FRISCO, Texas – Thursday was a big day for Eric Avila. Not only was the FC Dallas midfielder getting his first start of 2010 in a friendly with European champions Inter Milan, but the San Diego native also had his mother and two brothers in town to see him start for the first time as a professional.
“This was my first start that my family ever saw live,” Avila said. “They were excited. My two brothers couldn’t believe I was playing against [Samuel] Eto’o, [Esteban] Cambiasso in the middle and Júlio César. In the tunnel, I was star-struck, but as soon as the game started, I was fine.”
Avila delivered a solid performance in his 60 minutes of action. He took a shot from distance about three minutes in and just before halftime he lofted a ball toward the box that teammate George John headed into the back of the net to tie the match at 1-1.
In his postgame presser, Avila was one of the players FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman singled out for their performance against the UEFA Champions League winners.
“I thought he did very well," Hyndman said. "He defended as hard as he attacked. Big game. It was a great opportunity and he embraced it. The thing is now, can he grow from it?”
Getting the start against Inter was an interesting turn of events for Avila. That’s because it was just a few weeks ago that he was left off the 18-man game roster for several contests after his form dipped in practice.
“I was kind of confused and disappointed," Avila admitted. "My practices weren’t going well. I just decided to focus on myself. I kept a positive attitude and it was hard for me to do that.”
A solid week of training before last weekend’s trip to Colorado earned him action in a reserve game against the Rapids reserves, a match that really turned things around for the affable playmaker.
Now his family members, who will remain in town through Monday, could possibly get to see him start on Sunday afternoon against Philadelphia at Pizza Hut Park after matching up against Inter Milan.
Should Avila get the nod to start on Sunday, it will be his first time as a starter in league play since August 16, 2008, at Columbus. Since that last start, he has been one of the first players off the bench, often as an “energy guy” whose role is to help spark the attack with his fresh legs, pace and good vision.
His best competition to start in the linking midfield spot could be rookie Eric Alexander or Bruno Guarda. Mainstay Dax McCarty has an outside shot to return from a right quadriceps injury.
"Hopefully things turn out well and I do get the nod to come out and start," he said. "If I do, I’ll be ready. I feel good to go, know my role and everything.”