FRISCO, Texas — With starting linking midfielder Dax McCarty still slowed by a strained right quadriceps muscle, FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman has a decision to make on who will fill that spot as FCD visits RFK Stadium to face D.C. United on Saturday.
He has three solid choices in Eric Alexander, Eric Avila and Bruno Guarda. All three have played that role at different times this year in McCarty’s absence.
“It’s the battle of the 'Three Musketeers,'” Hyndman said.
"All three of them bring something a little bit different. [Avila] is much more creative and attacking-minded. Bruno is in-between. I think Eric Alexander is a little bit more defensive-minded and has got a little bit more size, but the other two have more experience.”
Alexander, a third-round pick in the January SuperDraft, has played in six games and made one start—on July 31 at Colorado. Normally a defensive mid, his primary responsibility against the Rapids was to help hold down the middle of the park with captain Daniel Hernandez, FCD’s starting holding midfielder.
Hyndman said he was pleased with Alexander's defensive prowess, but he also wanted to see a bit more from him in the attack.
"If I can get forward, I’m going to try, but my main goal is to help Daniel back there and lock down the center mid,” Alexander said.
However, with starting center back Ugo Ihemelu out for this weekend’s game after suffering a concussion in Sunday’s win over Philadelphia, Hyndman might very well go with the rookie in the midfield because of his defensive mentality.
"It’s a little bit more difficult if you don’t have Ugo in there," Hyndman said. "We have a center back that’s new and a center midfielder that’s new. Most coaches would tell you the spine of your team, the center of your team, is where wins and losses come from.”
Avila got the start against the Union, just days after his first start of the season in an international friendly against UEFA Champions League winners Inter Milan. The FCD midfielder assisted on his side’s first goal against Inter, a header by George John just before halftime.
WATCH: Avila serves John vs. Inter
Like his teammates, Avila welcomes a battle for the starting job.
“It’s the game of soccer,” Avila said. “It just all depends on what the day gives and what the coach wants in the position. I’m just ready to go in whenever he needs me.”
Against Philadelphia, he played only the first half before coming off at the break for Jeff Cunningham as Hyndman went into a 4-4-2.
“We had too many people in the middle,” Avila said of the change. “I kept coming back and David [Ferreira] kept coming back, so they wanted to go with a second forward and have one less guy in the middle. I totally understand the situation.”
Brazilian-born Guarda has played in seven games this year, including two starts. He filled in for McCarty against San Jose on June 5 and again on July 24 at Toronto FC.
“All of us are just here to help the team," Guarda said. "We’re not really battling against each other. We’re doing our best to help the team. If it’s me, Avi or Eric, whoever is out there, we’re going to support each other.”