Dallas Soccer: Atiba Harris
General thoughts on the Whitecaps
Hyndman: I saw Vancouver at Disney and I was really impressed with them. I was wow, what a good team, a good team. You talk about player-to-player, positions, roster, substitution, bench, you look everywhere on the field, they’re a good, good team. They’re playing a home Wednesday night and then they’re playing us at home. The Kansas City game’s going to be a tough game for them but Kansas City’s 6-0 and I think they very well could be the team to beat them. They’re a solid team. For us going in with us being banged up, I’m glad we don’t have a weekday game. We’ll have those games coming up later but I’m really impressed with what they’ve done with their team.
On what makes Sebastien Le Toux such a tough player to account for on the field
Hyndman: Le Toux historically started off as a defender. So he’s got that defensive mentality of courageousness, first to the ball, strong in the air, physical. You add those qualities as a striker-first to the ball, strong in the air, physical and then you add on the fact that he’s probably one of the most fit players in the league. He just runs up and down. We did the yo-yo 2 test the other day and Zach Loyd finished incredibly high, 31. I think the league is like 22 on average and I think the Premier League’s like 23. So 31, unbelievable. I bring that up because I think if Le Toux is running with Zach, I think they’d be very similar. He’s playing with a lot of confidence. We’re shocked that Philadelphia moved him.
On what he sees different in Eric Hassli this year compared to last, his first in MLS
Hyndman: Yeah, one of the best strikers in the league, not only in holding the ball, distributing the ball but just a pure finisher and he’s got the size to go with it. Very, very dangerous player and now you put him and Le Toux together and then you’ve got Camilo [Sanvezzo] and the other boy. They’ve got a very good strike force, I think one of the best in the league. Of course, we were the team that beat them last year at home. It was also the [site of the] injury to David Ferreira [in 2011], so there’s a lot of sidebars going on here.
On former FCD midfielder/forward Atiba Harris
Hyndman: Great player, we loved Atiba. Hard worker, they’ve got him as a big, strong striker with Hassli. I don’t know what this brings. I’m sure in their coaching mentality and their management mentality, it’s you need more than two strikers of quality. I think with Atiba, he may be having some flare-ups with his knee every once in a while but we really like him. I think he’s a hard player, aggressive, strong and maturing into a good striker.
On Vancouver’s No.1 goalkeeper Joe Cannon
Hyndman: A difficult guy to play against, got great experience, a solid keeper. The thing with Joe Cannon is if you’re going to score on him, you’re going to have to beat him. He’s not a keeper that’s going to beat himself. With Vancouver having so much of a strike force, all teams have something to give up and I think what Joe Cannon has been able to do is organize their defense and make them a very difficult team to score against.
Take it Outside
FCD gaffer Schellas Hyndman’s team will likely be indoors for at least one more day but the veteran coach said in an ideal scenario his team will return to the outdoor practice field on Saturday for the first workout of the day. Dallas would also do two-a-days on Sunday and Monday in advance of Tuesday’s scrimmage with Houston Baptist. The plan is for FCD to do morning sessions which are actual practices and then head to Michael Johnson Performance Center in McKinney for fitness work in the afternoon.
Injuries Already Mounting in Back?
There were a number of injuries at today’s session. Here’s a breakdown:
Kyle Davies D---Should miss between the next 3-4 months after having ankle surgery in January.
Edson Edward D---Backup defender twisted knee and had to leave building on crutches. Hyndman said he’ll be evaluated further tomorrow.
Ugo Ihemelu D---Veteran defender trained on Wednesday but will have sports hernia evaluated on Thursday morning and could need surgery.
George John D---He’s not cleared to return to full practice yet after having surgery in the offseason to remove a bone spur from his ankle, but John is close.
Zach Loyd D---Missed morning session on Thursday with minor ankle issue, but his absence is considered precautionary.
Heath Pearce D---According to Hyndman, Pearce is over the hamstring issues that plagued him last fall but he pulled himself out of practice because of a tight hip flexor. He did so as a precaution so it wouldn’t carry forward into next week.
Present and Accounted For
Daniel Hernandez M---The FCD captain is practicing but not at 100 percent after having offseason knee surgery. Hyndman said Hernandez is still having some issues when he pushes things a bit too hard. He doesn't know when his captain could be at full strength.
Jackson M/D—The versatile Brazilian who played a key role at several spots during last fall’s run to the league final made his preseason debut on Thursday. He had missed the first practice on Wednesday because of a visa issue.
Pearce Needs to Kick it Up
Hyndman made no bones about raising the bar higher for Pearce, who started much of the year at right back before an injured hamstring shelved him for the team’s entire playoff run.
“I think Heath’s got a lot of things he needs to get done this season,” Hyndman said.” He’s one of our more highly-recognized players and we went through the whole playoffs without him. How much better would we have been if we had been there? He picked up his silly fifth yellow in the last minute of a game. And then when he wasn't with the team, he did some extra sprints to pull his hamstring. And then he felt like he was ready to play in the championship game, which he wasn’t. Obviously, if he didn’t go into national camp [in January], he wasn’t ready for that. I think he’s got some things he needs to get done for us this year.”
No More of Wiedeman or Yeisley in Back
Last fall, FCD experimented with rookie strikers Andrew Wiedeman and Jason Yeisley in the back late in the year. Wiedeman saw time at right back while Yeisley, who got several games with the first team early in the season, played some center back. Hyndman said FCD fans shouldn’t expect to see either player in the back this year.
“No,we’ve been able to go out and find players now. Andrew Wiedeman, we played at right back last year when we needed this and that,” the FCD gaffer said. “I think now we’re able to help fix our roster.”
Bloody Well Right
When FCD lost Atiba Harris in the 2010 MLS Expansion Draft, the conventional wisdom was that Honduran speedster Marvin Chavez, who was a much more effective player on the right side of the midfield when healthy than Harris, would become the new starter there.
And when FCD gave Chavez a new contract in January, that belief was driven home even further. But Hyndman did say he wants Chavez to win the position as it looks like super sub Eric Avila, who had two big goals in 2010, is his biggest competition for the spot in the first 11.
“I do think that there always should be competition. At the same time, we worked awfully hard to bring him [Chavez] back,” Hyndman said. “We were a much more dynamic team with him on the field. He was really playing his best soccer. I think he’s playing his best soccer right now coming off the Honduran national team. He’s sharp. He’s quick. We know what Marvin can bring for us. For Avi and others, it’s just continue to work. Avi wants to play. Looking at this league and the number of games that we have, it’s not very realistic to think people are going to play the whole season.”
Galindo Gets a Look
FCD has two forwards in preseason camp on trial and one, ex-Chivas USA striker Maykel Galindo, who had 18 goals for the Red-and-White in 2007 but struggled the last few years with injuries, is a name very familiar to local fans.
“I think he’s a very good player. He went through a difficult time after that ’07. I think ’08 he had a sports hernia and it never really felt right,” Hyndman said. “I don’t think the last two years, he’s shown his best. Now that could be by design, the way he is with the team, fitting in or not fitting in, not being completely at his fitness level, mentally, there are a lot of players you can look at in the league who are up and down. I think he’s a player that has hard as we’ve been looking for a striker, we’ve found a guy who might have fallen in our lap. We’re happy to have him here at camp. He’ll be with us through Florida. We’ll be able to have not only an evaluation of his abilities and where he is but also his character.”
Hyndman admits FCD had looked at bringing in the Cuban international last year before they settled on signing 34-year-old Colombian Milton Rodriguez.
“Yeah, last year we were looking at bringing in a player before we brought in Milton. There was some discussion there but it didn’t pan out,” the FCD gaffer said. “We’re very happy with Milton but I think what you find with Galindo is he’s an experienced player, good speed and quickness and can stretch a defense. We’ve just got to see where he is with his fitness, sharpness and all those things.”
