July 22, 2014
By Steve Hunt
Pareja, FCD treating Aston Villa friendly like any other game
Dallas Soccer News Contributor
FRISCO, Texas---On paper, Wednesday’s visit by English Premier League club Aston Villa FC to Toyota Stadium to face FC Dallas is listed as a friendly, but for first-year FCD head coach Oscar Pareja, the type of game doesn’t matter because the goal is always the same--win.
|Wednesday’s friendly against Aston Villa will give some much-needed minutes to FC Dallas midfielder Fabian Castillo, currently serving a 4-game MLS suspension.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
“This game against Aston Villa, we will take in a professional manner. We will take advantage of this game to give minutes and competition to players who have not been around,” Pareja said. “And at the same time, we will play some of the guys that have been on the roster, so it will be a mix of that during the game.”
Wednesday’s game is the first of two in the Lone Star State. Villa also will play in Houston on Saturday. But the Claret and Blue will bring a very competitive squad to Frisco, one featuring the likes of Joe Cole, who came to the club on a transfer in June from West Ham United, and former MLS goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
And no matter what sort of roster Villa manager Paul Lambert puts on the field, Pareja expects a stiff test from the second EPL side to visit Frisco in just under a year.
“I think they’re going to test us with the physicality and intensity that any EPL team brings into competition. We can see where we are, especially with our youngsters who see the field,” Pareja said.
FCD, who is on an eight-game unbeaten streak in all competitions, last hosted a club from the Premiership on July 31, 2013 when Stoke City FC visited Frisco, a game the Potters won 1-0.
The big story to come out of that match was the first-team debut of Homegrown Kellyn Acosta, who ended up playing five different positions over the course of a full 90 minutes. Acosta has been out since late April with an avulsion fracture to his left knee, but could be in line to make his return on Wednesday.
“We will check with him tomorrow [Tuesday],” Pareja said. “It has been a great progression during the week. I think he looks more comfortable with the contact. With the way he has performed in training, I can see his leg being stronger. I don’t have any idea if he plays or not.”
But one player who has been ruled out for this match is veteran left back Jair Benitez, who continues to be bothered by an ankle issue and has missed FCD’s past two league games.
However, fellow Colombian Fabian Castillo, currently serving a four-game suspension in league play after bumping a fourth official following a June draw in Portland, will be available for this midweek tilt and the pacey South American figures to play some heavy minutes against the Villa.
That’s because Pareja sees games like this and FCD’s win over the NASL’s Carolina Railhawks nearly two weeks ago in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals, a game where Castillo had a goal and two assists in a 5-2 win that sent Dallas into the semifinals on Aug. 12 against the Philadelphia Union, as important to keep Castillo engaged during his suspension.
“It’s important. That’s probably a task that we have assigned to ourselves, keeping him in good mood and making him understand that the Cup games and this one will prepare him for the regular season,” Pareja said.
And even though he wants to see FCD beat Aston Villa later this week, Pareja also admits the significance of just how rare an opportunity this represents for his club to face an EPL side isn’t lost on him or his players.
“It is a lifetime experience for the players, such a great team with such a huge pedigree and history, players who we just saw some of them in the World Cup or players who have been in the Premier League for many years. They also have one of the best academies in England,” Pareja said. “I would say that this is a great opportunity for the fans. It’s a great opportunity for the club. It’s a great opportunity for our boys as well to compete against a team who has such a great pedigree.”