Trio of FCD starters forming a close bond

Benitez, Chavez and Ferreira building close relationship

A frequent sight before and after FC Dallas training is a trio of
starters -- defender Jair Benitez, midfielder Marvin Chavez and fellow
midfielder David Ferreira -- hanging out and playing mini soccer games,
the loser of which gets a flick on the ear. Watching them for only a few
minutes, it's easy to notice how close their relationship is.

FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman, his fellow coaches and the other
players also take notice and are routinely entertained by the trio's
antics.

"There is a true bond between those three," Hyndman said. "The first
thing is language. The second thing is they all come from similar
cultures and I think their relationship on the field is really one of
friendship and brotherhood. I think it probably goes off the field to
family. We laugh sometimes because they're always doing silly
competitive games and the loser gets the ears flicked. They come up with
little games. The three of them love each other and they really seem to
be enjoying their time together."

At 31, Benitez is the oldest member of the group. He will be FCD's
starting left back when they open the season against Houston on March
27. He made 13 starts a year ago after being a late-season addition and
had one assist.

"That relationship between the three of us is a strong one and is
growing," the Colombian defender said. "It makes us feel part of the
group as well. The group has accepted us as the jokers but it's been a
very positive thing as it continues to grow. It makes us feel very
welcome into the whole process."

Chavez is 26 and played in seven games last year while also being added
late in the campaign. The speedy Honduran has been one of FCD's top
performers in preseason with two goals and one assist and should start
the year as Hyndman's right midfielder.

"They are very nice guys and I really get along with them," Chavez said
of Benitez and Ferreira. "We speak the same language and it's easier to
communicate with them but all the guys are great here."

Last year, the Colombian-born Ferreira was one of just two starters to
play in all 30 games. He contributed eight goals and seven assists as
the club's central attacking midfielder to earn consideration for MLS
Newcomer of the Year.

"My relationship with Jair (Benitez) extends back several years when we
were both playing with the national team. When we played in Colombia, we
would also face each other," Ferreira said. "I'm very happy that he's
here. That relationship has strengthened since he's been here. It's good
for me that he's here, having a countryman here is always important.
With Marvin (Chavez), it (our relationship) is growing.

"We just got to know each other last year. It's a family. Our families
are becoming tighter and tighter. It's not just us. It's our spouses
that are becoming close. The wives and kids are getting together and
starting to do things together as family. Obviously, that's very
important."

The game the trio plays has been picked up -- in a way -- by the entire
FCD team. During FCD's media day, Hyndman couldn't resist flicking his
Colombian defender's right ear while walking behind him in the course of
an interview, drawing a surprised response and then a smile.

"It's a game with three balls," Benitez said. "Everybody has a ball,
there is a line and everyone is trying to get there. It's a game that
the rest of the group and even the coaching staff, they laugh about it.
Sometimes they hit so hard that I end up holding my ear. It depends on
the level of what we do. That is not true that he (Ferreira) always
wins."

"The games are an extension of the relationship that we have. Usually
before practice starts, we all get together," Ferreira added. "It's
usually a game that we came up with as a way to pick on each other but
it has also helped us to come closer and bond. It helps us to relax
before training. The games don't have a name but someone picks up a ball
and has to do certain things. If they lose, they get a little flick on
the ear. I feel like the group is really coming together. I am the one
who always wins and the one who suffers the most is Jair."

However, there is considerable debate between the three about who loses
the most and thus, gets their ears flicked most frequently.

"In the beginning, I used to lose a lot," Chavez said. "I have already
passed Jair and Jair (now) loses everything."

Ferreira didn't hesitate to crown himself the winner.

"All three of us make mistakes but Jair and Marvin get the most. I am
getting less (ear flicks than them), so I am the winner," he said.

Steve Hunt is a contributor to MLSnet.com.