Now a year later FCD finds itself in the same place, needing a striker. This time due to the departure of Jeff Cunningham and Atiba Harris.
Question #2: Forward (a.k.a. The Jeff Cunningham Question)
With the decision to waive Jeff Cunningham, and probably more accurately his large salary cap number (~$220,000), FCD again finds itself in need of another striker. When the second highest paid player is coming off the bench that's not a great sign for said player. It was probably a forgone conclusion Cunningham was going to be out unless he took a massive pay cut. Massive pay cuts are not something that happens very often without a disgruntled and pissed off player, certainly not with someone like Cunningham.
Compounding the problem was the loss of one of FCD's key striker depth players Atiba Harris. Harris had tried a few times to lock down the starting striker position without success. Instead he spent most of the season holding off Marvin Chavez at right mid. Something he managed until the final stretch run. Once Harris had lost out at both spots it wasn't a surprise he was exposed in the expansion draft.
With the loss of two boddies up top, even if both were mostly off the bench, FCD is in sore need of depth just to stand pat. Some depth could come from the young prospects in the squad. The lack of progression last season of Peri Marosevic and Jason Yeisley hurts a bit here. One factor we know very little about it new academy signing Jonathan Top. Late round draft picks Charlie Campbell and Paul Ogunyemi could also help in the depth area, as might Juco trialst Sheldon Palmer. Depth may be answered by pure numbers. Edit: I forgot about Andrew Wiedeman, another player who could add depth.
An answer that could be bigger than expected is Ruben Luna. Luna is one of the brightest prospects to come out of the FCD Academy system and will be getting substantial PT this year. Perhaps even pushing to start. But you can't assume Luna will become strong enough this season to answer all the questions. He will help solve the depth issue, but not the real underlying question. At least not yet I don't think.
So depth may be ok, but if FCD is going to take a step forward (and that's the goal isn't it?) then FCD needs to add a top flight goal scoring striker. Last season far to much scoring was forced to come from midfield. When FCD needed a goal, like in MLS Cup, their best shot came from advancing mids. That's not how you want to build a squad. Add a top line scorer and I think you can look at FCD with the best teams in MLS.
FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman and technical director Barry Gorman have both said FCD is looking for a striker of that quality. Hyndman, as usual, is showing patience, citing the willingness to wait till the second window if need be to make sure they get the right player with the right qualities. So FCD may go into the season with Rodriguez and Luna as the top two choices.
That might be all right, this league is about winning at the end anyway. I prefer to have the core team all year, but I'm not the coach. Hyndman seems well contend to operate this way, leaving a big piece of the puzzle to mid season. There is something to be said for being able to make adjustments with your mid season signing. I just hate seeing an incomplete team, and right now FCD is missing a big piece of the puzzle.
One really interesting development of the last week is the pressence of ex-Chivas USA striker and Cuban defector Maykel Galindo in camp. He's been hampered by injuries the last two yeas, notably hamstring problems, but when he is healthy Galindo is a lethal and ruthless goalscorer with a nose for goal and a mean streak. Blessed with some serious pace up top, he's the kind of high striker that could push the line and open massive space for the FCD penetrating mids like David Ferreira and Break Shea. The injuries are a big red flag, but the upside is massive here if Galindo can get it back on track.
So questions upon questions at forward. Will FCD sign a top flight name up top? In this window or the next? Is Ruben Luna perhaps the answer? Can Galindo resurrect this hamstring and career? A hidden gem in the large depth pool?
How those questions are answered could make or break the FCD season.
Most people surrounding the team were aware of Hernandez's knee injury, but certainly not the extent of it. The news of injuries requiring surgery to Harris and John is also new.
Here's the team's press release...
FC DALLAS MIDFIELDER DANIEL HERNANDEZ IS SCHEDULED FOR AN MRI TUESDAY TO DETERMINE EXTENT OF DAMAGE IN HIS RIGHT KNEE
FRISCO, Texas (Nov. 22, 2010) – FC Dallas captain Daniel Hernandez is scheduled for an MRI Tuesday to determine the full extent of damage to his right knee after playing with the injury during the Dallas side's month-long playoff run. A decision regarding off-season surgery for the midfielder will be made following the MRI.
Hernandez suffered the injury prior to the second leg of the Western Conference Semifinal against Real Salt Lake, but the team captain chose to play with the pain during the Dallas side's quest for its first MLS Cup. Recovery could take anywhere from six weeks to five months depending on the extent of the injury.
Defender George John and midfielder Atiba Harris are also expected to have offseason surgery to repair ankle injuries.
FC Dallas, a team known for playing positive attacking-style soccer, was reduced to the same impatient, over-the-top physical play that the Colorado Rapids have survived on all season long. They also were simply better at it than Dallas. It wasn't five minutes into the match that the fouling had begun, by both sides, and the hope that either side would play possession or any kind of attractive soccer was out floating around in Lake Erie. Rapids coach, Gary Smith admitted as much after the match and was correct that his team's ability to adjust to that style of play was the reason the Cup will be in Commerce City for 2011.
Colorado's Jeff Larentowicz and Pablo Mastroeni were at their brutal best. The destructive pair quickly found out that referee Baldomero Toledo was more than willing to allow play to continue and only blow the whistle when absolutely necessary. With that invitation, the Colorado duo simply killed Dallas' attack by assaulting it to death. The result was that as Dallas found it impossible to play its game, FCD was reduced to booting the ball long -- and that is not something Hyndman's team is any good at.
Without getting the ball to his feet and back to goal, Atiba Harris cannot hold up play and allow the attack to develop. Instead, Harris was reduced to trying to fight off Moor and Wynne, who are both more aggressive and better at fighting for possession.
Dallas knew what it was up against Sunday night. Both of the previous matches against Colorado were sorry affairs. Dallas just can't find an answer for an opponent that brings out the bludgeon, especially vs. the Rapids, which can generally match them for speed.
David Ferreira was commonly found way out wide, hiding from the man marking which left Dax McCarty the victim of Larentowicz and Mastroeni's loving attention. Exacerbating the issue was the knee problems of FCD captain Daniel Hernandez. Most fans know his knee hurts, but the extent of his injury was largely unnoticeable until Sunday night.
Hernandez's knee is "hanging on by a thread," as reported by some that know him personally. Unable to move freely, he was unable to do what he does best -- collect and distribute. And with Casey and Cummings smartly falling back and pressing Dallas defenders -- preventing them from getting the ball to the static Hernandez -- the long-ball bootfest was in effect.
Dallas had its chances, especially late when Colorado was forced to stop pressuring and simply sit back. Dallas went into atypical panic mode and lost its patience. Gary Smith's side was almost begging Dallas to tie the match and send it to PKs, but Dallas instead lost composure and repeatedly tried to only cross the ball into the area and hope a Keystone Kops moment resulted in a second goal.
Instead, most balls were booted well away, and the few real opportunities were either saved (John's low blast), body blocked (Dax's repeated volley's from the top of the box) or woefully choked (Ugo's moonshot and Cunningham's brutal ... ah, don't get me started).
In the end, Dallas just could not overcome what the game has been demoted to. In the press box, there was a palpable disgust over how the match had transpired and a lot of eye rolling that the Rapids were galavanting around the stadium with the Cup. Not that Colorado hadn't won fair and square, just that the manner in which they were able to make their playoff run as the #7 seed was another indicator that MLS has a long way to go before the rest of the soccer world gives the league any real respect.
Smith was honest about how his team had achieved its championship: "It was always going to be tough [for the Rapids] if the game was too open, with guys like David Ferreira, who just have the run of the game. We limited a very talented group of players to next to nothing. I'm not sure it was the greatest viewing for fans, because it was such a cut-and-thrust game."
Fair points. But, gosh, does Don Garber and North American Soccer fans really want their champions to be that type of soccer team?
