FRISCO, Texas – For most of the season, FC Dallas seemed to be playing the majority of its games shorthanded because of injuries or suspensions or both. But as the club prepares to take on Chivas USA on Sunday (10 pm ET, MLS LIVE), neither fitness nor form seem to the pressing issues they were just a few weeks ago.
Head coach Oscar Pareja and team captain Matt Hedges were clearly glad to see the attack getting its big guns back, especially Panamanian forward Blas Perez and Colombian wingers Andres Escobar and Fabian Castillo.
Perez shook off some early season injury concerns, fought through a considerable scoring drought and got back on the MLS score sheet in the team’s tie last Sunday in Vancouver.
“He is one of the hardest working guys on the field,” Hedges said. “He is always pressuring, he is always running, so it’s good that he gets rewarded with goals, because we want him to continue not only to score goals, but also helping defensively, which he always does.”
Colombian wingers Escobar and Castillo return from injury and suspension, respectively.
“[Escobar] has been brilliant,” Hedges said. “He came in with an injury, so he didn’t really know what to expect. But after he got healed up and fit he’s been playing great. He brings another dimension, a little bit different than Fabian. A lot of teams hadn’t seen him before, didn’t know what to expect, and he is exploiting that.”
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Castillo had been on a tear prior to his suspension for actions after the match in Portland on June 11, with two goals and an assist in three matches, and Hedges is excited to get the goalscorer back to build on his five tallies, one short of matching his career high in MLS.
“He had been playing extremely well before the suspension," Hedges said, "so hopefully he continues that form in the next run of games."
Pareja was less clear about whether Castillo was destined to return directly to the starting lineup.
“If Fabian is ready, he is ready, but this is the priority here in our club and our group is the team,” Pareja said. “This is not individuals here, it is the team. They know they are important, each of them, but they play for a group.
“It’s good to know that we have options, and I have seen in Fabian a lot of growing this year, so I have a good player there who is available.”
Also recently returning to the lineup or approaching full fitness are midfielders Michel and Mauro Diaz, who earlier in the season were key components of a very dangerous Dallas attack.