Dallas Soccer DFW

Clean slate a boost for FC Dallas's Nunez

Published 2/19/2007 9:23:55 PM by Steve Hunt from MLSnet.com

FRISCO, Texas -- Admittedly, last year didn't end so well for FC Dallas, the Hoops crashing out to Colorado in the opening round of the MLS Cup Playoffs for the second consecutive season. But the end of the 2006 campaign was also was one to forget on a personal level for FCD midfielder Ramon Nunez.

Nunez, the sixth overall pick in the 2004 Super Draft after playing one year at Southern Methodist, broke out in 2005 with a career-high five goals in the final 10 matches of the year. Last year, he bettered those numbers with six goals and four assists but was in and out of the starting 11 because of injuries and lineup alterations made by then-head coach Colin Clarke.

The crowning blow, however, came in the second leg of the Western Conference Semifinals when Nunez, upset about not making it into the game, visibly showed his displeasure by throwing his jersey on the field and heading for the locker room.

For new head coach Steve Morrow, that incident, and any others that happened last season, are over and done with.

"For me, it's gone and is in the past," he said. "I've told the players already that things from the past, I'm wiping the slate clean and they are starting fresh with me. It's important that my expectations get across and the message about how I want to do things gets across as well."

That definitely applies to Nunez.

"It's the same for Ramon," Morrow said. "What he did last year was definitely out of order and he definitely knows that. But it's forgotten." Morrow has been impressed with his young midfielder's focus so far this preseason.

"I've been very impressed with his attitude since he's come in," he said. "He's been one guy who has looked very sharp. He's worked hard on his fitness during the offseason. He's come back in very good shape and I have high hopes that he will have a big year this year. I need to recognize his strengths to get him on the ball more. I also need to find a position for him on the team that can get more out of the talents that he has."

Nunez admits that at the end of 2006, his frustration level had reached a new high and he showed that in the playoffs. "It was very frustrating for me last year," he said. "I had injuries throughout the season and was never 100 percent the entire year and that was very frustrating for me.

"Having six goals while playing in the limited time that I did was pretty good, but that is still below my expectation level," he continued. "I expect more of myself and a lot more from my team. We have come in this year expecting more of ourselves."

The young midfielder and Dallas native, like his new coach, has put last year in his rearview mirror.

"I'm definitely using it as motivation (for this year)," he said. "That is in the past and this is a new year. Hopefully, this will be a big year for me. I've been working hard in the offseason specifically for that reason. I'm expecting to have a big year."

Nunez notices a huge difference, a positive one, in how Morrow deals with his players compared to how his predecessor did.

"Steve (Morrow) has come in and has been straightforward with everybody," he said. "He said what he was expecting of everybody. We are all doing that so far and have to keep doing that throughout the season. If we can all do that, we will have a great year."

The FCD head coach admits that a big key for Nunez this season will be avoiding the injuries that plagued him last year.

"At this time last year, he got injured early in preseason and never recovered," Morrow said. "It interrupted his whole season and he never really got back to that high fitness level that he needed to have. This year, it has been the complete opposite. He has come back in good shape. His body looks strong."
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