As a result, FC Dallas now joins the Dallas Stars, Dallas Mavericks and Texas Rangers as DFW area teams since 2000 that have all participated in their respective championship and lost. Not that it will make fans feel any better, but Hyndman's troops had a fabulous season and much to be proud of.
Until MLS either changes the way they officiate their matches, or Schellas finds an answer to negative soccer, Dallas will likely struggle to find their turn on the podium.
A quick rules overview. Each team can protect 11 player, and must protect at least three internationals, Generation adidas player are auto-protected, as are home grown players. So here's our guess prediction of the FCD list.
FCD Protected List Prediction
1. David Ferreira - The MVP. Enough said. (International 1)
2. Marvin Chavez - His play over the stretch run made him a lock. (I2)
3. Jair Benitez - The first choice left back all year, it makes sense he would be protected. (I3)
4. Kevin Hartman - After the season he had, he's a no brainer as well. Set the league record for GAA.
5. Daniel Hernandez - Hyndman's captain. Is the coach brave enough to expose him thinking DH would retire rather than leave? Doubtful and Hernandez deserves more respect than that.
6. Ugo Ihemelu - Another one of the coach's guys. He's also the leader of the back four.
7. Jackson - New signing, the guy played 6 spots and was the starter down the stretch at right back. (I4)
8. Dax McCarty - Now that he's on the bus, he's a vital part of this team.
9. Brek Shea - The future is bright, and FCD won't want to lose him.
10. George John - Hyndman picked him two years ago and won't let him go now. First choice center back.
11. Zach Loyd - The coach really likes this kid, he did pick him in the first round. Loyd would be tempting for a team to take. He can and does spot start in a few spots. The only reservation to protect him might be the Jackson signing.
Protected by Rule
The following players are exempt form being picked by rule as either home grown or generation adidas.
You may notice I left some key names off. I'll go into each of them.
1. Heath Peace - Let me say that the club was less than pleased with the nature and timing of Heath Pearce's injury late in the year. Pearce also mouthed off enough the week before MLS Cup on his twitter account about how healthy he was and if he didn't play it was 100% on coach Hyndman. Pearce's tweeting was bad enough the club had his account closed down (according to the ESPN broadcasters). Add to that the end of Pearce's current contract and his own desire to play in Europe (remember Pearce only came to MLS cause his deal in Turkey fell through on a contract paperwork technicality). Hyndman recently said the team was almost all his, 85% I think was the number. I think Pearce was who he was talking about.
2. Jeff Cunningham - When you make over $200k, don't start, don't talk to media all year, cause your coach headaches, and don't score as much as you used to, then you don't get protected. Would an expansion team risk him at his age? Doubtful.
3. Milton Rodriguez - To old, not enough production, probably to expensive for anyone to pick even if he is a great team guy and hard worker.
4. Atiba Harris - Lost his job to Marvin Chavez late in the year, played some striker but almost in a desperation move by the coach. Sure he's not to pricy and not to old. I just don't think he's worth a protected spot when he likely isn't a starter here anymore. Could be up for that last spot for Hyndman, but wouldn't be on my list for sure.
5. Dario Sala - A great servant of the club and solid MLS keeper. But with Kevin Hartman's season I'm not even sure Dario would say to protect himself.
6. Eric Alexander - Eric will, I believe, be the first player Hyndman protects if he losses someone. (You get to "pull back" a player if you lose a player.) Coach loves this kids calmness, heart, skill, and toughness. Does he love him enough to protect him in the first 11? Maybe. It was a close call on my list with Loyd.
7. Eric Avila - You may ask why a player this talented is not protected. The answer is you can only protect 11. Avila doesn't play enough defense to be a starter for Hyndman. His role is as a late game offensive sub. Is he talented? For sure. But he's behind Harris, Shea, and Chavez for a starting spot. Maybe even Alexander. Could he be protected over Loyd? Maybe, but Loyd starts frequently, Avila doesn't.
8. Kyle Davis - a young defender with potential. But not a enough PT to protect him.
9. Bruno Guarda - He's one of the coach's guys, but he doesn't play enough to protect.
10. Jason Yeisley - A taller center channel type striker, but not a big prospect. To far down the roster.
11. Edson Edward - No chance a player this far down the roster gets protected. He is going to have a real fight on his hands to make this squad in 2011.
That's our list, we'll find out soon how on the money we are. Who would you have protected or left off.
So how exactly can FC Dallas pull off this win?
Everyone, including Colorado, knows that David Ferreira is the key cog in the FCD system. The Rapids often double and triple team down on Ferreira when the ball comes into his feet. A center back will step up and one, or both, holding mids will collapse. Even an outside mid will help if Ferreira has drifted, as he is known to do.
Because of that blanket Ferreira will receive, one or two FCD mids should frequently be open. Dax McCarty, Brek Shea, Marvin Chavez, or Atbia Harris (depending on who starts where) most take advantage of the gaps and openings that spring up in this situation. We saw this in the opening round against RSL, when McCarty jetted forward to score.
FCD must take advantage of those open players to penetrate into the box and create danger. Dax McCarty is the most likely one to find himself free and has to penetrate past Ferreira. If FCD waits for it's MVP to win this one they may be in trouble.
Deny Casey / Track Cummings
The Rapids have the best striker partnership in MLS with Omar Cummings and Conor Casey. Casey is the big target central channel striker, Cummings the fast, dynamic mobile danger man.
With Casey it's important to deny him the ball. Both on high balls into his head and balls played into his feet. Defending him is less about stopping him with the ball as it is about stopping him from getting the ball. If the ball comes into Casey's feet he can either lay it off or turn and strike. Ball to the head can be put on goal or laid off with a deft header down. George John will predominantly be asked to body up Casey. John will need to time his moves well, stepping up to steal passes and still keeping proper position to hold Casey in other situations. John vs Casey could be the key man to man battle of this game.
The rest of the defense, including defensive leader Ugo Ihemelu who will have the most responsibility, will need to keep a close eye on Omar Cummings. Omar's pace, movement, and field switching runs mean no one player can mark him out of the game. Instead the defense, and this includes Daniel Hernandez and Kevin Hartman need to keep track of Cummings. FCD must know where Cummings is at all times. Cummings is one of the best players in MLS and for me is the Rapids MVP. If FCD loses track of Cummings he can and most certainly will punish them.
Kevin Hartman is having a season to be remembered. It still shocks to think of him not winning Goalkeeper of the Year with his performances. Hartman has been standing on his head in the playoffs. If he does it again in this game, FCD will win MLS Cup.
Most of what makes Hartman really good is his positioning. Yes, he does make great diving saves on the big chances that keep FCD in the game, but most of his work is just being in the right place and reading the game. That is what makes a great veteran keeper and it's why there are few young ones this good.
I'll was one of the first to say I thought Hartman was done prior to this season, I thought he was insurance backup at best. Boy was I wrong. Hartman has been spectacular. If he is again, FCD will win.
Colorado uses a flat 4-4-2 with two holding type mids. Of the two, Pablo Mastroeni is the one who will go forward, but that doesn't make him a play maker. Colorado is instead built to play from the wings. Crosses into Casey and Cummings are the bulk of the offensive moves with Casey playing back to goal and Cummings running the gaps in the defense.
Stopping these crosses is about wide defense and pressure on the Rapids outside mids and backs. Jair Benitez with, most likely at this point, Brek Shea on the left, will need to hold their side. Jackson (or is Heath Pearce healthy?) and either Marvin Chavez or Atiba Harris need to hold the right.
Kosuke Kimura on the right and Anthony Wallace on the left will be looking to move forward out of the back line, in midfield it's Brian Mullan or Wells Thompson (unless Jamie Smith has recovered). Which midfielder on which side isn't predictable as the Rapids mids can and will swap sides.
If FCD doesn't step up the wide pressure and prevent balls into the middle, it could be a long day for the Red Stripes.
This is as big as it gets. MLS Cup. FC Dallas has never been here before.
