THE NEXT LEVEL: Avila does his part off the bench for FC Dallas

Former UCSB soccer star Eric Avila has played a key role in a record-tying unbeaten streak by FC Dallas of Major League Soccer.

Avila has been a spark plug off the bench late in matches during Dallas’ streak of 18 straight matches without a defeat.

“I’m trying to help the team as much as possible,” he said in an interview after a recent 2-1 win over New England in which he assisted on a dramatic game-tying goal in stoppage time. “I want to be first off the bench, try to help the team when they’re down and be that extra push. I think it will be important if we make the playoffs if I’m one of the first guys off the bench and [can] make an impact.”

FC Dallas clinched a playoff spot on Saturday with a 3-0 win over Chicago. The club’s unbeaten streak equals the mark set by the Columbus Crew in 2004.

Avila was a dynamic attacking midfielder on the 2006 NCAA championship team at UCSB. During their run to the title, the Gauchos upset No. 3-seeded SMU in Dallas.

Avila’s coach at FC Dallas, Schellas Hyndman, was the coach of that SMU team.

Hyndman has been impressed with Avila’s energy and play off the bench. He usually comes in for the last 15-20 minutes of a match.

“He’s the right player to put into the game when you have everything on the line and are trying to get forward,” he said.

Avila accepts his role on the team.

“I have to be ready,” he said. “I have to be 100 percent fit and ready to go into that spot coming off the bench or starting. … I want to be prepared and ready to go.”

POSTSEASON TRADITION: UCSB soccer players are accustomed to playing in the postseason, and that tradition has carried over into their professional careers.

Tino Nunez, Alfonso Motagalvan, Tyler Rosenlund are playoff bound as members of the Rochester Rhinos of the U.S. Soccer Federation’s D2 Pro League.

The Rhinos, champions of the regular season, are seeded No. 1 for the playoffs. They’ll open a two-game aggregate-goal series in Puerto Rico on Thursday. The second match against the Islanders will be played at Rochester’s Marina Auto Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 9. Puerto Rico eliminated the L.A. Galaxy from the U.S. Open Cup.

Nunez assisted on the winning goal with a corner kick in a 2-1 victory over St. Louis on Saturday that clinched the top seed for Rochester.

SAMMIE SETS THE TABLE: Dos Pueblos grad Sammie Brown dished out 36 assists for Notre Dame in a 3-0 Irish sweep at Georgetown in a Big East women’s volleyball match on Saturday.

The Irish feasted on Brown’s sets, hitting a sparkling .383 for the match and a sizzling .565 in the first set.

Brown and Irish teammate, former Santa Barbara High star Kristen Dealy, will be on ESPNU on Sunday when Notre Dame plays Cincinnati at 2 p.m. PDT.

LUNN ON THE RUN: Kevin Lunn, a former cross country and track star at Laguna Blanca, is running cross country at Yale. He recently competed in a meet victory over Harvard, the Bulldogs’ first win over the Crimson since 2006.

Lunn, a sophomore, finished 22nd in 28:11.50. He earlier took a 12th in a win over Dartmouth, clocking in at 26:15.22.