ORLANDO – There’s something about Florida during the MLS preseason that brings the best out of FC Dallas academy product Ruben Luna.
Last March the forward scored three goals in two games as the team passed through Tampa, and nearly one year later he was at it again. On Saturday night it was Luna who opened the scoring in the final of the Walt Disney World Pro Classic against the Houston Dynamo, this time in Orlando.
Unlike 2010, however, he’s hoping that his performances result in more than the 48 total minutes he saw the field during the regular season in 2010.
“I hope this year will be the best year ever for me,” Luna told MLSsoccer.com. “I’m really thankful that the coaching staff trusted me enough to put me in this game. And I’m really glad I scored. I’ve just got to go in, work hard and keep on scoring to gain that confidence from the coaching staff so I can keep playing more.”
Luna admits that he and veteran Colombian striker Milton Rodriguez are competing for the team’s lone center forward spot in 2011. Despite being effective since joining the club, Rodriguez has often been hampered by injuries, which may open the door for Luna. He was given the starting nod by manager Schellas Hyndman against the Dynamo.
The Mexico Under-20 national team forward showed a veteran’s poise and craftiness when the cross by Marvin Chavez floated through the penalty area in the 15th minute Saturday night. He sensed the ball would go over his direct defender’s head, so he took one step back and braced himself. When it finally reached him, Luna timed his header perfectly, applying a soft touch on the ball to send it over Houston's goalkeeper.
“We’re expecting big things from Luna,” FCD captain Daniel Hernandez said. “He’s still a young player but I think along the way he’s going to get the experience. … He definitely has the talent to be a big time player.”
With CONCACAF Under-20 World Cup Qualifying on the horizon, it remains to be seen just how his rise at FC Dallas might be impacted by call-ups to the Under-20 Mexico national team. He says he feels he can deliver for both club and country.
“My duty is to score goals here and I have to work hard to keep winning and, god willing, reach my goals,” he said.
Check out the Feb. 24 edition of the ExtraTime Radio podcast, featuring D.C. United's Charlie Davies, Real Salt Lake's Nick Rimando and league executive Nelson Rodriguez talking about the new playoff structure.