FRISCO, Texas — For three-and-a-half seasons, when FC Dallas needed a second half spark off the bench, it was Eric Avila who got the call.
The UC Santa Barbara product made 63 appearances for FCD from 2008-11 while scoring arguably the biggest goal of the team’s MLS Cup 2010 run, a sensational stoppage-time winner against Real Salt Lake in the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinals.
The problem with a great substitute, however, is he's eventually going to want a chance to start. And that was the motivation behind Avila’s midseason trade to Toronto FC last August.
“He’s a very good player, he’s been here for many years and trading him to Toronto is really giving him more of an opportunity to play,” FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman told MLSsoccer.com. “I think he’s really worked his way into a situation where he’s bringing a lot of attacking qualities to his team, which we all knew.”
It’s tough to argue with the career move for Avila. The Southern California native has already logged more minutes in both 2011 and 2012 than he did in any season for FC Dallas, while his 10 starts in 2012 are more than he had in three-and-a-half seasons combined for FCD.
He makes his first visit here as a member of the opposition on Wednesday night as FC Dallas take on Toronto FC.
“I think everybody hated to see him leave and, since he got the fresh start up in Toronto, he’s done a great job," FC Dallas midfielder Daniel Hernandez said. “He’s been playing really well and I think one of the leaders on the field for that team.”
Avila returns to Frisco as one of the most well-liked former members of FC Dallas and maintains a strong friendship with many members of the team, including star winger Brek Shea. The two trade Twitter barbs on a regular basis, but this will be the first time they’ve faced off against one another as opponents on the pitch.
“I’m excited to play against Avi and Jeremy Hall,” Shea said on Friday. “Both guys used to play here and are good friends of mine so it’s always fun and extra motivation when you’re playing against friends.”