Before Saturday, it had been a while since FC Dallas fans had seen Eric Alexander on the field with the first team. In fact, the rookie midfielder last played on June 5 against San Jose, when he came on with three minutes left in a 2-0 FCD win.
That stint was a far cry from the 35 minutes of action the 2010 Super Draft third-round pick logged in the March 27 season opener against Houston. But against Toronto FC at BMO Field on Saturday, Alexander came on at halftime for Bruno Guarda and helped solidify the FCD midfield in a 1-1 draw.
“It felt good,” Alexander said, happy about his playing time. “That was probably the first time since the first game of the year that I played a lot of minutes. I was nervous at first. I felt like I settled in pretty well and performed the tasks that coach asked me to do. I feel like I did well and helped the team out.”
Like many college players adjusting to the professional ranks, Alexander hit a wall at about the three-month mark since, just about the length of a college season. FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman had a talk with his young midfielder about stepping up his fitness and those were words the ex-Hoosier definitely took to heart.
“We had a good talk,” Hyndman said. “I said, ‘You were better in preseason with your energy level and your excitement and now you’ve lost that. If you don’t find it, you’ll struggle at this level.’”
Since FCD have a relationship with the Michael Johnson Performance Center in neighboring McKinney, the Hyndman suggested Alexander not only work on his own but also felt consulting the staff at Michael Johnson’s was something that could greatly benefit the rookie.
“I wanted him to get more workouts in with Michael Johnson to get a little stronger, a little more focused, a little more rest and watch his diet to come out and have energy,” Hyndman said.
So, when the FCD gaffer had to call on Alexander to play the entire second half on Saturday, he had no doubt the youngster was going to perform very well against the Reds.
“It wasn’t just what I got from him when he got on the field, it’s what I got from him the last four weeks,” Hyndman said. “When we threw him out there, I knew what we were going to get. I thought he had a good performance and helped us maintain that midfield.”
Alexander admits hearing the truth from Hyndman, who is called brutally honest by a number of people, hurt initially. However, he also realizes it was something he clearly needed to hear in order to continue his development in MLS.
“It was tough. That talk was hard to hear but…I needed it,” said Alexander. “The season is long and, for me and the other rookies who haven’t experienced it before, it takes some getting used to. You need to hear it from outside that you need to step it up or change what you’re doing. It’s good to hear because they know what’s best for you.”
Since preseason, the University of Indiana product has been the backup to FCD captain and starting defensive midfielder Daniel Hernandez. Hyndman has maintained since February that he has never had an ounce of reservation about putting Alexander in the game should Hernandez not be available. With his recent uptick in fitness level, the FCD”s coach’s confidence in his young midfielder appears to be on the upswing once again.