Aaron Pitchkolan

Clarke shuffles the deck for qualifiers

obviously we are going to miss them two great players with Greg's [Vanney] experience and you know Eddie [Johnson] is Eddie. It's just a chance for people to step up," said midfielder Ronnie O'Brien. "It's something you have got to have over here (in the U.S.) because of the way the U.S. team works, you know, playing the games midseason."

Clarke has already given some youngsters increased time on the field, as witnessed with the insertion of Aaron Pitchkolan after Talley was injured in the game against the Colorado Rapids. Pitchkolan played well enough to get the nod and start the following game against Chivas USA, in which he scored his first MLS goal.

"He [Pitchkolan] has played in a couple of games. Unlucky not to score in his first game, but obviously got a goal Sunday night, which was very good for him. He's had a very good preseason. He's worked very hard, he's improved four or five times. We're delighted for him," said Clarke.

Nuñez and Alvarez have also received playing time for FCD and are making the most of it. The Honduran Nuñez made an immediate impact against the Rapids, serving up a pass for O'Brien to score just a minute after entering the game, and Alvarez has impressed along the left. Both players have played in four games; Nuñez has racked up 141 minutes and Alvarez 34.

After the dust settles and players return from qualifiers, the Hoops will have one game with the Chicago Fire to get on the same page prior to a potential first place clash with the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Despite the away games and World Cup obligations, FCD have a plan to remain in first place or within striking distance of the top spot through the all-star break and the unveiling of the Frisco Soccer and Entertainment Center at the beginning of August.

"I'd like to take the lion's share but I can't. Colin [Clarke] has been the chief evangelist with the mindset you have to play 32 matches and 16 on the road at some point," said general manager Greg Elliott. "If we can ... not only persevere but achieve this road stretch that is pretty daunting, then we've got a huge string of home matches in a row. Our goal is to be in first or second place in our division at the all-star break."

There is one more piece of unfinished business for Dallas, though -- replacing Mulrooney, the club's and most consistent player.

"We are looking into a replacement for him. It's a challenging time because the transfer window is closed. We have a couple of players we have looked at and actually filed discoveries on and there are some technicalities within the transfer window [that are] going to make it challenging to bring anybody in from outside the league who's an international player," Elliott added. "Domestically, there are players in the A-League (USL First Division), there are players on other teams; the challenge there is, anybody who you really want, it's going to be difficult to get, moreso within the league."

Ron Goode is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.

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