FRISCO, Texas — When FC Dallas’ starting lineup took the field on Sunday against Chivas USA, the importance of Wednesday’s return leg of the CONCACAF Champions League play-in match against Alianza FC was blatantly noticeable.
Head coach Schellas Hyndman gave key players such as captain Daniel Hernandez and Jackson the opportunity to rest, citing fatigue and recoveries from injuries as his reasoning.
While Jackson entered the match in the second half, it was the supporting cast that put their stamp on the match — especially reserve forward Ruben Luna.
In the 26th minute, the Home Grown product tracked down a Brek Shea cross and rolled a clean pass to Marvin Chávez, who blasted the ball for his fourth goal of the season. It marked Luna’s first career assist.
“I’m so excited,” Luna told a flurry of reporters after the game. “I’m motivated and I think the team’s been playing awesome. They all push me to get better and I’m so happy to be apart of this team with such character.”
Hyndman was duly impressed as well.
“I thought Ruben Luna had a really good game, holding the ball, laying balls off, [and] creating some opportunities for himself,” said the 2010 Coach of the Year.
Hyndman said his decision to start Luna for the second time this season came mere hours before kickoff.
“The reason of going with Ruben was I know that he was fresh and I knew that the heat would not be as much of an issue for him as it would be for Jackson or Chávez being the lone striker,” said Hyndman.
EIGHT-GAME JULY IN THE BOOKS
There was much talk throughout July as to how FC Dallas would handle the constant travel for games and three straight weeks of midweek matches.
But the second-place team in the Western Conference passed it all with flying colors, their lone blip on the radar last month coming in a 2-0 loss at Real Salt Lake.
“When you look at the whole month of July, we are 5-1-2,” acknowledged Hyndman. “I think any coach in the league would take a 5-1-2 record in the month of July and, again, we always talk about talent isn’t everything. Talent will win you games, but talent plus teamwork will win, and I thought that’s what we’ve had this month.”
TWO EXTRA DAYS IN EL SALVADOR
FC Dallas were stranded in El Salvador last week following their CCL preliminary first leg last week thanks to a miscommunication with the airline that had them scheduled to fly back Saturday morning and not Friday. But things seemed to work out OK, noted Kevin Hartman.
“I think a lot of times we get things right and we don’t really have to struggle with our schedule very often,” said goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, “and that’s a lot of credit to [director of team administration] Bobby Hammond. ... So we decided to stay down at the Princess Hilton in San Salvador, which is actually really, really, really nice.”
Robert Casner covers FC Dallas for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter: @FCDallasBeatGuy