In FC Dallas' season-opening 1-1 draw with Houston at Pizza Hut Park, the club's depth at center back was clearly put to the test. Normal starter Ugo Ihemelu was unavailable after straining a hamstring earlier in the week, so Kyle Davies started in his place.
However, 55 minutes in, Davies suffered a broken arm and had to leave the field. Rookie Eric Alexander came on for Schellas Hyndman’s team and took captain Daniel Hernandez’s spot at holding mid. Hernandez dropped back into Davies’ old spot to play center back.
Even though the rookie’s debut was somewhat unexpected, the FCD coach was still pleased with how well his 2010 third-round draft pick performed against the Dynamo.
“I think he was a little surprised that we’d put him in, but we really liked him in preseason. We like his ball skills, his vision, his simplicity,” Hyndman said. “He needs to be a little bit more experienced and a bit harder because that role is pretty physical. I think Eric had maybe one minute of warm-up, so he didn’t have a lot of time to get nervous but we got him on the field. I thought he did fine. He distributed the ball well. He played simple. He was winning balls.”
On Tuesday after training, the FCD coach admitted bringing on a rookie against the physical Dynamo was definitely a roll of the dice.
“It was a risky move,” Hyndman said. “You’ve got a home game. It’s 1-1 and you’re playing a team that when they smell blood, they go after it. We were definitely vulnerable there for a little bit.”
For Alexander, his entrance into the game just 10 minutes into the second half was something totally unexpected.
“I had played in most of the games leading up to it, but then again those were preseason games and the coaches are trying to get the players who hadn’t played much some minutes,” he said. “I wasn’t really sure and wasn’t really expecting anything. But if I got in, it would be great. I actually got a lot more time than I thought I would have. It was a great experience for me.”
The former Indiana Hoosier remembers getting the call to warm up early in the second half along with the rest of the FCD bench on Saturday, and then he got the call.
“Well, it was kind of just a little unexpected, especially at the time, the coaches had just told us to go start warming up. Then they said one of us was going in right then,” Alexander recalled. “It was exciting. At the same time, it was a little nerve racking but it was fun. It was definitely a little nerve racking at first for sure, but once the game settled down, I felt I handled it a little better. But there’s always room to improve.”
This wasn’t the FCD rookie’s first time facing his club’s in-state rival and he admits this experience against the Dynamo wasn’t that different than when he saw time against them during preseason down in Orlando.
“There really wasn’t too much difference, especially since we played Houston before, so I knew how they were going to play,” Alexander said. “Obviously, playing before the fans and being on the stadium field, it had a whole different feel than playing a preseason game where not too many people were watching.”
With Hernandez’s reputation for durability, the FCD back-up might find playing time hard to come by. He did play a full 90 in a Wednesday scrimmage with the Austin Aztex, however.
No matter if he’s on the field or not, Alexander is keeping his goals basic.
“Yeah, I feel like every day, I’m getting better. I’ve still got to get to that level,” he said. “I’m not at the level where I need to be. I’m just out here working hard. Hopefully I’m making improvements and hopefully it continues throughout the season.”