Cunningham misses training with sore knee

Dallas' top scorer could be out for midweek Houston matchup

Jeff Cunningham

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As is customary the day before a game, FC Dallas had a fairly light workout on Tuesday morning in advance of a Wednesday night contest at Houston. However, Schellas Hyndman had most of his roster on the practice field, there was one noticeable absence: forward Jeff Cunningham.

The FCD coach explained his top scorer’s absence after training.

“He got hold of the trainers yesterday and said he took a nap and the knee was sore," Hyndman said. "Right now, he’s inside getting treatment. We expect him to make the trip, but I don’t know what he’s thinking."

Cunningham, the 2009 Budweiser Golden Boot winner, currently leads FCD with three goals, all of which have come via penalty kicks. He scored twice from the spot in a 2-2 draw with Seattle Sounders FC on May 22.

Though there's not enough to think the veteran striker will miss the Dynamo match, should he become unavailable Hyndman will have to reach into his bag of tricks to come up with a solution.

One such option involves putting Brek Shea, who started on Saturday at New England at left midfield, up top alongside rookie Jason Yeisley, who would get his first MLS start. Such a setup would shift FCD from their normal 4-1-4-1 formation with Cunningham as the lone striker to a 4-4-2.

Putting Shea at striker would also force some additional shuffling. Either Jair Benitez or Heath Pearce could return to left midfield, where they have started several times this year. The other player would then likely start at left back.

That move would also mean that rookie Zach Loyd—who had started three games at right back but didn't play against the Revolution because Hyndman wanted to Shea on the field—would likely return to the right side.

If Hyndman does elect to put Shea up top, that’s just fine with the big Texan.

“At the end of the DC game [in the US Open Cup], I played 20 minutes up top with Jason [Yeisley], and I felt fine," Shea said. "But I didn’t score and as a forward—you need to score. I think Atiba [Harris] is going to be the one going up top tomorrow, but if coach asks me to go up tomorrow, I’ll go.”

However, Hyndman could also move Harris, who is second on the team with two goals, from right midfield to forward. Harris played up top during preseason while Cunningham was in camp with the US national team, and he has also played there during his time at Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake.

If Harris moves up, then it could trigger still more moves. Shea could shift from the left to the right to take Harris’ spot with either Benitez or Pearce filling in for Shea at left mid. That would likely mean Loyd returns at right back. One option not on the table is inserting speedy Honduran Marvin Chavez into the fold. Chavez returned to training this week but won’t be available for Wednesday’s game as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury.

All this speculation could prove moot, however, since it’s likely Cunningham will be ready when FCD hits the field at Robertson Stadium tomorrow night.