There’s a basketball cliché that more often than not rings pretty true. It’s the one about pure shooters basically having no conscience when it comes to shooting the rock. That’s definitely an adage that is equally applicable in other sports, especially in soccer, where it applies the most to the players who are expected to carry much of a side’s offensive load, the strikers.
For some young forwards, that mentality of just taking a shot no matter if the angle is bad or if there are several opposing players in their path is something they have to learn. That’s definitely the case for FC Dallas striker Ruben Luna, who has appeared in 10 games for FCD this season, including one start.
It’s a fact the 19-year-old forward knows all too well. “I need to shoot more. That’s my role. Sometimes I think I get too nervous because I don’t want to miss,” Luna said. “I don’t want to hurt the team, so I don’t take my chances. I’d do it in the practices but sometimes when I’d get in the game, I’d feel that way. So, I had a mindset a few games ago that no matter what, I’m just going to shoot. I know where the goal is and that’s my best skill. I need to just shoot and not worry about it. You’ve got have a thick skin.”
Heading into this season, much was expected from the young Luna as he was expected to possibly emerge as a consistent goal scorer for FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman. Even though that has yet to happen, the gaffer continues to expect great things from his young forward.
“I think Ruben has tremendous upside and tremendous talent. I think the learning process hasn’t come as quickly as we had hoped it would. The thing that’s helped a lot is he’s getting a chance to play a lot with the reserve games and so forth,” Hyndman said.
In his 10 games in 2011, there has been plenty for his head coach to like but as is the case with young players, there are still plenty facets of his game that can use additional work.
“Scoring goals, he does that very well. Holding the ball, he can get better at. Creating goals for teammates, he can get better at. Making the right runs to relieving the press or unbalancing the teams and then the first man on defense, these are the things we keep talking to all our strikers about,” Hyndman said. “Sometimes when you’re a young player, you only think about one thing, scoring goals and if you don’t score a goal, what about the other four things that you could’ve done. It’s more of a time for him to get better in those other areas.”
And even though Luna has yet to do what many who have seen him play know he can do in the near future, score goals in bunches, he still feels he has learned many lessons thus far in ’11.
“I’ve gotten playing time so far. I know the season has still got a long way to go,” Luna said. “There’s games I’ve played. There’s games I haven’t played. It hasn’t been up and down for me because overall, through all the experiences I’ve had this year, playing and not playing, I’ve matured as a person, as a player and learned a lot. The stuff I’ve learned, I’m going to take it and take advantage of it next time I’m on the field.”
Last season, FCD had a pair of veteran strikers in Jeff Cunningham, MLS’ all-time goal leader and Milton Rodriguez. Cunningham is now with Columbus but Rodriguez continues to be a mentor for his younger teammates.
“Milton is a class player, a class person, a respectful guy. Not just on the field but off the field, you learn a lot from a person like that,” Luna said. “On the field, just shooting more [is big]. He takes a lot of chances and even if he’s not open, some of his shots go in. What I’ve got to learn and have a thick skin about is to take my chances. Recently, I just took notice. I realized that when I was going into games, I feel like I do the little things but when it comes to doing the big things, I wasn’t doing them. When it comes to shooting more, I need to learn that from Milton.”
Hyndman expects all of his more experienced players to mentor the newcomers like Luna. However, he also realizes that it ultimately boils down to how receptive the younger players are when it comes to taking their sage advice to heart.
“In the martial arts, there’s a saying-when I’m trying to teach you and I’m pouring your cup of tea. I’m overflowing the cup of tea because I can’t give you information if you’re not willing to accept it. We’d like that cup of tea that’s overflowing,” the FCD head coach said. “I think sometimes you can sit there and shake your head yeah, yeah, yeah when you’re being mentored and then you go back into exactly what you’ve been doing. You have to embrace that mentoring and not all players do or they don’t embrace all of it.”