FRISCO, Texas — All of a sudden, perhaps the biggest concern for FC Dallas ahead of the Western Conference Championship is the health and productivity of their forwards.
Two of the three goals in the Western Conference semifinal series against Real Salt Lake came from midfielders (Eric Avila and Dax McCarty), while Jeff Cunningham notched the other after subbing in for injured forward Milton Rodríguez in the first game of the series.
FC Dallas travel to the Home Depot Center to face the LA Galaxy on Sunday (8 p.m. CT, ESPN2).
“We’re getting a lot of good goals from our midfielders,” Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman said. “For us to continue to improve, our frontrunners have got to get more goals and be more dangerous. When they get more opportunities, they’ve got to put them away.”
With Rodríguez sill on the shelf with a right groin injury, it’s looking more and more like Cunningham will get the start again, with Ruben Luna backing him up. Hyndman called Rodríguez’s injury “pretty serious” on Monday.
[inline_node:321431]Cunningham started his first game of the 2010 playoffs on Saturday and had several key chances, but the FCD manager admits the veteran striker remains something of a wild card.
“The thing with Jeff is you don’t really know what you’re going to get," Hyndman admitted. "You don’t know if it’s going to be fantastic or average. If he’s on, he’s very, very good.
"I thought he had a header in the beginning of the first half that he could have done better with. Second half, he had a couple of breakouts on the counter and one time, he should have laid the ball off. Instead, he tried to dribble through two guys. That could have been a big difference.”
Luna made his playoff debut late in the second half at Real Salt Lake and had several chances, but failed to capitalize on any of those opportunities. Still, his head coach remains quite high on his young striker.
“I’ve already told Ruben on Wednesday I’ll go through a few things with him,” Hyndman said. “He’s a little bit disconnected with the team in the defending shape, which you would expect since he hasn’t played that much. But the effort he’s giving us is tremendous. He’s strong in the air, both offensively and defensively.”
Right back Heath Pearce did have the wrap off his hamstring and trained lightly with the team on Monday, but he’s still not likely to return this weekend.
“I don’t know," Hyndman said of Pearce's playing prospects on Saturday. "I think he’s probably more hoping and praying that he’ll be part of the championship game. I think these next few days might be a little bit too early for him.”
As for versatile Brazilian rookie Jackson, he continues to be slowed a bit by the cumulative effects of all the knocks he’s taken since joining the team in August.
“Since Jackson has been with us, his body’s really taken a beating," Hyndman said. "He puts it all on the line. I didn’t think it was one of his better games but I think the game that we put him in here against Real Salt Lake, that was a game for him to sit out and he played with courage. It hurt him for this game.”