The Rapids are a good team. So is FC Dallas. Both teams have earned their spot in this game. The two teams have tied twice this season and match up well against each other. So what will be the difference in the game?
It may come down to one simple thing: who will step up.
As coach Dave Dir mentioned in his preview, big game are more about individual will and strength of character. There is not a lot of coaching left, game plans and schemes can go out the window. FCD will need someone to step up for the big occasion, take the energy and pressure and turn it to their advantage.
So who will step up, who can separate themselves from the pack and make the statement to win the game? David Ferreira and Kevin Hartman have done it all year. Daniel Hernandez has the guts, but so does Pablo Mastreoni. How about Jeff Cunningham, all time MLS leading scorer? Or will it be some unsung hero?
Who will be the man of the hour to take home the silverware?
Gametime – Sun. November 21, 2010, BMO Field, Toronto, Canada 7pm ET (ESPN)
All-time Postseason Series: Colorado Rapids lead 5-2-2
2010 MLS Regular Season Meetings:
7/31 COL 1, FCD 1 (Ballouchy 26), (Baudet 22)
10/9 FCD 2, COL 2 (Rodriguez 27, Ferreira 37), (Larentowicz 13, 51)
Colorado Rapids – G: 14 Cummings A: 8 J. Smith
FC Dallas – G: 11 Cunningham A: 13 Ferreira
The MLS Cup Final nobody expected to see will be a dandy. FC Dallas is the favorite for the odds makers, but Colorado have everything they need to pull off the upset. During the regular season the teams met twice and played to a draw both times. The last eleven meetings between these teams are level, with four wins to each team. Colorado has knocked Dallas out of the playoffs in their last two appearances in 2005 and 2006.
FCD: The Hoops are hoping and praying to have the services of right back Heath Pearce and forward Milton Rodriguez for the final. Both are listed as questionable for Sunday. Pearce hasn’t featured during the playoffs, but Jackson has been adequate in his stead.
COL: Jamie Smith, the team’s assists leader, is listed as probable, as is goalkeeper Matt Pickens with a groin strain. Nothing to see here.
FCD: A 4-1-4-1 formation with midfielder David Ferreira coordinating the attack. Head coach Schellas Hyndman will hope to have the services of Milton Rodriguez up top and Heath Pearce at right back. However, it seems increasingly likely that Atiba Harris will get the start as the lone striker. The key will be, as always, whether or not Ferreira can find the ball and have time to distribute. If Larentowizc and Mastroeni can’t track Ferreira out to the sidelines, they’re going to lose the midfield battle. Ferreira doesn’t care how far he has to run to receive the ball and Pablo Mastroeni may find himself tiring in the late stages of the match if he chases Ferreira wide.
COL: Gary Smith has employed a number of formations during the season from a 4-3-3 to a 4-5-1 to the more traditional 4-4-2. The safe bet is a 4-4-2 with Conor Casey and Omar Cummings up top. Cummings is the danger man, a rare combination of speed and strength and an opportunistic goal-scorer. He’s the reason the Rapids are in the final.
FC Dallas – Kevin Hartman
Hartman’s saves in the first 20 minutes of the conference final against the Galaxy were nothing short of spectacular. He kept the Hoops in the game and the team responded by putting up three tallies. This man was robbed of the Goalkeeper of the Year award.
Colorado Rapids – Matt Pickens
Pickens is a solid, unheralded keeper. He’s not going to make silly mistakes during the match, but he’s not going to beat Hartman if it comes down to a shootout, either.
Advantage: FC Dallas
FC Dallas – Ugo Ihemelu, George John, Jackson Goncalves, Jair Benitez, Heath Pearce, Zach Loyd
Heath Pearce is an option at right back for the first time in a while. If he’s healthy, Hyndman has to put him in the lineup. The more encouraging development for Dallas is that the central defense pairing of George John and Ugo Ihemelu is back to midseason form.
Colorado Rapids – Drew Moor, Marvell Wynne, Julien Baudet, Kosuke Kimura, Danny Earls, Scott Palguta, Anthony Wallace
Drew Moor quietly enjoyed a great season in central defense for the Rapids, and while Moor isn’t the best athlete, he reads the game superbly. Marvell Wynne has resurrected his flagging career in Colorado and is now an integral part of defense. Kosuke Kimura has really blossomed in his fourth season with the Rapids. All in all a mature group that has enough to contain the Dallas attack, as they proved during the regular year.
Advantage: FC Dallas
FC Dallas – David Ferreira, Daniel Hernandez, Dax McCarty, Atiba Harris, Brek Shea, Eric Avila, Marvin Chavez, Eric Alexander
With everyone healthy in midfield,. Hyndman has the luxury of picking his ideal lineup. If Atiba Harris plays up top, expect Marvin Chavez to start again on the right flank. Left winger Brek Shea will look to cut inside and draw the attention of the Colorado defense. Everything hinges on whether Ferreira can find the ball with time and space to creat opportunities to score. Hyndman can call on good midfield depth if needed in the late stages of the match.
Colorado Rapids – Pablo Mastroeni, Jeff Larentowicz, Brian Mullan, Macoumba Kandji, Jamie Smith, Wells Thompson, Cladio Lopez
Colorado’s midfield can’t afford to get too stretched trying to attack as the first responsibility will be containing Ferreira. If Mastroeni or Larentowicz can disrupt the Dallas passing lanes, they will need to be able to spring the attack quickly. Brian Mullan and Jamie Smith need to take advantage of every opportunity to cross the ball into the box.
Advantage: FC Dallas
FC Dallas – Jeff Cunningham, Milton Rodriguez, Peri Marosevic, Ruben Luna
Though not listed as a forward, Atiba Harris will probably start as the lone striker for FC Dallas. That leaves Rodriguez, Cunningham and Luna as possible subs. Hyndman could bring Rodriguez on for Chavez late first half and move Harris to right midfield. If FC Dallas are down in the second half, Hyndman could also opt for two forwards with Cunningham and Rodriguez or the youngster Ruben Luna.
Colorado Rapids – Conor Casey, Omar Cummings
It’s no exaggeration to call this forward tandem the best in the league. Conor Casey is a big, menacing target forward and Omar Cummings is a sleek prowler with scary straight-line speed. What the two forwards lack is consistent service, something they will need if the Rapids want to lift the Cup. Kandji could come on late if Casey is tiring.
Advantage: Colorado Rapids
FC Dallas 2 – Colorado Rapids 1
FC Dallas are the favorites because they have taken down, in convincing fashion, the defending MLS champions (Real Salt Lake) and this year’s Supporter’s Shield winner (Los Angeles Galaxy). The Rapids actually match up quite well with FC Dallas with their tough, experienced central midfield pairing of Pablo Mastroeni and Jeff Larentowicz. David Ferreira hasn’t seen this kind of test so far in the playoffs. It will be interesting to see how the league MVP devises ways to get free of defenders. And in the end, FC Dallas will win the Cup because of Ferreira. When his teammates get on the field, they will look over at the diminutive Colombian and know they can’t lose. The Rapids are a fine team, and hats off to them, but FC Dallas is the best team in the league and will prove it on Sunday night.
I remember our 1997 US Open Cup Final like it was yesterday. (I guess I have to, since everything I read says Dallas has not won a major soccer championship since the Dallas Tornado.)
I am very proud of that title. At the time DC was the heavy favorite and nobody had beaten them for a final of any kind. We had thought we were in line for the double and when Colorado somehow upset us in the Conference Championship the Open Cup took on even more importance for us.
The '97 Open Cup was played in Indianapolis in front of a sold out crowd in a fairly small stadium by today's standards. Still, the atmosphere was electric. Our team was extremely loose, almost to the point of over confidence. Only a few players seemed to be feeling the pressure and it was surprising who they were.
