After a week-and-a-half of training at Celtic FC in Glasgow, Scotland, FC Dallas midfielder Ramon Nuñez had a conversation with Celtic manager Martin O'Neill.
"He told me I've had a great week," Nuñez said.
That type of praise confirms the success of Nuñez' brief stay in Glasgow. Any compliment from O'Neill, who has won three Scottish Premier League titles in four full years in charge at Celtic Park and has tipped the balance of power in Scotland from crosstown rival Rangers to his own club, should be taken seriously.
Nuñez agreed that he has had a positive fortnight in Scotland. He even got a chance to train with Celtic's first team on Wednesday, his final day of training.
"(Training with the first team) went great," Nuñez said. "Obviously, the ball moves faster, but I think I did pretty well. Actually, I think today was the best day of training I've had.
"Training with these guys helped me work on my defensive part, which is obviously not my strongest, but I've definitely gotten better. I was moving well off the ball."
The key for Nuñez is to transfer what he's learned at Celtic in the past 10 days to his preseason training with FC Dallas. Nuñez said it is important that he perform well with his club team if he is to see more playing time in 2005 than he did in 2004. He's sure his performance this spring will impress the FC Dallas coaches.
"One noticeable thing that they'll see is my confidence is extremely high right now," Nuñez said. "Just training with these guys and doing well has definitely brought my confidence up a lot. I expect to bring that in and contribute a lot to my team, FC Dallas.
"That's my plan, to come into preseason and do a great job. I know I can do it. I've just got to show it and get the opportunity."
This past season, Nuñez didn't get much of an opportunity. He was on the field for all of 107 minutes in eight matches with no starts. The experience was humbling for the 19-year-old, who left Southern Methodist University after his freshman year to play for his hometown MLS team. At the same time, it was a period of growth that Nuñez believes will help him in the long run.
After the 2004 season, Colin Clarke and the rest of the FC Dallas coaching staff told Nuñez they'd like him to improve more in the defensive aspects of his game. Nuñez feels he's done that, and that his days of sitting on the sideline will soon be over.
"It was definitely a frustrating season for me, since I didn't get to play much, but that's in the past," he said. "I've learned ... from that, and I want to come into this season and do a great job and just be an important part.
"They definitely know I've been working on (defensive play), and they've seen the improvement. But, I've still got to go in there and try to do my best."
Jason Halpin is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.