There's a saying that you can't ever go home again. For FC Dallas midfielder Arturo Alvarez, his trade from the San Jose Earthquakes during the offseason didn't really send him home -- just as close as you get in Major League Soccer, having grown up just down I-45 in Houston where he played for Mayde Creek High School and Bear Creek United.
Now this weekend, Alvarez will be returning to another "home" -- the place where he began his professional career and spent his first two MLS seasons, the place where he won a MLS championship as a rookie in 2003.
Alvarez was traded to Dallas, along with midfielder Richard Mulrooney and the sixth overall pick in the 2005 SuperDraft, in exchange for midfielder Brad Davis, an allocation and the fourth overall pick in this year's draft.
"Soccer-wise, I think both organizations are top of the line. I was happy at San Jose and I am happy here (in Dallas)," said Alvarez. "Those guys [San Jose management], they are like family.
"Emotion-wise it will be weird at first. I have respect for the guys, but when I get on the field business is business, I have to do what I have to do."
The young winger has recently been away helping the U.S. under-20 national team qualify for the FIFA World Youth Championships, to be held in Holland beginning in June.
"We've got him now for a little spell of time," said FC Dallas coach Colin Clarke. "He's been sharp in training, so we are looking for good things from him."
Alvarez possesses a rare quality in MLS and the U.S. national team scheme: He is naturally left-footed.
"Arturo is more like (U.S. national team and Preston North End winger) Eddie Lewis, he is left-footed," said FCD teammate and U.S. international Richard Mulrooney. "This year he has taken full advantage of his time with the U-20s and FC Dallas."
Clarke has shown his confidence in the youngster. Two weeks ago, the Hoops down 2-0 in a Western Conference clash with rival L.A. Galaxy, he entered the game in the 83rd minute and immediately made his presence known, taking a left-footed shot which almost scored, barely missing the lower right post.
"That's what you have to do when you come off the bench, you've got to make a difference -- he was unlucky," said the FCD boss. "We'll see hopefully the next time he gets a chance he will put one in the back of the net for us."
"It was just unlucky, it was a good strike, I hit the ball pretty well -- it was just one of those days," added Alvarez.
One of the things that will come with increased time with the club -- and increased playing time -- will be a better understanding with his teammates. In last week's game against the Wizards in Kansas City, he entered the game in the 68th minute and made two solid runs up the left side and attempted to connect with forward Eddie Johnson, but on both occasions the timing was off.
"I am ready to play whenever the coach asks me to, whether it is off the bench or as a starter -- whatever role he needs me to play I am ready," said Alvarez.
With international duty looming for a number of FC Dallas players at the end of the month, Alvarez will have a good chance to show the coaching staff his potential and deadly left foot, before he likely heads off to Europe himself as part of the U.S. youth national team.
"It's totally up to him -- if he is playing well, he will be playing. It's a good opportunity for him," said Clarke.
While he was born in El Salvador, the move has also allowed him to play in front of family and friends on a regular basis. Playing against the then-Dallas Burn was always a positive for Alvarez -- it's the club against which he notched his first MLS goal and assist.
"It's a big difference [being in Dallas], because I am close to home," he said.
Ron Goode is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.