FRISCO, Texas — FC Dallas return to MLS action when they face Chivas USA on Saturday night at the Home Depot Center. For one FCD starter, right-sided midfielder Atiba Harris, it will be a homecoming of sorts.
That’s because Harris used to roam the pitch for the Red-and-White before he was traded to FCD last July. This will be the first time he'll face his former club since that deal.
“I’ll have a lot of fans and family out there," he said last Friday after training. "I’m looking forward to going back and playing at the Home Depot [Center] again—one of my favorite stadiums to play in.”
In 11 games this year, Harris has two goals and one assist for FCD. Both of his tallies this year have earned his club a point. His last goal came in the 67th minute of a 1-1 tie at New England on Saturday, May 1. That was six games ago.
Despite his current scoring draught, Harris feels like he has performed pretty well in the first third of the 2010 season.
“I think it’s probably the same as it was toward the end of last year," he said. "We’re not getting the results we want, but if you look at the standings, we’re still a point out of the playoffs, and that’s good going into the second third of the season.”
Like his teammates, he used the league’s recent World Cup break to get some much-needed rest and prepare for the second third of the regular season.
“It helped a lot because I picked up a few knocks," he said. "Over the break, all those knocks were healed and all that. It was good for me.”
So far this season he has played almost exclusively at right midfield. However, with FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman wanting to shift his club from a 4-1-4-1, which features Jeff Cunningham as his lone striker, into a 4-4-2 after Colombian forward Milton Rodriguez becomes eligible to play in mid-July, it could very well be Harris instead of Cunningham up top alongside Rodriguez.
Cunningham will get his chance to show he’s in better form until his new teammate is eligible to play, but if the veteran scorer—who has struggled for much of 2010—then Harris could very well be Hyndman’s plan B up top as Rodriguez’s strike partner.
“I don’t know what the coach is going to do yet," Harris said. "We’ve tried the 4-4-2 and the 4-5-1, so I don’t know exactly what he’s going to do. I’m ready for whatever.”
Should Hyndman decide to move the native of St. Kitts to forward, then he will have to find someone to replace Harris on the right flank. The top candidates appear to be Eric Avila and Marvin Chavez, but each of them has question marks.
Avila has been great off the bench this year as an instant energy guy, but he’s yet to show he deserves more minutes than what he’s been receiving off the pine. It’s a similar story with Chavez, who was injured for much of the early part of the year. The Honduran international continues to struggle with his fitness, something that could keep him out of the running.
Then again, if Cunningham can find the same form that he displayed in the second half of last season when he won the second Budweiser Golden Boot of his career, then all this discussion is moot. But if Harris’ teammate continues to struggle, Hyndman will be forced to shuffle his lineup a bit.
One thing FCD needs to do better in their final 19 games is convert more scoring chances. If they can do that, then they will go from a fringe playoff team to a side that is firmly established as a legitimate contender.
For that to happen, Harris knows he and his teammates have to do some pretty basic things.
“We just need to keep pushing," he said. “Our confidence is there. You saw it in our last game (against San Jose) we got that second goal and killed the game. Once we get that crucial insurance goal, we know we can keep the ball long enough to win.”
Join the Debate! MLSsoccer.com's "ExtraTime Radio" is LIVE every day during the World Cup, 5-7 pm ET. Call in at 888-MLS-GOAL.