FRISCO - It would be easy to look at the absence of five FC Dallas players as a negative heading into Sunday’s match at Columbus, but Oscar Pareja’s squad will use a different word: opportunity.
Practice at the Toyota Soccer Center, which returned to the morning for the first time since early summer, has certainly been a lot thinner this week but that just means more first team minutes for some of the reserve players and a potential chance for a start on Sunday.
“We dealt with it during the summer during Gold Cup and caught fire with the five-game winning streak and it’s just another opportunity for someone to step up,” said defender Zach Loyd before emphasizing that it’s no excuse for a poor performance. “We’re not the only ones dealing with it. Columbus is also missing quite a few which we’re aware of but it’s just another opportunity for another guy.”
The biggest opening comes on the wing for FC Dallas as absences of both Fabian Castillo and Je-Vaughn Watson mean that competition for a spot opposite Michael Barrios is wide open. Two of the youngest players in the league, Homegrowns Coy Craft and Alex Zendejas, are both candidates to earn starts and received looks from Pareja in first team lineups this week during training.
Midfielder Victor Ulloa certainly knows how big an opportunity like this can be. The 23-year-old got his shot in early 2014 and has started 49 straight games since for FCD.
“We have a lot of guys missing and the guys who are here are healthy and ready to step up. We have a good group,” said Ulloa. “I took my opportunity and seized it. That’s huge and in this sport, you have to take your opportunities and make the best of them.”
For an FC Dallas team that could move within striking distance of the top spot in the West with a win as both Los Angeles and Vancouver are idle this weekend, it’s a chance that could prove vital at the end of the season.
“It’s a good example because the opportunity gets there and they need to use it,” said Pareja. “And don’t allow the coach to think twice.”