DALLAS - First, a name change and new stylish uniforms after nine years; next, a brand-new stadium set to open with Pizza Hut Park - what more could happen to FC Dallas? How about FCD coach Colin Clarke taking the reins as head coach for the league's midseason classic between the best of MLS and English Premier League club Fulham FC on July 30 in the Sierra Mist MLS All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio.
"I am very happy [about being selected]. Looking forward to the occasion - it's nice for me but the boys have gone out and earned it every weekend; the team has [been] playing well and that is why we are in this situation," said Clarke.
"It's different than most all-star games where it's East vs. West or more of a friendly game. I think Fulham's coming in pretty well into their preseason - they will be looking for a pretty competitive game, so we will go into it with a team that is going to win the game."
FC Dallas is off the best start in club history with 34 points at the halfway point of their season with 10 victories and four draws among their 16 games. The club has the best road record in MLS with 18 points from 10 games, and their 30 goals on the season is best in the Western Conference and second-best overall in the league.
"The team is working very hard for each other, like a big brother. We have had some absences to injuries and call-ups and one thing or another and the team has come in and responded - full credit to the boys, they are working hard for each other," Clarke said.
FCD midfielder Oscar Pareja said: "Colin has done a good job with the team, the results are proof of that. The results so far have been good - we are the best team in the league."
Clarke is certainly no stranger to English soccer, as he was a Northern Ireland international who spent his entire 12-year career from 1981 to 1993 up and down the Football League (as it was in those pre-Premiership days). He scored 146 goals in 361 games in his club career, spent with Peterborough, Gillingham, Tranmere Rovers, Bournemouth, Southampton, Queens' Park Rangers and Portsmouth, his time at Southampton and QPR while those clubs were in the English top flight.
A burly forward, he also represented his country on 38 occasions, scoring 13 goals and earning a trip to the 1986 World Cup in Mexico where he scored a goal against Spain.
"I think that every coach is pretty much different. I think that Colin knows the game a lot - he was a professional player before, he played for his national team, he played in the World Cup and the EPL - and I admire that from Colin," said Pareja.
The coach has not only been the leader of the team by instilling discipline, but he has also been a motivator by promoting confidence.
"I am just glad that I got a chance to play and he [Clarke] has given me a lot of confidence, that I appreciate. He came up to me after the game [against San Jose] and said I played a good game," said FCD midfielder Arturo Alvarez. "He always brings a lot of positives and the mentality of the team is to distance the other teams from us in the conference."
The Hoops are in the driver's seat prior to the All-Star break because of hard work and sticking to their game plan, but most of all because of coaches' mindset and organization prior to the commencement of the season. The addition of players like Richard Mulrooney, Carlos Ruiz, Greg Vanney and Alvarez only enriched the soil in which the seed was planted by Clarke.
"One thing we said at the start of the year was to bring in the right type of characters - players that were going to fight for each other. I think that is showing on the field. The boys are working hard for each other and getting results," Clarke said.
Alvarez added: "That is something that was said at the beginning [a winning first half of the season] - we set ourselves some goals and we have accomplished most all of them. We have goals for the second half of the season and hopefully the way we have been playing, we will match those goals."
Ron Goode is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.