Alain Sutter for one didn't seem to respond well to pressure in those days and had sat out three quarters of the Colorado upset. It was curious that in this final he also acted as if he didn't want to be there and was extremely reserved, but given the Colorado series that might have been my imagination working on me.
Other players like Gerell Elliott and Zarco Rodriguez seemed like they were ready to get on with it, as if they had a date with destiny. It's amazing how when you hit the real pressure what you learn about players. Some do not respond to those situations well, even when they are the best players for an entire season. That added bit of pressure seems to transform them. You can read it in your opponent as well.
I had never lost a final as a coach, all though I have lost enough trying to get there. I had been in four finals as a professional coach before the Open Cup and that being my fifth I felt very confident. Of course it would have been nice to make even more finals in MLS. I still consider myself lucky in those situations and a good reader of what it takes to win it.
We came into the Open Cup a very hot team, even having lost the Conference Championship. We had something to prove and we wanted to prove it against the best, which was clearly DC at that time. DC had won back to back MLS Cups and the previous Open Cup.
I can remember talking to Bruce Arena before the game, along with Cacho Cordoba, my long time friend and assistant. Bruce has always been a very confident guy when you talk to him. Some people get the wrong impression of that, feeling he's arrogant, but I always found it motivational, even understandable, and his sarcasm humorous.
This time however, when we were finished talking, Cacho mentioned to me that Bruce acted extremely unusual. He was humble to the point that we walked away thinking he didn't have a very good feeling about his team that day. It was very un-Bruce like. I told Cacho I had the same impression and although we can't be sure if it was true, we wondered if he had gotten a bad read about his teams mentality coming into the game. The point being that the pressure of the final often allows you to tell right away, from the locker room to the warm up, exactly how the game is going to go for your team.
I have watched thousands of games and in normal games your team can have a terrible warm-up and come out and play the complete opposite. A final, and I mean the final game, is like no other. Players appear to wear their attitudes on their sleeve as all their work comes to fruition. Some embrace it, some accept it, and some run from it, but the finality of the situation seems to put it out in the open.
This final seems to have the potential to be a great one. Yet missing is a team with experience. What we have is two teams coming into the game with equal footing, so to speak, with both teams beating favored opponents to get here.
Colorado may have had the easier path, similar to Real Salt Lake last year, but the Rapids still had to beat two teams that had been better than them the entire season. They did it with two outstanding front runners who really have found a connection and a midfield of buzz saws mowing down opponents attacking options and proving quality service.
Pablo Mastroeni has been outstanding to say the least and his efforts against San Jose showed a maturity that he has lacked in MLS over the years. Not just a hammer but a precise technician creating a link between the backs and the forwards while diffusing forays from the opponents quickly before they ever became any kind of a threat.
Their much maligned back four seems to be hitting full stride at just the right moment. Marvell Wynne's move to the middle and the emergence of Kosuke Kimura on the outside have not only made this team better defensively in front of Matt Pickens, but have given them much better balance. In a excellent piece of coaching by Gary Smith, he used Wynn's speed to balance Drew Moore's intelligence and has added better attacking options than Wynne on the flanks where Wynne's service and feet were always questionable.
Did I forget to mention the flanks in the midfield? While a much more direct, get the ball wade, and quality service in the mixer team, they do what they do well and have two guys in Jamie Smith and Brian Mullan who will be a hand full for Dallas. They know how to get behind you and get quality service in, or get on the end of things on the weak side.
They also have two forwards in Omar Cummings and Conor Casey who have great balance, allowing them to stretch an opponent as well as play off them, and both have a knack for getting on the end of balls in the box.
There are some hidden wild cards I need to mention in Anthony Wallace and the locally popular Drew Moore being dumped from his home town team for questionable reasons. Both should have extra motivation toward the man who dumped them. I don't think it will be enough but you know it has to be in the back of their heads and I expect them to be flying.
FC Dallas, on the other hand, takes a back seat to nobody. This team is a true team that has played with character the entire season and one that went through the two best teams in the league to get here.
The prevailing opinion from much of the soccer experts through the season had been that they had done it with smoke and mirrors because of all the ties, but those ties are very deceptive. The beauty is in the fact that where they're good they are extremely good and force you to deal with their strengths rather than allow you to expose their weaknesses. And if you somehow exposed them they found a way to get a point. They just refused to lose.
In attack, they kind of put it in your face to say "you can't stop this" with the confidence of their leader. They have guys that can score up top but haven't been consistent, but they don't care. They just find a way to get it done.
In the midfield, they throw a plethora of players at you second to none. They can hit you from any position and are seven deep in a five man midfield. Ferreira steals the show and his runs are so difficult because you must not only have a midfielder who can keep the play in front of him but must also have pace to handle the diagonal runs in behind the midfield.
Brek Shea has weaknesses defensively but it's hard to expose them when he is allowed to attack with reckless abandon, putting so much pressure on you to defend while he is trying to get behind you. If he is having an off night you have Marvin Chavez who can do the same but might be even better at coming inside, combining and creating a scoring chance. If that is not working there is the workmanlike play of Atiba Harris. He is long, lanky, strong, can get behind you, and is great at coming in on the weak side on service.
It sounds like a lot, but the balance might be even more impressive and that comes from Dax McCarty and Daniel Hernandez. Hernandez is not able to cover the ground he used to and is content to sit in there and anchor the first line of defense. He bridges the gap to the defender and keeps them from being left on an island like the Dallas team of last couple years.
McCarty is the perfect tweener. He does the pesky defensive work of a defender, resembling a gnat you can't seem to wave off, especially when Jair Benitez or any of the flank players make those endless runs into attack. And yet McCarty has the excellent ability to connect passes and connect the defense to the attack.
If you need a little extra late in the game we haven't even mentioned the super sub Eric Avila who knows his role and is very good a it.
This is a back four that takes risks and can get exposed on the flanks, which leads us to maybe the most important part of the match up. The two center backs are very sold and have speed to go with aggression. When they do make mistakes occasionally on the ball they have a goalkeeper who is on fire, playing the best of his career.
I would argue that the LA Galaxy game, as well as the Salt Lake game, if not for the play of Kevin Hartman the result would have, or at least could have, ended very differently. It was key saves by Hartman when the opponents were in control and applying a lot of pressure that kept Dallas in the match and allowed them to turn the pressure the other way.
So we come down to two and when you put these two team together the match ups are intriguing. In the attack they are two very different teams and they both seem to play well into the others weaknesses.
Colorado is good on the flanks where Dallas likes to send people forward often leaving space wide behind their backs. Dallas has a multi-pronged attack, can score by committee, and has attacking midfielder that can force Colorado's recovery to look like the dogs chasing the rabbit at the dog track. This could be a wide open game, end to end, with both teams creating a multitude of chances.
Alas that is only my hope as it is a final. Games like this can be hampered by the aforementioned pressure. What makes a high score less likely is both keepers are playing well..... but Hartman? Come on? He is ridiculously good right now and has the chance to add to his four MLS Cup memories and stick it to the people who said he was done.
I don't think there is any question Dallas has been the stronger team and has the most weapons, but that doesn't always matter in a final. It is a battle of wills.
This truly has the chance to be a great final if both teams decide to come and play the way they got here. If that happens it favors Dallas, who I have to pick to win and get the coach with "great soccer knowledge" that which has eluded him in the past. I believe Dallas has the horses and will have it's first MLS Cup.
Just don't call it the first championship! Just the first one with the FC Dallas name. No one will be more proud than the coach who started the Burn from scratch.
