FRISCO, Texas – Jeff Cunningham will get another shot at scoring career goal No. 133 and becoming MLS’ all-time scoring leader on Sunday, and the FC Dallas forward could be due for a rare spot in the starting lineup against the Galaxy at the Home Depot Center.
Cunningham’s last start came on Sept. 11 at San Jose, when the seasoned striker got the second of two straight starts as Milton Rodríguez was out with a shoulder injury suffered on Aug. 28 at Columbus. He’s started 12 matches this season.
“He’s playing well enough that against a team like LA, we might turn towards him because of his pure speed and athleticism,” FCD coach Schellas Hyndman said. “We think one of the issues LA has to deal with is the speed. We’re hoping that we can get Jeff either in a position where he’s starting or getting off the bench a little bit earlier.”
Cunningham’s last goal came on Oct. 2 in a 3-0 win over Chicago.
A Much Needed Loss?
Hyndman and the FCD players were clearly disappointed after a 2-0 loss to reigning MLS Cup champions Real Salt Lake last weekend that ended their league-record 19-game unbeaten streak, but the Dallas gaffer knows that defeat could also be used as a positive motivator.
“Normally, today is the day we look at videos of our game, but we moved that forward to [Wednesday],” Hyndman said Thursday. “I wanted to work on a few things in practice after they’d seen them. I thought today, there was really a lot of high energy.”
“We didn’t lose for five months. Sometimes a loss is the best thing to bring reality back to you,” Hyndman added.
FCD leave for LA on Friday and are set to train at the Home Depot Center on Saturday morning.
“The 18 has already been selected,” Hyndman said after training on Thursday. “They just don’t know it. The only time we’ve ever taken more than 18 players is when we’ve taken an extra player and we’re not sure if that player can even get on the field.”
Against RSL, injured FCD starters Daniel Hernandez, Ugo Ihemelu and George John all returned from layoffs. Hernandez and Ihemelu both suffered hamstring injuries with Ihemelu having to leave the game in the second half.
Those, along with the status of goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, who is also trying to return from a knee injury, are all factors Hyndman has to consider in selecting his traveling contingent California.
“It’s a combination of a couple of things-injuries and you’re trying to protect players but you still want to have the integrity of putting a good team on the field and winning,” Hydnman said.