FRISCO, Texas — For many FC Dallas veterans like Kevin Hartman and Ugo Ihemelu, this weekend will provide their first time off — and a much-needed one — of the 2011 season.
But for the younger core of FC Dallas, Saturday night is an opportunity for them to showcase their talents against Mexican Primera División club Tigres UANL in the second leg of the renewed Rio Grande Plate.
“It’s obviously a very good team with a historic background and all that,” said goalkeeper Chris Seitz, “but it’s also another game for us to play together and put our best foot forward to hopefully get more playing time for some of us in the future.”
Head coach Schellas Hyndman said Saturday would be an opportunity for players like Seitz, Jack Stewart and the several of the Home Grown players like Ruben Luna, Bryan Leyva, Moises Hernandez and Victor Ulloa to get ample minutes in the featured match at Pizza Hut Park.
It’s also an opportunity for a certain center back pairing to mesh together with Ugo Ihemelu sitting out next Sunday against the New England Revolution after picking up his fifth yellow card.
“The fact that we don’t have Ugo coming up against New England,” said Hyndman, “I think this is a good time for George [John] and [Andrew Jacobson] to get accustomed to each other.”
After a three-year hiatus, the Rio Grande Plate was reintroduced this year as FC Dallas sought to maintain a relationship with the Monterrey-based side.
Tigres — who have won the plate in two out of the tournament’s three years — defeated FCD 2-1 in the first leg on March 23 with the late winner coming from Francisco Acuña.
The Mexican side arrived in Dallas with a roster including US national-teamer Jonathan Bornstein and Mexico U-17 World Cup winner Jonathan Espericueta. But other than the roster, Hyndman hasn’t a clue what Tigres — the only Mexican team undefeated thus far in the Clausura season through seven games — will offer.
However, he does have objectives in place for his club.
“I know that when we were down there playing them, they put a mixed squad out there as well,” he said. “For me, as I said to the players, there’s some objectives here and one is the relationship with Tigres, that’s why we’re playing La Plata.”
Robert Casner covers FC Dallas for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached on Twitter: @robertmcasner