Jeff Cunningham was a big reason FC Dallas reached the MLS Cup in 2010. Now back with Columbus, the veteran forward has a chance to make history against his former club if he can only get on the field.
One shy of tying the record for most goals in MLS history, Cunningham hopes to face his former team for the first time since leaving Dallas when each club tries to record its first win of the season Friday night at Crew Stadium.
The 34-year-old Cunningham recorded 34 of his 132 career goals the previous three seasons with Dallas. He posted a team-high 12 in 2010 but declined to renew his contract with FCD and was selected during the December re-entry draft by Columbus (0-1-1), where he spent his first seven seasons.
Though he needs one goal to tie all-time MLS leader Jaime Moreno and also become the Crew's career leader with 63, it's uncertain if Cunningham will get the chance to accomplish both Friday.
After playing 61 minutes in a 3-1 loss to DC United on March 19, Cunningham remained on the bench throughout the Crew's scoreless draw with New York on Saturday.
One reason for Cunningham's benching could have been coach Robert Warzycha's displeasure with the team's distribution of the ball in the opener. Things were not much better versus New York.
"Offensively, we lack something right now," goalkeeper William Hesmer told the Crew's official website. "It seems we have lots of guys capable of dribbling, wiggling and juking, but no one has yet to step up with that killer instinct."
Dallas (0-1-1) finds itself in a similar situation without Cunningham through the first two matches.
Fourth in MLS last season with 42 goals, Dallas has only a Milton Rodriguez goal in their season-opening draw with Chicago. More troubling was that it did not register a shot on goal in Saturday's 2-0 loss to San Jose until the 55th minute.
Dallas could get a boost after highly touted Colombian forward Fabian Castillo made his debut against the Earthquakes. The 18-year-old Castillo, who had three goals in 10 professional matches in Colombia, impressed coach Schellas Hyndman.
"I thought he was very good," Hyndman told FC Dallas' official website. "He's very explosive, which he showed when I went to Colombia. He's a player that moves as quick with the ball at his feet as he does without it."
Dallas also could benefit from the expected return of midfielder Brek Shea, who missed Saturday's loss after he received a red card versus Chicago. Shea had five goals and four assists in 2010, with two more assists in the playoffs.
While Dallas is off to a slow start, there is no need to panic after it opened 0-1-4 last season before regrouping to come within a goal of winning the franchise's first MLS Cup.
"I think [slow starts] are probably more of my trend as a coach, as a builder," Hyndman said. "Of course it's not what we want -- two home games and only one point -- but I think we are a team that's going to get better."
After two ties in 2010, the all-time series between Dallas and Columbus sits at 15-15-8.