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Monday morning gaffer: San Jose Earthquakes at FC Dallas

3/28/2011

When a team losses 2-0 at home to a team that finished behind them in the standings last year, you know most reviews aren’t going to be good.

This is FC Dallas, however, notoriously slow starters under Schellas Hyndman, probably because Hyndman believes the long regular season isn’t as important as the playoffs. Hyndman will use the season to tweak, alter, and change his team building for the stretch run.

Last season, for example, FCD didn’t win a game until their 7th of the year. Including US Open Cup play, the Red Stripes tied 4 and lost 2 of their first 6. So no panic yet, but there are problems.

El Bueno (The Good)

I was really struggling to find someone who had a great match, someone worthy of the top comment… and then Fabian Castillo entered the play. Holy cow does this kid have some serious upside and talent: blistering quick, looking to break down multiple defenders, cutting to wrong foot defenders. No, nothing came from his play, but man was he exciting and at 18 he has so much future. Man of the Match just for getting me jacked up about something in this game.

I also felt David Ferreira had a good match, despite not showing up on the score sheet. He’s still amazing in possession, he still turns on a dime, and he still makes clinical passes. In short he’s exactly the player he was last year. He’s even dealing with the constant fouling well so far (T-3rd in MLS with 7 fouls suffered).

Despite the fact FCD gave up two goals, the back four actually played fairly well defensively. There were in fact only 2 shots on goal all game. Hartman didn’t make a single save. Yes, Loyd gave to much space to Wondolowski on the goals, that is an easy fix however and we’ll get back to Loyd. But as a group the shape was good, the toughness was there, and the Quakes had trouble playing on the ground in the final 3rd. Overall a solid start to the season, given all the injuries, that can be built on. So score line not good, but the D play was a good starting point.

El Camino Central (Middle of the Road)

I won’t make to strong an indictment of Zach Loyd in the middle of defense, because I think he’s out of position there. I think he’s a natural outside back with better touch, passing, crossing, and defense than both Jackson and Benitez. Unfortunately, at least in my opinion, Hyndman disagrees. He thinks Loyd is better central. It was arguable, I felt, that Loyd was FCDs best player in game one against Chicago out wide left, outplaying Benitez by a wide margin. So I don’t put his not so great performance central on him, but rather on Hyndman.

Ricardo Villar also seemed out of position, or at least he thought so, since he spent the entire game trying to play central. I don’t think I saw him push the line or dribble penetrate once all game, instead he was trying to link play some, which he shouldn’t have needed to do.

Eric Avila clearly is never going to be a starter at wide mid for this coach. Avila just doesn’t play enough defense. His best role is clearly going to be late game offensive sub. He tried to take some people on and penetrate as he always does, and did sit the defense on their heels for a time, but in this game it came to naught due to poor FCD finishing.

No Tan Bueno (Not So Good)

For the longest time I forget Eric Alexander was even in the game. Linking play was non-existent from the FCD midfield and Alexander in particular. Being subbed out in minute 62 means Hyndman agrees. Right now this team is really suffering from the missing link play. I won’t go so far as to say no Dax McCarty, but this isn’t the Eric Alexander of last season. He can hand has played better. But as of now there is zero transition through the middle of the field, and if that isn’t fixed this will be a one-dimensional FCD side. Another game or two and it will be time to try Villar or Andrew Jacobson in this role.

Milton Rodriguez had what can only be described as a howler of a game. He missed several golden scoring chances. But the missed chances isn’t the real problem, the real problem is his static play and lack of movement. The Hyndman system is predicated on energy and movement up top. The striker in this system has to move with energy, makes runs, work hard on high defense, and generally pull the opposition back four. In short he has to create holes for the FCD midfield to exploit. Recall Hyndman using Adrian Chevannes as the top striker at SMU one season, that alone should tell you what is important here. Rodriguez didn’t do what was needed, last year Cunningham lost his job last year for the reason.

Left mid is, quite frankly, a disaster. Avila was poor there in week one and Villar didn’t even bother to try and play the wide spot at all, drifting middle all day. Chavez, when switched, at least tried. This spot needs Brek Shea something fierce, or perhaps it’s already time to start Fabian Castillo here… Ok Brek Shea. I’m sticking with that one.

The Marvin Chavez swap to the left was a big mistake. As noted by Steve Jolley in the broadcast, Ramiro Corrales isn’t fast to begin with and was struggling with an injury. Chavez should have been destroying him. Instead Chavez went left and Villar right, where Villar spent most of him time moving central and leaving Corrales a much easier time of it. It would be one thing if Chavez left foot wasn’t, to put it politely, poor… if Chavez was say an Arturo Alvarez type who wanted to cut inside to his good foot. But Chavez isn’t like that, he’s a pure speed get behind the D and penetrate or cross. Putting him on the left is a complete waste.