FC Dallas will have a new face in their lineup Saturday against Real Salt Lake as their starting goalkeeper will be 2006 World Cup standout Shaka Hislop.
After starring for Trinidad & Tobago in June on soccer's biggest stage, Hislop signed with FCD in early July and joined the team in early August. He made his debut in an Aug. 23 U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal match at Houston, surrendering three goals in a 3-0 Dynamo win.
FCD's regular starter Dario Sala, who had played every game in goal for them before this weekend, suffered a calf injury in last Saturday's 3-2 loss at Real Salt Lake. The Argentinian 'keeper was unable to train fully the entire week and was thus not available for selection.
Sala had started all 28 league games, allowing an average of 1.24 goals per game with five clean sheets and the Hoops posting a 14-10-4 record in that time. But FCD head coach Colin Clarke knows that Hislop is ready to make his MLS debut.
"We're in a good position where we have two very good goalkeepers," Clarke said. "Dario has tweaked his calf and that gives Shaka a chance to start tomorrow. That also gives him a chance to see what MLS is all about and see his first action. It keeps him sharp and involved."
Hislop is clearly excited about his first start as well.
"I'm looking forward to it," he said. "I got here and have settled in well. I've been training, getting fit and getting conditioned. I feel good and am honestly looking forward to it."
The English Premier League veteran and World Cup standout is no stranger to big games.
"When you play a few of them, you begin to thrive in them," Hislop said. "I enjoy the atmosphere that goes with big games and the emotions that go with them. It's what you look forward to, what you train for and what keeps you going."
Clarke agrees with his 'keeper about the importance of Saturday's match.
"They're all big (games)," he said. "The last four are big and we want to do well in them and head into the playoffs in the right frame of mind. So, every game from here on in is a big game."
While his only previous MLS action didn't turn out the best, Hislop he has used that experience to better prepare himself.
"No team or no player in this league can be underestimated," he said. "I wouldn't say that I did that against Houston but at the same time, it was an eye-opener for me that you have to be on your game from beginning to end regardless of who you're playing against. I think in that respect, it was good for me and helped me to refocus and think about what's to come. I have prepared accordingly and am ready for it."
With Sala out and MLS veteran Jeff Cassar also on the shelf after hip surgery, Hislop will be backed up by Raymond Burse Jr., the team's third-round pick in the 2006 Super Draft out of Ohio State. He has shown flashes of good things to come with the FCD reserves.