As FC Dallas continue their run at the Disney Pro Soccer Classic in Orlando, Fla., head coach Schellas Hyndman is keeping an eye on one player in particular: newly arrived striker Blas Pérez, who joined the team this offseason after a stellar four-year stint in Mexico.
“He’s played well this preseason,” Hyndman told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Tuesday. “He likes the fact that he’s at FC Dallas. I think he likes the fact that he’s playing in the MLS, too. … Blas has done well and has scored some great goals for us so far. He’s scored head goals in the box. He’s played like the player we hope he will be.”
Pérez showed off his scoring abilities with a sensational strike in last night’s 4-0 victory over Orlando City, but some critics have questioned the Panama international's fitness and ability to endure the long grind of an MLS season.
Full Highlights: FC Dallas 4, Orlando City 0
“I don’t know if he's fully fit – only he can say that,” Hyndman said. “It’s hard to get him in top shape in only a month especially with all the games we’ve been playing. … The point is that he’s been working hard at it. He wants to excel.”
Hyndman said he believes Pérez will eventually – if he’s not already – be in tip-top shape and has high expectations for his veteran forward. The FC Dallas coach even went as far as comparing him to former FCD striker Kenny Cooper, who scored 40 goals during his time with the club and was named MLS Comeback Player of the Year in 2008.
“I believe [Pérez can be a top striker],” Hyndman said. “I think the support system on this team and the way we play will definitely help Blas out. He’s the starting striker for the Panama national team, so he has a lot of international experience.
“He’ll have the support of Brek Shea, and I think he’ll be able to score a lot of goals for us,” Hyndman continued. “I think he’s a player who is solid in the air, has quick feet, and plays tough defense. We have great expectations for him.”
Pérez scored 19 goals in 23 starts during his last season with Club León of the Mexican second division. He has scored 22 goals in 38 appearances for the Panamanian national team, including six during 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying play.
“We really liked him early on,” Hyndman said. “We were looking for a striker so we went down to Mexico and built a relationship with him. … We’ve really been trying to get him here for the last three years. We were fortunate he became available at this time, and hopefully he’ll be a good player for us for a while.”