FRISCO - We’ve seen changes and a shuffling of players at the top of FC Dallas’ attack week in and week out, but at the back, it’s been a picture of consistency. For the first time in two months, Dallas will have to make a change to their back line when the Vancouver Whitecaps come to Toyota Stadium on Saturday.
In the 73rd minute last week, center back Reto Ziegler saw his second yellow card and subsequently will serve a one-game suspension this weekend. Veteran Maynor Figueroa immediately stepped into the role he held at the end of 2017, and likely will get his first start of the year in the middle against the ‘Caps.
“It helps to have that guy with a lot of experience, coming into the lineup and just knowing what’s going on,” Matt Hedges said of the change. “He’s played with us a lot, a lot of us have experience with him so it should be a smooth transition for us.”
Figueroa will have a large role to fill in a unit that has allowed a league-low nine goals on the year and taking the place of Ziegler, whose own veteran presence has shored up the defense through the first quarter of the season. The Switzerland-native leads Dallas with 12 blocks and has 37 clearances, second only to his partner in the middle.
“Reto Ziegler has been doing a great job. I’ve been patient and respectful, so if I am given a chance, I’m taken advantage of it,” Figueroa said of his likely opportunity this weekend. “I need to join that group that’s been doing things well and get points.”
At no position on the field are chemistry and communication more crucial than the back line. Figueroa has the experience with Hedges, but has seen far less time with newcomer Anton Nedyalkov and first-year starter Reggie Cannon.
It’s an even bigger point of emphasis this week considering the fact that Figueroa returned to action just two weeks ago after missing almost a month of training with a knee sprain. The 17 minutes the unit got late against the Galaxy, as well as every minute this week on the practice field will be key for Dallas as they go for a second straight win this weekend.
“The fact that we have great teammates, like Matt, helps. I had an injury that took me out of the field for a month, but the experience could help a lot,” Figueroa said. “Concentration will be very important for everyone. Being very attentive and trying to do what we did last match and being assertive in plays.”
“Especially with our defense, it’s great to have a strong back four that plays consistent with each other, but I think with our roster we have players that can fill-in at any given time,” midfielder Kellyn Acosta added. “Maynor came in and did well in the LA game and I know he’s eager to get his opportunity. I have no doubt in my mind he’s going to go out there and do the job.”