Following RSL's lead, FC Dallas focused on CCL success

Schellas Hyndman

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FC Dallas learned their opponent for the preliminary round of the 2011-2012 CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday, drawing a home-and-away series against Alianza FC of El Salvador beginning in late July.

Dallas will travel to El Salvador for the first leg between July 26-28 before returning to Pizza Hut Park for the second leg between Aug. 2-4.

If FC Dallas win the aggregate-goal series, they will join Group C. Only Tauro FC of Panama have already secured a berth in that group, though should Dallas secure a spot in the group stages, they will face either the Vancouver Whitecaps or Toronto FC there.

“I think it’s fantastic,” FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman told MLSsoccer.com over the phone Wednesday evening. “We knew with the success that we had last year that we would have this opportunity.”

Alianza FC, who had a 9-5-5 record during the 2011 regular season, won El Salvador's Primera División Clausura for the first time in seven years before advancing to the championship game and beating traditional Salvadoran power CD FAS, 2-1.

“It’s a good opponent,” said Hyndman. “We don’t know much about them other than that they are the champions of their league, and we are looking forward to some quality, international competition.”

Over the past two months, North American soccer’s profile has risen substantially after Real Salt Lake made it to the 2010-11 Champions League finals, where they fell to Mexico's Monterrey, 3-2 on aggregate. (The winner of the regional championship earns a berth in the FIFA Club World Cup, which also includes the winner of the prestigious UEFA Champions League.)

The tournament, once an afterthought for MLS teams, is now viewed in a different light after RSL’s success.

“I think Real Salt Lake set an extremely high standard for all of us,” Hyndman said. “They were only one game from representing CONCACAF. It’s like when Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile and then a few weeks later more people did so. My point is that Real Salt Lake broke the mental barrier for all the teams in the league.”

FC Dallas will have to bear through a tough late July schedule that includes away game against Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls before traveling to El Salvador. After the first leg, the team will return to Dallas for a weekend matchup against Chivas USA on July 31 before hosting the return leg and leaving for California to play the LA Galaxy on Aug. 6.

Hyndman said technical director Barry Gorman, team president Doug Quinn and team ownership will address the travel issues and “venture on from that.”

Even with the tough scheduling, nobody in FC Dallas’ camp is making excuses.

“You’ll find with me that I take every game seriously," Hyndman said. "I go into every game wanting to get three points, and the team goes has the same mentality wanting to get the points.”