Luna hopes to parlay Reserve League hot hand into 2012
FRISCO, Texas — Move over, Dwayne De Rosario: You're about to have company.
FC Dallas Ruben Luna is on the cusp of winning his own Golden Boot — in the Reserve League. Heading into the team’s final match on Wednesday at Sporting Kansas City, the 19-year-old striker leads the competition with six goals in nine games.
“Playing games in the Reserve League is definitely confidence-building,” Luna told MLSsoccer.com after training on Monday. “The more and more I get on the field, the more confident I feel. In these games, you have to just take them seriously and do your thing.”
Signed as a Home Grown player from the FC Dallas Academy in 2010, Luna appeared in 14 MLS games for FC Dallas during the 2011 season. Perhaps most notably, the Mexican showed a knack for scoring goals in international competition.
Luna scored his first professional goal outside of reserve play on Sept. 3 at Pizza Hut Park in a 2-1 win over Mexican Primera División side Tigres UANL in the Rio Grande Plate. Another productive performance in Champions League play followed on Sept. 28, when the forward netted two goals in a 5-3 loss to Tauro FC in Panama City.
“The coach gave me the opportunity in that game to step up,” said Luna. “I love to score goals and I am glad I was able to in that game.”
Despite having success in limited duty, the forward has struggled to consistently contribute in MLS play. Luna was given an opportunity on April 1 against Columbus, but did little to impress the coaching staff with his on-field performance.
“He was doing well in training, doing things well,” FC Dallas manager Schellas Hyndman told MLSsoccer.com. “He was scoring goals in training. Then it didn’t get done in the game.”
Hyndman identified multiple areas that needed improvement to take the forward’s game to the next level.
“When you look at a striker, first, he’s got to score goals,” said Hyndman. “He just scored his first goal. He needs to do that more and be able to finish. The next thing a striker has to do is hold the ball. Hold the ball so teammates can get involved with him. He needs to improve in that area. That area will be improved when he develops a better first touch.”
In the season finale at San Jose, Luna showed a glimpse of what he’s capable of. In the 90th minute, after settling a deflected cross in the box with his chest, he drove a ball into the upper 90 for, at last, his first career MLS goal.
“It was awesome,” Luna said. “When I scored it, it didn’t hit me until I realized, ‘I just scored my first MLS goal.’ I knew it was coming because I was so confident.”
Luna hopes to build on his success in 2012 by staying fit and refining his game this offseason. More specifically, the forward acknowledged his need to improve his off-the-ball movement and consistency in finishing. With Maicon Santos and fill-in forward Jackson likely returning next season, Luna will have to fight for his opportunities.
“For me to get more playing time would obviously be the best thing that could happen,” said Luna. “I have to take advantage of the opportunities and show them what I can do.”