Heath Pearce has made an enormous impact on Chivas USA's backline this season, and it wouldn't have been possible if not for an odd falling out of sorts he experienced last year with FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman.
It occurred as the Hoops were preparing for its MLS Cup final in Toronto against Colorado, when Pearce, finally healthy after a month-long hamstring injury, was left off the active roster for the game and tweeted his frustration.
It led eventually to a mid-February trade -- an absolute steal for the Goats, who parted with allocation money to pick up the left-footed defender-- and lots of positives for Chivas, with Pearce turning in superb performances in the middle after moving from the flanks when injuries began hammering defensive depth.
He'll get a chance Saturday night to show Hyndman how big a mistake he made when FC Dallas (7-4-4) visits Home Depot Center to take on the Goats (4-5-4).
Hyndman this week said Pearce, among other contributors, was dealt to open roster and cap space so the Hoops could diversify their attack after falling to the Colorado Rapids in overtime in November's MLS Cup showdown.
“All moves are difficult moves when you’re dealing with people, characters and personalities,” Hyndman told reporters in Texas. “We as an organization felt it was the best move for us to be able to bring in a [Fabian] Castillo or somebody like a Castillo.
“You look at how well our defense has done up to now, you would say Castillo has helped, and our defense has survived. We don’t have the depth. You can’t continue to have very high-profile, expensive players and then leave another segment of your team not completed.”
Pearce was stunned by the trade, but he has been a terrific addition for the Goats and might be the team's MVP. He'll wear the captain's armband Saturday.
“Obviously, [the trade] was a bit hard,” Pearce told Major League Soccer's website this week. “My transition was made easy by the team here, but at the same time, it was a bit out of the blue. Prior to being traded, I was told by the staff that they had no intentions of trading me and that they plans to work me to sell me back to Europe -- then two weeks later being traded.
“It was a pretty big shock, but that's the way the game goes. I'm settled in here and this is where my life is now.”
Hyndman has been impressed with Pearce's play this year.
“For Heath, he’s doing well,” Hyndman said. “They’re turning that team. I think he might be captain of the team, so he’s having an opportunity to be a leader. For Heath, games like this are an opportunity for him to focus all his energy on beating FC Dallas.”
WORTH NOTING: Dallas is 4-3-1 against Chivas at Home Depot Center. … Alejandro Moreno is with Venezuela's national team for Copa America preparations, and the Goats don't expect to see him back until mid-July at the earliest, later if the Vinotinto advance from group play. They're in B, with Brazil, Paraguay and Ecuador, and two or three teams will advance to the quarterfinals. The title game, in Buenos Aires, is July 24. … Marcos Mondaini hasn't just scored in back-to-back games since returning from suspension, he's got three in his last four appearances. And the fourth was cut short by the red card for the foul that injured Real Salt Lake playmaker Javier Morales. … Rookie Zarek Valentin was getting time at left back in training this week, so he might be coming on again in place of Ante Jazic. Michael Lahoud clearly appears to be the first choice on the right.
MISSING: Moreno. … Jimmy Conrad (returning from concussion) remains, officially, doubtful.
Macau-born Hyndman was MLS's Coach of the Year last season after guiding FC Dallas to the MLS Cup final. He took charge in June 2008 and slowly remade the roster and altered the club's culture, bringing in discipline -- he's a 10th-degree black belt in karate -- and accountability. He was among college soccer's winningest coaches, with 466 career wins in 31 seasons, 368 in 24 years at SMU.
Three key players
Goalkeeper Kevin Hartman is a game-changer in the nets -- his performance last year, no matter how the postseason awards played out, was MLS's best, and his four huge stops against the Galaxy in the Western Conference final sent the Hoops to their first MLS Cup.
Midfielder Daniel Hernandez is the Hoops' captain and midfield anchor, providing a foundation for Dallas' attack and serving as a stopper in front of the back four.
Versatile Brek Shea, just 21, has played in central defense and as an outside back this year for Dallas, but he's at his best on the left flank, where his speed, skill and attacking instincts are pivotal. Leads the Hoops with five goals.
FC Dallas took its turn as the league's best club over a good month and half while building a nine-game unbeaten streak. That ended with last weekend's pathetic showing in a 4-1 loss to worst-in-the-league (by points) Sporting Kansas City. The Hoops had not trailed since starting the streak (as they lost reigning MLS MVP David Ferreira to a serious ankle injury) on April 23 and put together a 521-minute shutout streak during the span. Hartman has spearheaded a terrific defense, and Shea, diminutive Honduran winger/forward Marvin Chavez and Colombian teen Castillo have provided another dimension in Ferreira's absence.
Hartman moved with his family to Palos Verdes Estates as a teen, played at Palos Verdes and, after the merger, Peninsula high schools, started at Cal State Dominguez Hills and went on to star at UCLA, and was a fan favorite during 10 seasons with the Galaxy. … Forward Maykel Galindo spent four seasons with Chivas USA, scoring 19 goals, a dozen of them in 2007. … Defender Ugo Ihemelu started his pro career, in 2005-06, with the Galaxy. … Backup goalkeeper Chris Seitz, from San Luis Obispo, moved to Thousand Oaks to play for Real So Cal and attended (but was ineligible to play for) Thousand Oaks High School. … Midfielder Eric Avila played at UC Santa Barbara.
Ferreira remains out with a fractured right ankle. Two players with one career league appearance also are on the injury list: Defender Edson Edward is out with a torn ACL, and midfielder Bryan Leyva is probable with a right-ankle injury.
At Home Depot Center
TV: Prime Ticket and KWHY/Channel 22
Radio: W Radio (XEWW/690, Spanish)
Referee: Edvin Jurisevic