FRISCO, Texas — After missing the second leg of FC Dallas’ Western Conference Semifinal against Real Salt Lake last weekend, Atiba Harris is ready to return to the field.
The veteran right midfielder missed Saturday’s match at Rio Tinto Stadium because he had been ejected from the first leg after an elbow to RSL’s Will Johnson.
To accommodate for the player’s absence, FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman moved Marvin Chavez over from the left side and inserted Brek Shea.
Now that Harris is available, Hyndman could elect to keep 6-foot-4 Shea and 6-foot-2 Harris in the starting XI because of their size, which could be a big asset when defending set pieces against dead-ball dangerous LA Galaxy in this weekend’s Western Conference Final (Sunday, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2/Deportes).
[inline_node:321688]During the regular season, Harris had four goals and two assists in 29 games but it’s his other contributions off the ball that Hyndman likes. The St. Kitts native has also been strong in practice over the last week-and-a-half.
“He’s looked very good,” said Hyndman. “We did an extremely difficult training on Monday for the guys that didn’t travel or weren’t able to play. He did very well in that training.
“Atiba is a warrior. He shows up, he trains hard, he fights for every ball. Sometimes he over-fights for balls in training sessions, but that’s Atiba and that’s why we all love him.”
Harris takes those compliments to heart.
“It’s always good to have any coaching staff backing you on anything,” he said. “I’m just going to do keep doing whatever I can to help the team.”
The St. Kitts native started 28 of his 29 games in 2010 with FCD, notching four goals and two assists for the club.
“It was really hard," Harris said of sitting out the second leg. "Just watching it on TV was really tough knowing I can’t be out there to help the guys, especially in the last 30 minutes when Salt Lake was putting a lot of pressure on us. I felt bad just being on the side and watching the team but that’s the consequence of getting suspended, [but] I’m over it now and more dedicated heading to LA.”
With his suspension now served, Harris is ready to help FCD punch a ticket to what would be their first MLS Cup final at LA’s Home Depot Center, a very familiar setting for the lanky midfielder who played 42 games over two seasons with Chivas USA.
“LA’s is more like home for me now, my adopted home here in the US,” Harris said. “I love playing at The Home Depot Center. That’s my favorite stadium to play in.
“Going out there and playing in front of family and friends is great, but it would mean more if I can help the team win.”