Rick Yeatts

Cunningham's teammates talk about record-chasing striker

Jeff Cunningham is just one goal shy of tying Jaime Moreno’s MLS record for most career goals [WATCH: Cunningham scores 131].  With four games remaining in the regular season, FCD’s veteran striker stands poised to overtake the record before the end of the 2010 campaign.  FCDallas.com recently caught up with some of Cunningham’s teammates to get some perspective on what it’s like to work with a man on the verge of breaking historic ground.

FCDallas.com: How would you describe Jeff Cunningham as a player?

Victor Ulloa, Midfielder

He’s a great striker, good movement off the ball.  He scores goals, which is more important for a forward.  And he’s a great person, very humble.  He helps you out.

Heath Pearce, Defender

He’s dangerous in front of the goal and when he’s on, especially when he starts getting a rhythm scoring goals every game, he’s unstoppable.  Obviously you can tell that by how many goals he’s scored in his career. 

Atiba Harris, Midfielder/Forward

When I played with Chivas the coach always talked about his speed, his natural ability in front of the goals. He’s just a natural goal scorer, so of course he’s a threat.

Eric Avila, Midfielder 

When I watch him play I think of Eto’o. I always called him that. I think he’s a hard-working guy on and off the field. It’s his own mindset I guess. What he wants, he goes and gets it. That’s how I feel. He works hard. He does things his own way. Maybe different from a bunch of guys, but it works for him.

Kevin Hartman, Goalkeeper 

I think it’s cool to see guys find success when they put in the effort. And I think that Jeff is one of those guys, and it’s cool to be able to watch. It’s cool to be able to tell that story to younger kids and to give them maybe a list of things that they’re going to need to do if they’re inspired athletes.

Eric Alexander, Midfielder 

Growing up, he was obviously one of the greats that played in the MLS. So, growing up watching, he’s been one of those superstars you see on TV and you see him all the time.

FCDallas.com: What’s he like in training?

Ulloa: He gives me good advice.  I’m new, I’m trying to get used to the speed of play and he just helps me.

Avila: He always wants the ball. Every run he makes is because he wants it. Every time I get the ball I always try to look for him. He’s the number one guy. He starts, not yelling, but he wants it so bad. He’s a guy that wants to finish, and he wants to score goals. He wants to do something for the team.

Hartman: He really wants to stay after all the time. And there’s sometimes where I’m so tired, and I know how much I like to work and I have to turn somebody down if I want more shots. I know that they must be really, really, really working a lot. I found that to be the case this year and almost feel guilty about the fact that I sometimes have to turn him down.

Alexander: He always stays after and getting guys to stay after to help them out and tries to help himself as well. He’s good for the team and a good teammate.

FCDallas.com: How is he as a teammate?

Avila: He’s always been there and encouraged me to keep going, and always sends me little remarks like to keep my head up. He’s played a lot of soccer. He knows what it takes and just to keep going. I think that for him to say that to me is a great thing for me as a young player.

Hartman: He’s somebody that continues to put in the work and continues to put in the time. I kind of identify with him because he’s somebody that really wants to work through difficulties. And he wants to persevere, and I have a ton of respect for that.

Alexander: It was (intimidating) at first because before I was on the roster, seeing him in training was so intense. Just so demanding of everybody and it was just like a shock. Now that you get to know him, he’s just a normal guy. But he’s still a really hard worker and a really good teammate.

FCDallas.com: What’s it been like as he has been approaching the record?

Harris: It motivates me to know he’s about to break the record from all scorers in MLS history. It’s just motivating to play with him and practice day in and day out and it helps me.

Avila: He hates talking about it. He doesn’t want to talk about it at all. I saw how many goals it is, and I was like are you kidding me? That’s a lot of goals.

Hartman: I think the battle that continues to rage between the two (Cunningham and Moreno) is something that I’ve enjoyed watching from a spectator’s standpoint, not necessarily something I’ve enjoyed watching from a goalkeeper’s standpoint. They’ve both probably scored a few goals on me. I know Jeff last year, when we played FC Dallas when I was with Kansas City, he had a great game against us and was able to get a little bit closer to that record against me. I hate watching the goal scorer because I am an active participant in it.

FCDallas.com: What do you think it would be like as his teammate when he breaks the record?

Ulloa: It’s a privilege to play with him.  He’s a very experienced veteran here.  I’m very glad to have seen him over the years, even before I joined this team, scoring great goals and now getting the chance to reach the top.

Pearce: The record that he’s likely going to set is kind of something we can all enjoy and be happy to have been a part of.  And also to be with a guy who’s scored that many goals in his career is pretty incredible.  Just to play alongside of him is an honor as well.

Harris: He deserves it. He deserved every bit from what he’s been through. Throughout the years he worked from the bottom to the top, and he’s fought his way through. I would love to see him make it this season. It would be an accomplishment for him and his family.

Alexander: Jeff is a really hard worker, and I think he deserves the best. It’d be awesome if I could see him do it and be here when he does it and be a part of that experience.

Hartman: It’s something that’s obviously personal to him, but it’s also something that I think he recognizes the team’s role in it. I think he just continues to put his head down and work very, very hard. He doesn’t necessarily want the accolades. He just wants to make sure he’s contributing. I think it’s a very humble thing of him.

Avila: I think for a record like that it’s incredible. I think it’s something that takes a lot of hard work, and he’s done that throughout his career.


Let your voice be heard: