FRISCO, Texas – Despite Oscar Pareja’s preference for his outside backs to overlap with his wingers, Maynor Figueroa doesn’t come forward all too often.
But Thursday night against Real Esteli in FC Dallas’ opening match in the CONCACAF Champions League, Figueroa did just that and ended up playing the role of hero, blasting home the game-winner in a 2-1 win at Toyota Stadium.
“He’s going forward more. He’s being more important when we have our offensive face, and today was a result of that,” FCD's coach said. “He stepped in the box, something he doesn’t normally do, and finished a great finish in the corner. Well-deserved by Maynor, and very welcome for us at that moment to get the goal and the result.”
The result came in the club’s first CCL match since 2011 – the year after they made their first-ever MLS Cup appearance. But Figueroa is no stranger to the international stage.
His experience with the Honduras national team – he has 130 caps under his belt – was one of the biggest reasons Dallas acquired him from the Colorado Rapids in January. While his season has had its ups and downs, Pareja & Co. believe he’s adapted well to FCD’s system.
“I’m very pleased with him,” said Pareja on Thursday. “Maynor has been adjusting a lot to what we want as a left back. Giving us the experience, giving us the structure – the many games he has in international competition has helped us a lot.”
Added center back Matt Hedges: “He’s been fantastic. Out there in left, he’s easy to play with. He can score goals like that, he sets up chances for guys, he plays that kind of curve ball behind all the time, and it’s fantastic. He has lots of experience, and it helps us a ton.”
Figueroa's goal enlivened a sluggish second half for FC Dallas, which Pareja said was caused by Real Esteli’s ability to win balls in the middle of the field and prevent FC Dallas from dominating possession.
Pareja said once the visitors knocked in the equalizer in the 48th minute, it took his team out of their game temporarily. But it was just that, said Pareja – temporary.
“Something happened for us that clicked for our team. It was the intensity change,” he said. “I think the urgency changed, and we started looking more like us. At the end, we found a goal, very well-deserved by the boys.”
FC Dallas started well, but faded late the last time they played in the CCL, ultimately failing to advance past the group stage in 2011. The team has every intention to keep its foot on the gas, despite a congested schedule alongside US Open Cup and league play, with the hopes of finally bringing home some silverware to Frisco.
“It’s the first game we played internationally,” Pareja said. “To come out with a win is huge.”