Rookie Eric Alexander (right) could play a starting role for FC Dallas when they host Real Salt Lake on Saturday.
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FCD could lean on rookies Alexander, Loyd

FRISCO, Texas --- Expecting a rookie to start in the playoffs can sometimes ask too much of a young player. But Eric Alexander and Zach Loyd are far from the average rookies.

Alexander and Lloyd have started a combined 31 games this season for FC Dallas, who open their Western Conference semifinals series against Real Salt Lake on Saturday at Pizza Hut Park. And both could be in the lineup again for their most important starts of the season.

Alexander could be the choice at linking midfielder, since normal starter Dax McCarty is still regaining his form since returning from an eight-game layoff with a hamstring injury.

“It’s exciting not only for me, but the club as well. I’m just going to take it easy and get myself mentally focused for the next 24 hours,” Alexander said Friday. “I’m not really going to change too much as far as game preparation. Just a normal day and normal prep time for me to stay focused.”

It’s been a similar story for Loyd, the fifth overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft in January. He got some starts at right back early in the year and more recently started at center back with Ugo Ihemelu out with a concussion. Now he moves back to his natural spot, where he hasn’t started since May 27.

“I think it was good at the beginning of the year that I got a lot of experience there. I know what it takes to play there at the professional level,” Loyd said. “My teammates always keep me comfortable. They give me tips and confidence. I think I’ll be ready to go.”

Both rookies admitted they might be a little nervous heading into their potential playoff debuts.

“Before every game I get a little nervous. You want the game to go your way but things can happen,” Alexander said. “You can only control so much. It’s only up until the whistle blows. It’s a game I’ve been playing for 20 years or so, and it fades away pretty quickly.”

Said Lloyd: “Yeah, it’s going to be natural. Of course you’re going to be jittery and have those butterflies but those will probably all go away after the first 10 minutes of the game. It’s natural. I kind of have that in every game.”

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