FC Dallas (12-4-14) vs. LA Galaxy (18-7-5)
Gametime – Sun. November 14, 2010, Home Depot Center Carson, California 6pm ET (ESPN 2)
All-time Series: LA Galaxy lead 25-18-9
2010 MLS Regular Season Meetings:
5/20 FCD 0, LA 1 (Magee 17)
10/24 LA 2, FCD 1 (Beckham 33, Juninho 46), (Harris 24)
LA Galaxy – G: 17 Buddle A: 16 Donovan
FC Dallas – G: 11 Cunningham A: 13 Ferreira
This Sunday’s MLS Western Conference final resembles NFL Western conference finals from the early 1990’s: the league’s two best teams – one from Texas, one from California – meeting to determine who will advance to the league championship. And if the Galaxy are the 49ers, then Landon Donovan is Jerry Rice, David Beckham is Steve Young and Omar Gonzales is Ken Norton, Jr. For FC Dallas, as the Cowboys, attacking midfielder and MVP candidate is none other than Emmit Smith. Whatever the outcome of this clash, most observers and fans would agree that the winner will deserve the title of league’s best team.
The latest Dallas injury report lists stalwart fullback Heath Pearce and target forward Milton Rodriguez as “OUT”, two key pieces the Hoops will surely miss.
The Galaxy look far better on the injury front. Brazilian defender Leonardo is listed as questionable with knee pain. Otherwise, Bruce Arena’s squad is completely healthy.
FC Dallas will line up in their familiar 4-1-4-1 formation with midfielder David Ferreira orchestrating the attack. Head coach Schellas Hyndman will have to start Jeff Cunningham up top and hope for a good late shift from rookie Ruben Luna.
Bruce Arena should employ his familiar 4-4-2, with Beckham and Donovan patrolling the sidelines even as they seek to cut inside and pinch the Dallas midfield. Defensive midfielder Dema Kovalenko will be charged with stopping David Ferreira.
FC Dallas – Kevin Hartman
His opposite number won Goalkeeper of the Year, but Hartman was equally deserving of the award. Hartman was sensational in the second leg of the Salt Lake series, making several big saves to get FCD safely to the next round.
LA Galaxy – Donovan Ricketts
Ricketts has been a big part of the Galaxy’s success over the past two seasons. Like Hartman, he makes spectacular saves and has excellent athleticism. More importantly, Ricketts has struck a rich vein of form lately.
Advantage: FC Dallas
FC Dallas – Ugo Ihemelu, George John, Jackson Goncalves, Jair Benitez, Heath Pearce (Injured), Zach Loyd
With Heath Pearce out, Hyndman will have to decide on a right back replacement, with Jackson and rookie Zach Loyd the obvious candidates. Jackson did well against Real Salt Lake and might be a better choice to try to contain Donovan on the wing. George John and Ugo Ihemelu are very solid in central defense. Ihemelu has come back from a bad concussion injury, leaping bravely in traffic to win headers. Left back Jair Benitez will look to continue a good run of form and keep Beckham honest defensively as he gets up and down the wing.
LA Galaxy – Omar Gonzales, A.J. DeLaGarza, Sean Franklin, Todd Dunivant, Greg Berhalter
Omar Gonzales is one of the league’s best central defender, if not the best. His partnership with DeLaGarza has really blossomed this year. Eddie Lewis played well at left back against the Sounders last week in place of an injured Todd Dunivant. At right fullback the Galaxy rely on the services of 2008 Rookie of the Year Sean Franklin, who is enjoying another fine campaign.
Advantage: LA Galaxy
FC Dallas – David Ferreira, Daniel Hernandez, Dax McCarty, Atiba Harris, Brek Shea, Eric Avila, Marvin Chavez, Eric Alexander
Obviously, David Ferreira is the main man for FC Dallas. Real Salt Lake simply weren’t able to shut him down over 180 minutes and he made them pay by being involved in all three of the Hoops’ goals. Dax McCarty is starting to peak at the right time, having been sidelined with injury for much of the middle part of the year. His goal last week was the perfect display of tenacity and focus. Brek Shea and Atiba Harris will patrol the sidelines and look to get forward to receive Ferreira’s through balls. Daniel Hernandez will be tasked with disrupting the play of the Galaxy attack. Eric Avila, Eric Alexander and Marvin Chavez are all capable substitutes who can make an impact, as Avila showed in the first leg of the RSL series.
LA Galaxy – Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Juninho, Dema Kovalenko, Chris Birchall
Donovan and Beckham essentially have free roles in midfield. Donovan in particular can drift inside or make darting runs on the counter-attack. Beckham will also look to pinch inside on occasion, allowing Sean Franklin to attack down the right sideline. Beckham frequently hits diagonal balls over the defense, something the Dallas defense will have to cleanly deal with. LA will also look to draw fouls around the penalty box and give their free-kick specialist the chance to score. Dema Kovalenko has the hardest job, trying to disrupt and slow down David Ferreira, a matchup that may well determine the winner.
Advantage: LA Galaxy
FC Dallas – Jeff Cunningham, Milton Rodriguez (Injured), Peri Marosevic, Ruben Luna
With Milton Rodriguez out for this match, the burden to score will fall on Jeff Cunningham. The league’s second all-time leading scorer is in good form at the moment and seemingly very focused. He has not spoken to the media since early in the season. Behind Cunningham, there are questions. Ruben Luna is likely to replace Cunningham sometime in the second half and Hyndman will be hoping the youngster can turn in a productive shift.
LA Galaxy – Edson Buddle, Mike Magee
Edson Buddle used a great run of form at the beginning of the 2010 season as a springboard to earn a spot of the U.S. World Cup team. Buddle finished the year with 17 goals and already has 2 post-season goals. Mike Magee is the other forward, a workman-like MLS player who can be relied on to give consistent effort
Advantage: LA Galaxy
LA Galaxy 2 – FC Dallas 1
The Galaxy are heavily favored in this match and with good reason. LA has a fully healthy squad, players who are in good form and a head coach with bags of experience. On the other side, Dallas is in unchartered waters. They have never advanced to a league championship final, and haven't reached a conference final since 1999, when they lost to the Galaxy. Schellas Hyndman, MLS Coach of the Year, has built a good team and his players appear to buy into his coaching philosophy. He has the league’s best playmaker at his disposal, and a prolific goal-scorer stalking the net.
This game should come down to answering a simple question – can the Galaxy disrupt Ferreira, thereby squelching the Dallas attack? LA might discover that it will take a team effort to do so, as Ferreira loves to move around the field and look for the ball. Ultimately, even if Ferreira finds the time and space to create attacking opportunities, the Galaxy will have enough discipline on defense, and enough firepower on offense to beat Dallas by a goal.
So just how exactly can FCD beat the Galaxy?
Score more goals.
OK sorry, bad joke. In all seriousness, here are five keys for FCD to win the game.
1. No LA set-play success.
FC Dallas has not given up a lot of set-piece goals this season, but that doesn't change the fact that LA is particularly dangerous on set plays. Defending corners and free kicks is, however, only half the battle. It's equally important not to give up corners and free kicks. That means keeping the dumb fouls in check, particularly the ones right outside the box. Don't give the Galaxy free chances to run their dangerous offense.
Playing smart and in control will go a long way to benefit FCD. Don't let your emotions cloud your judgment about when and where to foul. This is David Beckham we are talking about, one of the best crossers in the world. With Edson Buddle and Omar Gonzalez looking to knock balls on goal with their head LA is dangerous.
2. Free the man.
David Ferreira won the NASR Player of the Year award for good reason (MLS MVP has not yet been announced), he's THE key cog to FCD's success. LA will be looking to stop him anyway they can. MLS teams have double- and even triple-teamed Ferreira in transition to try and stop him. RSL certainly did and Ferreira still made the play to free up Eric Avila for the goal that essentially won the opening series.
LA will use quick early fouls to try and stop the FCD flow and transition fastbreak deep in the FCD end. This will put a lot of importance on FCD passing out of the back, something they aren't great at, as FCD will need to spring Ferreira in space early. When Ferreira has the ball at his feet running at the back line, defenses go to pieces, space opens up and good things happen for Dallas.
