FRISCO, Texas — Winless in 24 attempts on Mexican soil, MLS teams have long felt the lash of Mexican dominance from their southern neighbors.
On Wednesday night, FC Dallas will get their shot at three points in Mexico City against Apertura champions Pumas UNAM in the first round of CONCACAF Champions League Group C play (10 pm ET, tape delayed at 11 pm ET on Galavision, 12:30 am ET on Fox Soccer).
“I think we have a lot of motivation anyways,” said Brek Shea in regards to MLS’ 0-21-3 record in Mexico. “I don’t think it matters, but it’d be cool if we are the first.”
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Two weeks after calling the CCL play-in match against Alianza FC “the biggest match in the history of FC Dallas,” head coach Schellas Hyndman placed Wednesday’s game high on that list.
“The MLS Cup last year against Colorado was the all-time highest and this is going to be up there with it,” he said before the team traveled to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
Hyndman has made it his mission to build a winning culture with FC Dallas, and his side is approaching Wednesday’s game with that mentality. He said that regardless of Saturday’s important league game against the Seattle Sounders in Dallas, he would put his best team on the field at Estadio Universitario.
“One thing I’m able to do quite well with the boys is motivate them,” Hyndman said, “but also to focus at the game on hand, so we’ll think about the other game later.”
The determination and focus carries down to each of the players on the squad. Goalkeeper Kevin Hartman said the team wants to win everything they participate in. Midfielder Marvin Chávez said the group has a lot of motivation to perform well and the most important thing is to win.
“We never want to take these things lightly, and we really want to develop this culture of winning on a game-to-game basis and a week-to-week basis,” said Hartman.
If Hyndman’s lineup Wednesday night at all resembles the team that defeated Alianza FC 2-0 on aggregate goals, it will boast a mix of veteran leadership in Ugo Ihemelu, Daniel Hernandez, Hartman and Ricardo Villar with the youthful energy of Shea, George John and Zach Loyd.
However, there will be some shuffling in Hyndman’s roster.
Bruno Guarda is forced to sit after collecting two yellow cards during the Alianza play-in series. New forward Maicon Santos is ineligible for the duration of the tournament after being on the roster of his former team and current Group C opponents, Toronto FC.
Taking Santos’ place will most likely be 19-year-old Fabián Castillo, only days removed from Colombia’s quarterfinal loss at the U-20 World Cup held in Colombia.
“Our plan is to have him fly from Cali to Mexico City,” Hyndman revealed. “Unfortunately, because of the time and how quickly we are doing it, he may have to go through Miami to get there, but we need to get him in there.”
Robert Casner covers FC Dallas for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached on Twitter: @robertmcasner