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Practice Observations: Kick Start

2/3/2010

FCD Starts Camp

When we started this band, all we needed, needed was a laugh. - Vince Neal

And so begins another year of the glory that is FC Dallas soccer. Ok, so maybe glory is a bit much, but it sure is heck a lot of fun having a top level professional soccer team to follow. I for one remember what it was like to live in the vacuum between the NASL and MLS. I'm thankful every year to have something like FCD to drive me crazy.

So with a new year comes new promise. This is the time of year when hope abounds and hearts have yet to be broken. Once again I trek to the great white north, ok Frisco, but it's along way up there, to take in some FCD training. Camp opened yesterday and I managed to make it up to Pizza Hut Park for session two today. While today is at 6 PM, the evening sessions will be 4:30 to 6:30 from now on. Morning sessions run from 10 to noon.

News, Notes, and Observations

- If you're into numbers like I am here are a few of note, keeping in mind preseason numbers do once in a blue moon change once the final 24 is set. Heath Pearce switches to #4. Zach Loyd #19. Bryan Leyva #21. Aziz Ansah #6. Andrew Wiedeman #23. No other rookies nor any trialists have numbers. Except for...

- Ruben Luna. He's been given #24. No, he is not signed, but perhaps there is a hint there. Sure, they want him to feel welcome and part of the team. Sure he's one of FCD's own. But giving him a squad number, particularly when no other un-signed rookie has one, sure makes me curious.

- Ousianou Sarr is not here yet, it's not known when he will arrive. He's from Gambia, that's about all I know.

- Luis (Luchi) Gonzalez didn't show yesterday and I'm told he won't be.

- Rookie Jason Yeisley tweaked his knee yesterday and was doing some sideline work today.

- The three players back from US camp, Dax McCarty, Jeff Cunningham, and Heath Pearce, all look really sharp and fit. Way beyond the rest of the team. Which is as it should be given their month long US camp.

- Steve Purdy is looking strong and moving well. Hyndman says he told Purdy today was the best he's been since last spring. Unfortunately the guy has a serious roster space problem to overcome.

- From the coaching staff I get the impression they are keeping an open mind about the roster in the sense no one really knows what the CBA will do. It seems there is a chance the roster limits might change. I.e. more than 24 players. Or even less I suppose.

- Peri Marosevic looks sharp and focused today. He poaches a bunch of goals.

- Josh Lambo seems to have matured. He looks more confident and make several very nice point blank reaction saves.

- No FCD preseason trip out of country has been planed yet because of 1. The CBA situation and 2. SH wants to play more MLS teams this year than last in preparation for the season.

- 4th goalkeeper in camp is a FCD Juniors guy Jamie Ibarra, I believe.

Instant Scouting Report (Just Add Water)

I figured I might as well give a first impression of every trialist and rookie right out of the gate. For what they are worth.

My impressions I mean, not the rookies.

- Zach Loyd - Dang nice first impression. Smooth player. Quick burst, good feet, head up. About a good a first impression from a rookie that I can recall. No trouble with mental speed of things. Will see the field sooner rather than later.

- Aziz Ansah - (new signing) Looks solid, seems to be finding his way. Impression is some speed there but there wasn't a chance to showcase it. Good start.

- Sean Kelley - Well built and big. Communicates well. Touch nervous, but that's not surprising. Didn't stand out much either good or bad beyond that.

- Andrew Wiedeman - Struggled a bit with the mental speed of play, looks like a typical early round pick in previous years. Will need some time to develop and catch up like most rookies do.

- Eric Alexander - A taller type midfielder with some game. Not a nifty ball handler, but an above average passer. Better today then Wiedeman.

- Dane Saintus - Serious bags of pace without much idea of where to put them.

- Brian Shriver - Lanky flowing wide mid. Sometimes effective, sometimes a bit lost. I think there is something there but with the limited roster I doubt there is a place for him to develop it here. Which is a shame.

- Edson Edward - Intimidating physical player with heavy touch. Not a good first impression.

- Duke Hashimoto - Solid holding mid, can play some D. Great motor and even scored a couple good goals by being in the right place on runs. Smart player.

- Yu Dabao - Very interesting. Tall'ish, moves well, plays head up and can beat people. Can and did score some goals. Very intriguing prospect.

- Paulo DaSilva - Serious silky feet maybe even better than Avi, tremendous in tight space. Not sure how he will fare on a 110 yard field. Would be devastating on an indoor team.

- Misho (Muhamed) Fahim - Kind of a stiff, upright player but seems to always be in danger spots. Rusty... but hum. Need to see more.

- Bryan Leyva - ok I know he's not a trialist, but he's not at all out of place at this level. Serious quick first step to separate or close. This kid can play and he's 17.

- Ruben Luna - Looks like he's fitter than I last saw him. Not as ready as Leyva and a touch out of depth, but it isn't by much. Looks like a rookie instead of a guy who just graduated high school (early graduation I'm told).

Catching Up with Schellas Hyndman

Ordinarily I would have some quotes from the coach here, but it's been a long winter and I forgot to bring my my recorder to Frisco. So instead you get some one word pieces of info and a few quick summaries of what he said. So these answers are NOT quotes, but rather condensed pieces of info.

What can you tell me about a report FCD signed a 21 year old Brazilian striker named Simão?

Who? Never heard of him. We haven't signed him. Seriously, I have no idea who that is.

Who is your starting left mid?

Today, probably Pearce, but it could be Wallace, Shea, or Harris.

Are you going to sign another player?

Probably one. Working on either a wide left player, a second striker, of a high striker.

Why did you pass on Osa Romero?

Great player, international, young, good quality. But we have several players just like that, notably Ferreira and McCarty and trying to replace them would be silly. Plus the allocation money offer was good.

Would T&T International Kerry Baptiste be a player you are interested in?

Absolutely. He's in the mix.

Which of the unsigned rookies has made a good impression?

Alexander and Yeisley. Saintus is fast.

Training

After the Michael Johnson Center guys do some warm up work, the team is split into three groups, two of them run through the big ten points passing drill that requires lots of running and long passing. It's a fitness with ball kid of drill. The third group does some 6v3 tight space stuff to really push the pace. The three teams rotate twice.

Second session is a 50 yard 6v6 game with four 1 touch teammates on the offense end; that's two wide and two beside the goal. Meaning it's 10v6 for the team with the ball. Drill requires intense defense effort to not get over run and really challenges fitness and play.

Here are the three teams throughout.

Green: Marosevic, Dabao, Avila, Hernandez, Davies, Purdy, Ansah, Edward, Ihemelu, and Alexander.
Red: Chavez, Ferreira, Pearce, Guarda, John, Hashimoto, Saintus, Cunningham, DaSilva, and Luna
White: Shea, Leyva, McCarty, Benitez, Harris, Loyd, Shriver, Wallace, Wiedeman, and Fahim.

That's about it. Intense pace, and pressure. Fitness with balls.

Thought of the Day

I must say that I walked away with the impression today that rookies in general are getting better. Maybe the college game is improving. Loyd for sure is quite good, and a few of the other would have really stood out in some previous seasons. It just seems that the level of skill and the preparation of players is stronger at this very early stage than I recall in the past. Usually rookies look really poor compared to MLS players. Sure there are some trislists here that aren't looking great but it seems like the drop off isn't what it used to be.

And before you say that this FCD MLS roster stinks, recall that a few players here just walked out of a US camp. In previous years, even in early spring form with rust and poor fitness rookies still really struggled. Not as much this time.

It will be interesting to see if that opinion holds up over the next month or if it was just a second day, first impression oddity.