3. Keep the numbers right.
LA Galaxy has a similar mentality to FCD. They defend with their box eight and look to counter. LA loves to catch teams napping or over extending themselves and then break with a man advantage. The Galaxy kills you when you give them the extra man. Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Juninho, Mike Magee and Edson Buddle can all really punish teams moving forward on the break.
If Dallas over extends themselves and gets caught forward they could be in trouble, cause the Galaxy punish mistakes. Dallas must get forward, but do so with discipline and not over reach. This is where the captain Daniel Hernandez is such a calm influence. He needs to direct defensive coverage and make up for the man who is forward. Midfield defensive transition rotation with their extra midfielder is huge in this one. Hernandez and Dax McCarty have a big burden to get side to side when a wide mid is out of position.
4. Pressure outside.
Dallas has speed on the wings in Marvin Chavez, Atiba Harris, and Brek Shea; not to mention outside backs Jair Benitez and Jackson (who I expect to start at right back). Marvin Chavez has gotten the call of late in midfield and I thought Shea was quite good against RSL in leg two with Harris suspended, so it will be interesting to see who coach Schellas Hyndman picks. Given point #1 of this article, Hyndman may be tempted to go with Harris and Shea for height.
Whichever pair it is, Dallas will have the advantage of speed outside. Breaking outside mids penetrating next to Jeff Cunningham and playing off David Ferreira is the hallmark to the FCD offense. Dallas creates havoc and space in the opposition back line by these wide runs. Without that penetration Dallas will be cooked.
Dallas also needs to put pressure on the LA back line and wide mids for a defensive reason. If they can keep LA sitting deeper it will limit the terrific service Edson Buddle gets. Crosses into Buddle is vital key part of the Galaxy offense. The wide Dallas backs and mids need to constrict space on the flanks and limit crosses or FCD will be in trouble.
5. Carpe Diem
LA is a tough, physical, intimidating defensive team. They gave up the second fewest goals in MLS this year behind RSL, but they do make mistakes. There will be a couple turnovers and a mental breakdown or two by the LA back line. They will give up a few chances.
The problem for FCD is that Cunningham, the lone FCD striker with Milton Rodriguez still hurt, is a player that usually needs multiple chances to score. If that's the case in this game FCD won't find much success because LA, for the most part, is a good lock down team with Donovan Ricketts giving up few second chances.
When the chance comes, it must be exploited. Rodriguez, the more pure goal poacher, would be a much better choice for FCD, but it's not looking like he's going to be back this season. FCD's hand if forced, they have to go with Cunningham. Can the mercurial striker deliver? That may be the biggest key to this game.
It may sound simple, score when you get a chance, but in the high pressure of a Conference Final that is easier said than done. The crowd should be a good one, the atmosphere intense, the pressure on. This is new territory for FCD, although they have the same amount of cup winners are LA in this game. FCD needs to remain calm, forget how big the occasion is.
Grab the chance when it comes and FCD could be on to MLS Cup.
Taking Rodriguez' place in the 18 man team will be Ruben Luna, although Jeff Cunningham will almost certainly get the start up top. “I think it makes sense,” Hyndman told Steve Hunt. “Jeff scored a goal against them. He used to play for them. There’s a lot of internal motivation. He will be able to stretch the field a little more because of his speed and quickness.”
Heath Pearce is also set to miss out with his injury. Jackson has been getting the bulk of the time at right back this week, but Zach Loyd could also figure in that spot.
With the suspension of Atiba Harris, Brek Shea will be making a return to the left side of midfield with Marvin Chavez moving to his more natural spot on the right.
George John returns to the lineup at center back with (despite?) his sore hamstring. That could be a battle to watch as the speedy Robbie Findley may be back in the RSL first eleven due to injuries.
George John tweaked his hamstring on Friday in training, relegating him to the bench for the playoff opener. Based on the comments from FCD media relations and coaching staff, coach Schellas Hyndman called him 80%, John may be able to recover for the 2nd leg of the playoffs on the 6th of November.
Heath Pearce appears to be worse off. FC Dallas won't confirm the severity of his hamstring (and I checked again this morning), which is usually a bad sign. Some scuttlebutt and rumor has him out for the season but there no verifiability to that, playoff panic being what it is it's hard to put much stock in rumor at this point. Pearce was on the bike all week, so he hasn't been shut down completely, so there is some possibility we will see him again depending on how long the playoffs last for the Red Stripes. I think FCD fans will have to assume Pearce is out until we hear differently.
Milton Rodriguez pulled his right groin in the opener. No report from FCD on the severity of that injury either as it's only been a day. FCD says Rodriguez will be re-evaluated Monday, at which point we should know more.
Jackson played in the opener but clearly labored. Hyndman said Jackson was only 85% going into the game. If John can get healthy, FCD may have the luxury of resting Jackson in the next one. Or if Jackson continues to improve he may play at right back over Zach Loyd.
Atiba Harris with the red card is suspended for the 2nd leg, as is RSL's Javier Morales. Losing Harris is a blow, but most FCD fans would probably take a "FCD loses Harris, RSL loses Morales" scenario if offered. Brek Shea into one of the wide midfield spots seems an obvious solution.
Both Ugo Ihemelu and Kevin Hartman looked to not be 100% but both came through the first game healthy.
We'll find out more during the week, but for now...
FC Dallas (12-4-14) vs. Real Salt Lake (15-4-11)
Game 1 – Sat. October 30, 2010, Pizza Hut Park Frisco, Texas 5pm ET (Fox Soccer Channel)
Game 2 – Sat. November 6, 2010, Rio Tinto Stadium Sandy, Utah 10pm ET (Fox Soccer Channel)
All-time Series: FC Dallas lead 11-6-1
At Dallas (8 meetings): FCD 8 wins, 18 GF; RSL 0 wins, 5 GF
At Salt Lake (10 meetings): RSL 6 wins, 19 GF; FCD 3 wins, 12 GF
2010 MLS Regular Season Meetings:
7/17 FCD 2, RSL 0 (Shea 69, Harris 76)
10/16 RSL 2, FCD 0 (Grabavoy 59, Morales 90)
Real Salt Lake – G: 12 Alvaro Saborio A: 9 Morales
FC Dallas – G: 11 Cunningham A: 13 Ferreira
This opening round series of the 2010 MLS playoffs features two of the league’s best teams. FC Dallas set an MLS record with a 19-game unbeaten streak during the regular season, while the defending champions Real Salt Lake went undefeated at home this year. Dallas enters the post season having lost their last two matches, while Salt Lake are carrying a 14-game unbeaten streak into the playoffs. During the regular season series, both teams held serve at home with 2-0 victories over the visitors.
FC Dallas still has lingering injury woes that may prevent them from fielding their preferred starting lineup. Even if players returning from injury are healthy, it remains to be seen if they are fully re-integrated into the team. Fullback Heath Pearce is listed as questionable with a hamstring strain. Defender Jackson Goncalves is also questionable with a sore hamstring. Goalkeeper Kevin Hartman is probable with an MCL sprain. Expect Pearce and Hartman to play.
Real Salt Lake looks better on the injury front. Midfielder Will Johnson is listed as questionable with a hamstring injury, but should see playing time. Central defender Jamison Olave and forward Alvaro Saborio are both probable with knee issues. Both players should start for the Royals.
Expect FC Dallas to employ their familiar 4-1-4-1 formation with midfielder David Ferreira orchestrating the attack. Head coach Schellas Hyndman has a decision to make about who to start as the lone forward, but Milton Rodriguez should get the nod.
RSL played a 4-5-1 in their first visit to Pizza Hut Park this year, hoping to disrupt the linking play of Daniel Hernandez and Ferreira in the middle of the park. This time, Real Salt Lake are most likely to line up in a 4-4-2 formation with Saborio and Fabian Espindola up top. Head coach Jason Kreis could also opt for Robbie Findley instead of Espindola. Javier Morales will direct the offense from the cental attacking midfield position for RSL.
