FRISCO – If there is one major silver lining to FC Dallas’ 1-1 home draw with Seattle on Sunday, it’s that Panamanian forward Blas Pérez returned to the starting lineup for the first time since May, giving FCD a first XI that resembled something close to what Schellas Hyndman built before the start of the year.
For practically the entire campaign, everyone associated with the club wondered the team could produce with Pérez, David Ferreira and Brek Shea on the pitch together for 90 minutes. It took until six games left in the year before the trio finally saw a full game together.
The results were about as you’d expect from a group playing their first game together: plenty of chances created, but an incomplete final product.
“It gives me confidence,” Pérez said of his 90-minute performance, speaking through a translator. “I’d missed time with my injury and then with what happened with [the passing of] my dad, but I felt good. I felt a desire to play hard for my team and I felt like I did that today.”
The excitement for Pérez’s return to the lineup was felt not only in Dallas, but also south of the border in Panama. The dominant forward is just as irreplaceable for his country as he is for his club.
Having completed his return to fitness, Pérez now leaves to join up with his Panama teammates in Toronto ahead of a pair of all-important World Cup qualifiers against Canada. “Super Raton” has been a major part of La Marea Roja’s quest to qualify for their first-ever World Cup, to the tune of eight goals in six qualifying matches.
In an interesting twist that perhaps shows how far MLS has come as a league in the region, Pérez and fellow teammate Carlos Rodriguez will face off against their Canadian FCD counterpart Julian de Guzman.
“It’s a beautiful part of football,” Pérez said about playing against a teammate. “It’s fun to play against each other. We’re friends, but when we get on the field [I’m playing for Panama]. Julian is a great guy. When we’re together here, we talk about the game and give each other a hard time, so when you get to play against them it’s fun.”
Pérez’s two-goal effort against Honduras earlier in qualifying has Panama on the brink of achieving just their second trip to the final, “Hexagonal” round of CONCACAF qualifying since the format was introduced in 1998. Panama needs just one victory out of two upcoming matches against Canada to all but assure advancement to the final stage of qualifying.
“This is really important for us because we’re playing to go to the final,” Pérez said.