FRISCO, Texas – FC Dallas will have their entire roster available for action for the first time in months in Saturday’s key Western Conference showdown with the red-hot LA Galaxy (9 pm ET; MLS LIVE).
Head coach Oscar Pareja gave both players time off to recover after the tournament and elected not to make them available against Chicago two weeks ago. And after the team’s bye weekend, both players are rejuvenated for the stretch run.
“This is my first home. But when the country calls, you have the duty to play,” Watson told MLSSoccer.com. “But being back is no different. Since I left, the team has been doing great. I just want to help continue the momentum.”
Watson was part of Jamaica’s storybook run to the Gold Cup final, which included upsetting the US in the semifinals.
But even though Jamaica’s run was unforeseen, Watson did not leave Philadelphia, where they lost to Mexico in the championship match, satisfied. Finishing as the runner-up left a sour taste in his mouth that he wants to ensure does not find its way to Frisco.
“Nobody remembers second place. You have to be a winner,” Watson said. “Coming in second place in the Gold Cup, people were saying ‘Hey, Jamaica did well.’ But it’s still in the back of my head that I want to win a tournament because every year you play and don’t win, you’ve lost a year.”
As Watson mentioned, Dallas were indeed able to hold their own without both players, stringing together a five-game win streak before dropping their last match against Chicago. That was enough to propel them back into the race for the Supporters' Shield.
Pareja did not make many changes to the lineup during the streak, running with the old Texan mantra: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But now that the win streak has ended and two key contributors are available again, the lineup could be subject to tinkering.
As far as picking up where he left off with his MLS teammates, Perez said they have not skipped a beat.
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“The chemistry was never lost,” Perez told MLSSoccer.com via translator. “We always work towards that objective. I just have to work harder to keep giving to my teammates and keep giving everything I’ve got.”
Some players came in and worked on their off-days during the bye week to keep their fitness in tact, including a Saturday practice where they asked coaches to stay longer and work with them.
That mentality impressed Pareja, who echoed Watson’s reflections from his Gold Cup run.
“I like that because nobody remembers second [place],” Pareja said. “I can’t even remember when I was [second]. All I remember is when I won a championship. The boys understand that message.”