FC Dallas – GK Kevin Hartman
Both goalkeepers are finalists for the Goalkeeper of the Year award, but Hartman has been out of action for several matches following a collision with New York forward Thierry Henry. Finally healthy, Hartman should steady a Dallas defense that has surrendered too many goals of late. Before the injury, Hartman was being talked about as a league MVP candidate, so his return is absolutely crucial for the Hoops.
Real Salt Lake – GK Nick Rimando
Rimando has been a rock for RSL over the course of the last three seasons. He communicates very well with his back line and makes the saves he should. This year, Rimando recorded the second-most shutouts ever by an MLS goalkeeper. His ability to stop penalty kicks was on full display during last year’s championship run and Rimando would be favored against Hartman if the series came down to PKs.
Advantage: FC Dallas
FC Dallas – D Ugo Ihemelu, D George John, D Jackson Goncalves, D Jair Benitez, D Heath Pearce, D Zach Loyd
FCD only allowed 28 goals in 30 games, good for third-best in the league. The central defense pairing of Ugo Ihemelu and George John was a fixture for most of the season until both players sustained injuries that kept them off the field for an extended period. Full backs Jair Benitez and Heath Pearce love to push forward and deliver crosses into the penalty area. Rookie Zach Loyd can fill in at either fullback or in central defense. Brazilian defender Jackson can similarly play anywhere in defense.
Real Salt Lake – D Chris Wingert, D Tony Beltran, D Nat Borchers, D Jamison Olave, D Robbie Russell
RSL’s defense this year set a record for fewest goals allowed over the course of a season, 20 goals in 30 games, eclipsing the mark of 23 goals allowed by Houston in 2007. The partnership in central defense of Nat Borchers and Jamison Olave is perhaps the best in MLS. Olave is a gifted athlete and Borchers has a keen positional sense. Kreis can turn to a platoon of good fullbacks with Chris Wingert, Robbie Russell and Tony Beltran who like to get up and down the line. This group of defenders never allowed more than 2 goals in a game during the season.
Advantage: Real Salt Lake
FC Dallas – M David Ferreira, M Daniel Hernandez, M Dax McCarty, M Atiba Harris, M Brek Shea, M Eric Avila, M Marvin Chavez, M Eric Alexander
For FC Dallas, everything goes through MVP candidate David Ferreira (8 goals, 13 assists) in the central midfield. Although Ferreira plays the traditional CAM role, he frequently drifts toward the sidelines to receive the ball. Ferreira’s vision and passing accuracy combine to create lethal chances when he has time on the ball. Wingers Atiba Harris and Brek Shea have enjoyed good seasons and are dangerous getting forward. Defensive midfielder Daniel Hernandez disrupts play in front of the back line, while Dax McCarty links play from the defense to the attack. Eric Alexander, Marvin Chavez and Eric Avila provide Hyndman with excellent midfield depth.
Real Salt Lake – M Javier Morales, M Will Johnson, M Andy Williams, M Kyle Beckerman, M Ned Grabavoy, M Jean Alexandre
Much like Dallas, Salt Lake relies heavily on its midfield playmaker, Javier Morales (7 goals, 9 assists), to create goal-scoring opportunities. RSL’s midfield plays a diamond fromation with defensive midfielder Kyle Beckerman anchored in front of the defensive line. Kreis can select from a group of solid wingers in the form of Ned Grabavoy, Will Johnson and Andy Williams. There isn’t a lot of depth in midfield, but RSL have a really good core group.
Advantage: FC Dallas
FC Dallas – F Jeff Cunningham, F Milton Rodriguez, F Peri Marosevic, F Ruben Luna
The Hoops scored 40 goals in the regular season, fourth-best in MLS. Jeff Cunningham led the team with 11 goals from the lone forward position. Milton Rodriguez contributed another 5 goals in only 13 games. Hyndman will have to decide which forward to start, but the safe bet is Rodriguez with Cunningham as his replacement around the sixty minute mark. Depth at forward is a problem for FCD with unproven Peri Marosevic and academy graduate Ruben Luna the next best options.
Real Salt Lake – F Robbie Findley, F Alvaro Saborio, F Fabian Espindola, F Pablo Campos, F Paulo Araujo Jr.
RSL led the league in scoring with 45 goals during the regular season. Alvaro Saborio was a revelation this year scoring 12 goals and assisting on 4 others. Fabian Espindola scored 6 goals at forward and Robbie Findley added 5 goals. Without a doubt, the Royals have one of the best strike forces in the league. Pablo Campos gives Kreis another scoring option from the bench.
Advantage: Real Salt Lake
Game 1 – FC Dallas 1, Real Salt Lake 1
The outcome of this 2-leg tie could very well come down to the play of the opposing attacking midfielders, FCD’s David Ferreira and RSL’s Javier Morales. If Salt Lake can slow down Ferreira, something they weren’t able to do with a five-man midfield in the their first trip to Pizza Hut Park this season, they may get out of Frisco with a draw or even a win. If Ferreira is allowed to start the attack and distribute the ball freely, it could be a long afternoon for the RSL defense. FC Dallas should do enough at home to get a goal or two, but Salt Lake has enough firepower to get out of the first game with a draw.
Game 2 – Real Salt Lake 2 (3) defeats FC Dallas 1 (2) aggregate
Real Salt Lake did not lose at home all year and that trend should continue throughout the playoffs. The Lakers’ combination of the league’s most potent attack and it’s stingiest defense will simply be too much for FC Dallas to overcome. Schellas Hyndman has done a beautiful job building this Dallas squad, but it is simply unfortunate that a great regular season led to a first-round matchup against the defending champions, the league’s best team.
Real Salt Lake (14-4-10, 52 points, second place in Western Conference)
at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.
FC Dallas lead the all-time series 11-5-1.
TV Info: 8 p.m. CT, FSSW Plus
I talked to Daniel Hernandez on Wednesday and he says he's ready to go. ihe captain says It's down to the coach whether Hernandez will start of not, but Hernandez will play. If it were me I would start the captain, get to halftime, and see how he's going. Ugo Ihemelu is in the same boat, having trained this week. With two games left Coach Schellas Hyndman will be wanting to get his starting eleven on the field.
Up top look for Milton Rodriguez to continue to start with Jeff Cunningham off the bench. In midfield Brek Shea needs to earn his place back, Marvin Chavez and Atiba Harris are the wide mids for now. Dax McCarty wasn't sharp in the last game, so Eric Alexander may hold down his spot.
With the return of Ugo Ihemelu, one wild card could be Jackson. Some reports have him taking the right mid spot this week, which is quite possible, but with Heath Pearce having been in US camp Jackson at right back would only be a mild shock.
George John should be pushed to 90 and Dario Sala will stay in net as Kevin Hartman is still out.
RSL is coming off the busiest stretch in franchise history, with 14 games in 56 days.
RSL and FCD have combined for a record of 25-2-20 since May 1 this year
Jeff Cunningham is currently tied with D.C. United’s Jaime Moreno with 132 career goals atop the all time list.
RSL, over the last two seasons, have a 20-1-10 record at home, including their current streak of 24 games unbeaten at home.
FC Dallas matched the MLS record with 19 consecutive games without a loss. They also have a 12 consecutive away games unbeaten streak.
RSL has a 12 game unbeaten streak of their own.
With a victory, Real Salt Lake will clinch one of the top two spots in the Western Conference and have homefield advantage in the second leg of the Western Conference Semifinal Series.
Real Salt Lake OUT: DF Chris Schuler (R broken foot); QUESTIONABLE: MF Nelson González (R foot contusion); DF Chris Wingert (L quadriceps strain); PROBABLE: MF Javier Morales (R quadriceps strain); GK Kyle Reynish (R knee contusion); FW Álvaro Saborío (R knee swelling)
FC Dallas OUT: GK Kevin Hartman (R knee MCL sprain); DF Kyle Davies (concussion); DF Edson Edward (osteitis pubis)
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