
"I'm sure it's not a permanent move," he said. "Duilio (Davino) is coming back and we also have Adrian and Drew who can play there. So, we have a lot of choices there. I think I will move back (to the midfield) once everyone gets back."
Steve Hunt is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.