FRISCO, Texas – Competition at every position is a staple of well-constructed teams and something every coach wants. For FC Dallas, however, the left back position has had Jair Benítez’s name written in permanent ink for the last couple years.
In an effort to get some quality depth at the position though, FCD signed Panamanian left back Carlos Rodríguez in January and after three straight impressive starts, competition for the left back position looks to be heating up.
“Because Jair picked up a red card against Houston, it gave Carlos an opportunity,” head coach Schellas Hyndman told MLSsoccer.com. “Carlos is also on the Panama national team, so we know he’ll be missing some, so I think it’s important that we keep them both active.”
In the past, when Benítez had to miss games through suspension or injury, Dallas was forced to move another defender out of position to cover, but having two natural left backs has given Hyndman the luxury of forcing players to earn starts in practice.
“I worked really hard during the week to get the start and coach has been watching me really closely for the past few weeks,” Rodríguez said on Wednesday. “I feel like I’ve put the work and the effort into it to get a chance to start.”
While both are players that have proven they can play at the MLS level, there’s one thing that the 22-year-old Panamanian lacks when measuring up to Benítez: experience.
“I think in all aspects Jair is just a little bit better soccer player,” Hyndman said of his left back. “It doesn’t have to do so much with technical ability or speed, it has more to do with experience.”
With 79 league starts over the past 3 seasons, Benítez does have the knowledge of the league that Rodríguez can only learn over time. However, with the Colombian turning 33 this year, it’s looking like Rodríguez could be the long-term solution at the position.
“I’m enjoying it very much here and I’ve become very comfortable here,” said Rodríguez, who has now been in Dallas for nearly six months. “I’m very comfortable with the team which has made it much easier to be comfortable with the city.”