Saturday, June 2, 2012
Season tests Schellas Hyndman's endurance
By Josh Turnbuckle
I would assume that somewhere along the way you've seen the now infamous video of then Dallas Cowboys punter Mike Saxson administrating a swift kick to Schellas Hyndman's most sensitive of areas. Saxson looks so hesitant as he swings and connects, but tough 'ol Schellas barely moves.
It is a shocking demonstration of his mind power over his body's pain. It established the man as one tough, if not crazy, cookie and someone not only willing to trust his mind, but put his manhood on the line -- literally and figuratively
Since Tuesday night's U.S. Open Cup loss there has been plenty of discussion over the ever-rising temperature of Coach Hyndman's seat. That sound you hear is the small, but growing crowd of unhappy fans who are outfitted with pitchforks, torches and cries for Schellas' head on a stick. Several would like their own shot at a swift kick.
Its way too early to fire the man, but there are some fair points to be made for and against this tenure. Hyndman has taken FC Dallas to places its never been. He has also made a big bet on 2012 that now looks like a discarded, losing scratch off card laying on the concrete outside a 7-Eleven.
First, look at the positive. Hyndman has taken the team to its first MLS Cup and Champions League, given MLS its first win in Mexico and most importantly fielded a team that played attacking, involving soccer. Under his tenure FCD's youth academy has racked up accolades.
For 2012, he also made some solid decisions to build up the ends of the formation that struggled in 2011. In attack, the signing of Blas Perez was the envy of MLS. Hyndman's moves to increase the depth of the backline has also paid off with what looks to be a tremendous future of Matt Hedges and Hernan Pertuz. George John's return to the club has been welcomed as John has shown off a new level of play, and Ugo has been equally solid (but a serious question of his latest concussion begs the question of just where his career sits).
That brings us to the sad state of today.
In spite of all the twists, turns, injuries, suspensions and otherwise, 2012 largely comes down to Hyndman's decision to push his chips "all in" on his three center midfielders. Ferriera, Hernandez and Jacobson. It was a risky bet -- high risk, high reward -- with each returning from some level of injury that required surgery.
With David you have a former MLS MVP who hadn't seen the field in almost a year. The broken ankle, the Achilles injury in Orlando, the repeated extension of his rehab. There has quietly been some serious concern that what really ails David is not near his feet, but in his head. There's also the talk that a rift was created between the club and the player in how the team doctors treated his original injury and the fact that it required a later second surgery. No matter the situation, David hasn't played soccer in 14 months and counting. A return even for the next match is likely too late to salvage the season. His return earlier in the season was vital to making sure not only the attack worked but helped buffer the return of the next two parts of Hyndman's bet.
In Daniel's case, he is a player with a ton of miles, age and not his first knee repair. Watching him struggle to chase youthful, faster opponents like RSL's Will Johnson is not fun for fans of the club or the player. Daniel's loss of pace has forced him to turn up the tough and rely on tactics (i.e.: fouls) that have lead not only to suspensions, but putting opponents in optimal places for restarts.
As for Jacobson, not only is he a player that is still establishing his place in the MLS hierarchy, but he too was coming off knee surgery and struggled mightily in the start of the campaign. Even if much of AJ's struggles are tied to how much he is having to help cover for Daniel, the the jury is still out on if AJ is of MLS starting quality. He still turns the ball over way to easily, but then there are flashes of skill and tactical vision that may hint to better things.
Maybe the most damning issue for Hyndman is how his bet on these three wasn't buffered with any real pick ups to protect the midfield in case one, two or all three of the above faltered -- which is exactly what happened.
To cover the time in David's absence was Ricardo Villar. A fine player, but by all reasonable measurements not a player that could ever lead full time FCD from that attacking mid spot. Villar had started more than enough matches before his injury for everyone to know he could never be a full time replacement. Sure, Villar was never supposed to start for more than a few weeks, but that also is exactly what happened.
Of course all of that became moot when Ricardo, too, was hurt and has now missed 10 league matches and is on course to miss up to three more. Behind him? Hyndman staffed no one.
Behind Daniel and AJ? Bobby Warshaw and Bruno Guarda. The former may end up someday being a fine MLS player but he isn't in 2012 -- and the latter, Guarda? This is a guy who's place on the roster is about as mysterious as it gets.
Warshaw is also now hurt, and his injury lead to the signing of James Marcelin, a player who's brief time filling in for Dallas leaves no question as to why a struggling Portland dumped him.
This year is even littered with the decisions of last season. Moves that haunt today -- trading away away Eric Alexander and Eric Avila. While Barry Gorman has his scent all over these moves it's hard to see a scenario where Hyndman is holding his breath in refusal to let them go -- and it still happens. Oh, while we're dog-piling, don't forget the move to trade off Martin Chavez sits squarely on Schellas' shoulders. Along with the hope that Ruben Luna would blossom has continued to wither, and Scott Sealy's addition has been a real dud.
So, while Dallas is better off than previous seasons at forward, the reality is that they are only one player deep.
Hyndman supporters will defend the man that "injuries can't be predicted" and the suspensions are the fault of the players. Truth is injuries should be expected. The suspensions are the result of frustrated players failing to adhere to Hyndman's mandate of emotional intelligence, something the coach is responsible for instilling.
So many good things have happened to this club since the Hunts finally convinced Schellas to take over. No matter how bad this season gets, none of that should be forgotten. The reality is that the likelihood of the Hunt family canning Schellas is very low. They paid him a fine fortune to make the move and are personally tied to him outside of the club. It's a consensus of those close to the team that Hyndman is more likely to fire himself before someone does it for him.
Not sure that 2012 yet has been the equal test of mental strength of Saxson's kick. But it has to hurt, especially because much of it has been caused by that losing bet.
A bet that Schellas made.