TORONTO – Atiba Harris is looking increasingly likely to get a second straight start as the lone striker for FC Dallas in the MLS Cup Playoffs, this time against Colorado in Sunday’s title match (7:30 p.m. CT, ESPN, Galavisión, TSN2).
Usually deployed as a winger, Harris was a secret weapon of sorts against the Los Angeles Galaxy in last weekend’s Western Conference Championship. FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman said the St. Kitts native’s physical presence up top got the better of LA center backs Omar Gonzalez and A.J. DeLaGarza and helped Dallas stage a 3-0 upset.
“We found two of them were really struggling handling somebody big, somebody strong that could hold the ball, that was a combative type of a player,” Hyndman said after FC Dallas training on Saturday.
Hyndman similarly feels the 6-foot-3, 185-pound Harris will come in handy again against the Rapids’ center back pairing of Drew Moor and Marvell Wynne, who are known more for their agility, marking skills and speed than handling a physical, fast forward.
“I think if Atiba’s in there, Drew Moor and Marvell will probably face similar issues” as Gonzalez and DeLaGarza did, Hyndman said.
Though normally a right winger for Hyndman, Harris is no stranger to the forward position. Four of his 28 starts for FCD during the 2010 regular season were up top. He has alternated between the positions regularly during his five-year MLS career, which also included stints at Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA.
Hyndman’s options are few at forward. His preferred striker, Milton Rodríguez, has been out with a groin strain and is unlikely to play much of a role, if any, in MLS Cup.
Incumbent Jeff Cunningham has spent most of the season as a substitute, despite coming off the bench to score against Real Salt Lake in the first leg of the Western Conference semifinals. Eighteen-year-old Ruben Luna has been Hyndman’s next preferred option, but is unproven in five substitute appearances this season.