Cunningham to attend the ESPYs on Wednesday

FC Dallas grant permission to forward, who is up for POY award

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Jeff
Cunningham didn’t train with FC Dallas on Wednesday morning. In fact, he also
won’t train on Thursday either. But he has a good excuse.

The 2009 Budweiser Golden Boot winner is in Los Angeles to attend Wednesday
night’s ESPY Awards. Cunningham is one of five players up for MLS Player of the
Year honors. The other nominees are Colorado’s Conor Casey, LA Galaxy captain Landon
Donovan, Shalrie Joseph of New England and Seattle’s Kasey Keller.

Cunningham traveled to Los Angeles with the full blessing of
his coaches and teammates.

“He and I talked about him going,” FCD head coach Schellas
Hyndman said on Wednesday. “It’s a great opportunity for him not only to
potentially get an award but also to be around some of the best athletes in the
country.”

Before departing, Cunningham asked Hyndman if missing two
days of training would hurt his chances of playing against reigning MLS Cup
champions Real Salt Lake, who visit Pizza Hut Park on Saturday.

“Typical Jeff, he asked if that was going to hurt him being
selected for the game,” Hyndman joked. “I said, ‘No we’re not going to punish
you, because you’re not here when we gave you permission’.”

It’s likely Hyndman feels good about letting
Cunningham miss a few days of training following the forward’s solid showing
off the bench in a 1-1 draw at Seattle on Sunday.

“In my opinion, this reminded me of Jeff last year,” the FCD
manager said. “It’s the first game I’ve seen him where he’s been similar to
what we saw last year. He’s made the adjustment. I think he’s starting to be
the player that we saw last year.”

His teammates will all be cheering him on Wednesday night.          

“I think it’s pretty sweet,” FCD midfielder Brek Shea
said. “I hope he gets it [the Player of the Year award]. I’m definitely going to be
watching and cheering for him. It’s a pretty big event. A lot of people go
there and he’s there. I’m proud of him. It’s pretty amazing.”        

Cunningham’s teammate and close friend, Atiba Harris, who
was also teammates with Cunningham when he won his first Golden Boot in 2006
with Real Salt Lake, would definitely like to see him win.

“I’m excited for him,” Harris said. “Hopefully he wins it
because he deserves some awards. We’re pretty close. Our families and wives are
all pretty close. It would be really great for him to win it for his family and
for his daughter.”

FCD midfielder Dax McCarty agrees Cunningham is more than
deserving of the award.

“He’s a veteran guy and scored a lot of goals for us last
year,” McCarty said. “When he had like 11 or 12, we were in the training room
and I told him he’d score 18. He didn’t believe me. He ended up scoring 17.

“I’d like to think I can take some of the credit there but
he had a fantastic season,” he continued. “To think that he only did it in a
16-game stretch is unbelievable and shows you how deadly he can be when he’s
on.”

The ESPYs will air tonight (Wednesday) at 8 p.m. CT on ESPN.

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