Midfielder Eric Avila hopes to break into the Starting XI in 2011
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Avila keeping busy during Dallas' short offseason

FRISCO, Texas — Like the rest of his FC Dallas teammates, this is the shortest offseason of Eric Avila’s professional career. But after helping his club make the 2010 MLS Cup final, having less time to prepare for the start of preseason — which is just under a month away — is fine with him.

“It’s a bit shorter, but I think it’s fine,” Avila told MLSscoccer.com. “We have a great group of guys and we already know each other, how we play and all that.

"It was good that we had a long season last year. We can definitely pick it up when we come in. I’m just trying to get going and doing the best I can to get on that starting team.”

The San Diego native is working out in his hometown, just as he has done in previous years. He's doing so with a number of other players from the area, including close friend Michael Farfan, who recently signed with MLS and will participate in the MLS Combine this weekend.

“I took about two weeks off from soccer [after the final],” Avila said. “A couple weeks ago, I started back up again ... I’ve been training pretty hard with a lot of pick-up games and a lot of running. I’ve also been training with the professional indoor team here.”

Though FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman didn't give Avila any specific instructions for the offseason, the Dallas gaffer’s message to the entire team right after their loss to Colorado the week of Thanksgiving was pretty simple.

“He told us just to stay sharp," Avila said. "It was so tough because we went to the final and there was so little time after that to meet with us individually."

When Avila and his teammates report to FCD camp on Jan. 31, he will have at least a few new teammates.

Starting midfielders Atiba Harris and Dax McCarty were both taken in the Expansion Draft just before Thanksgiving, while forward Jeff Cunningham was taken in the Re-Entry Draft. And it appears that veteran goalkeeper Dario Sala won’t be back, either.

"They’re great friends, all of them, especially Dax," Avila said. "I had a close relationship with Dax from the [US U-20] national team and all that. The team is going to be different. Losing those guys is tough. They were keys to our success last year.”

With Brek Shea likely to start at left mid and speedy Marvin Chavez the possible starter on the right flank, it looks like Avila might be coming off the bench for a fourth straight year. But with FCD in the 2011-12 CONCACAF Champions League, Avila knows he will have more chances to play and show the coaches he deserves a bigger role.

“I’m always excited for playing time, especially for all these new tournaments like Champions League," he said. "I think those are awesome games and opportunities to come in and play. I’m excited for the chance to come back and play.”

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