FRISCO - In four years with FC Dallas, Panamanian forward Blas Perez played 103 regular season and playoff games, scored 37 goals, added 15 assists and became perhaps the most well-liked player in recent years.
However, the man who sits third on the all-time franchise scoring charts will have no friends from Dallas on Saturday night - at least for a couple hours - as he faces off against FCD for the first time with Whitecaps FC.
"It’ll be good to see Blas, he’s a great guy," said defender Zach Loyd. "I’ve spent several years with him and I’m happy he’s doing well. I’m looking forward to playing against him. It’ll be like training days again, it’ll be good."
Indeed despite having never played an actual match against him, no one is more familiar with the polarizing forward more than Loyd. One of the only players still on FCD who saw Perez both come and go from the team, Loyd has trained countless days against "El Raton" and knows exactly the type of challenges he brings to the pitch.
"He’s the type of player that gives it his all every game and verbally gets into a guy’s head and knowing that will help me stay cool, calm and collected but it’s going to be a battle," said Loyd. "I think any time a guy plays his old club, there’s a little bit of a chip on his shoulder so hopefully we can come out with a lot of energy and neutralize him."
When Perez departed FC Dallas at the end of 2015, scoring a goal in his last match for the club, few expected this to be a moment that would come. Even Perez wrote for WhitecapsFC.com that he was "surprised" when Vancouver inquired about his services. However, while salutations and perhaps a cup of coffee or two will be shared between former teammates before and after the match, it's all business for FCD on Saturday night.
"He’s a guy we’ll need to worry about because he scored a lot of goals for us and we need to just minimize him and not let him get in our head," said Kellyn Acosta before smiling. "We need to take the game to him and maybe kick him a little bit, he’s the opposition now after all."
Perez missed last weekend's Whitecaps FC defeat to Real Salt Lake with reported tightness in his hamstring, but is expected to be available for Saturday night come hell or high water. For a Vancouver team who hasn't scored a goal in their last three games, it could be the spark they need, though FCD will be doing everything to ensure there are no horns going on Perez's head come Saturday night.
"It’ll be interesting to play against him on the field," said Tesho Akindele. "Obviously we’re not teammates and friends on the field, but afterwards it’s all love."