Dallas Soccer: Dax McCarty

FC Dallas midfielder Brek Shea has been nomiated for MLS Goal of the Week, you can go vote here. He will need all the votes he can get since David Beckham is nominated as well (with admittedly a cracker of a goal). Old friend Dax McCarty is also nominated.

Kenny Cooper enjoying change of venue

March, 8, 2012
3/08/12
12:50
PM CT
Kenny Cooper is returning to FC Dallas Stadium again, something FCD fans experienced last summer when he returned as a member of the Portland Timbers. For whatever reason, things didn’t work out for him with John Spencer’s club, so he the former Dallas forward and Jesuit High School product now finds himself with the New York Red Bulls.

Not only is Cooper now playing for one of the more high-profile sides in Major League Soccer, but he’s also reunited with former Dallas teammate Dax McCarty, who joined the Red Bulls last summer and was on the pitch for their road win at FCD in the regular season and again in the first round of the playoffs.

One thing that’s abundantly clear is that he’s elated to be teammates with McCarty once again.

“It’s great to be back up with him. We were friends back in the Dallas days. It was nice coming to a new team to have not just a former teammate, but also someone that I consider a friend on the team,” Cooper said. “He was really helping me the first couple of days, first couple of weeks and I’m really appreciative of him for that. Along with being a great player, he’s really a great guy. It’s great to be teammates with him again.”

And after things didn’t go so well during his short time with the Timbers, Cooper’s also glad to be in a much better situation with the Red Bulls.

“I’m really excited to be here. I feel really fortunate that this is where I’ve landed,” Cooper said. “This is a great organization and a very talented team. I feel very privileged to be a part of this group.”

The big striker was pretty much a non-factor in the Timbers’ 4-0 loss in Frisco last summer, so much so that his now former head coach in Spencer pretty much called him out in his postgame remarks to the media.

How will Cooper fare this time around in his return to the stadium he called home from 2006 through 2009? There shouldn’t be any shortage in terms of motivation for Cooper, especially with around 100 friends and family in the stands.

Talking tactics: New York Red Bulls at FC Dallas, MLS Cup Playoffs

October, 27, 2011
10/27/11
3:39
PM CT
In what has been an all-too-familiar sight at Pizza Hut Park, Schellas Hyndman put his charges in a position to bag a win but his players let him down with shoddy finishing and a few errors at the back.

Last night Hyndman rolled out a 4-2-3-1 to combat New York's 4-4-1-1. New York was clearly concerned about the speed on Dallas’ flanks: Hans Backe elected to play four central midfielders (from left to right Joel Lindpere, Teemu Tainio, Rafa Marquez, and Dax McCarty). Going forward, the tactic worked well for the visitors. The outside midfielders pinched-in (particularly McCarty) and helped link Thierry Henry with Dane Richards, who caused havoc with his darting runs behind center backs Ugo Ihemelu and George John.

Defensively, though, McCarty and Lindpere struggled to defend against the pace of Marvin Chavez and Brek Shea. The Dallas wingers, and fullbacks Zach Loyd and Jair Benitiez, needed only a split-second to find space before sending in their service. Early on, New York was very vulnerable along the flanks.

Hyndman took advantage of the situation by instructing his outside players to send in early crosses. Dallas' gaffer must have seen a vulnerability on film, as New York's backline struggled with the constant early service. This strategy led to numerous scoring opportunities for the Red Stripes.

But, in what has been a theme, Dallas' attackers didn't finish their chances. A 14th minute miss by Chavez and a 40th minute shank by Jackson were the most glaring failures. Jackson's miss was galling; his unmarked header from seven yards wasn't even close to being on target.

The sheer volume of opportunities - Dallas had 14 total shots and 7 shots on goal to New York's 6 and 6 - spoke wonders of Hyndman's tactical acumen, especially since Dallas had a slightly lower percentage of possession (51% to 49%). However, one personnel choice should be called into question. Hyndman's inclusion of Jackson over the more traditional Number 9 Maicon Santos didn't make sense in light of the amount of crosses sent into the box.

Jackson normally interchanges very well with Shea and Chavez, but against New York he stayed in the middle in anticipation of the waves of crosses. The Brazilian demonstrated his lack of a striker's instinct on more than one occasion, notably the 40th minute miss. Santos, a second half sub, had just one opportunity to head the ball toward goal and his effort from outside the box forced Frank Rost to make a save.

Granted, Santos was otherwise anonymous. But that was merely symptomatic of Dallas' problems in the latter half of the season. The front three, particularly the striker, failed to take advantage of excellent build-up and then a series of blunders at the back (John, Loyd, and Ihemelu all made mistakes on New York's opening goal) doomed the squad to a loss. Hyndman may look back on this match as the epitome of his squad's 2011 campaign, promise unfulfilled.

Blake Owen is the editor and publisher of futbolforgringos.com.

Dax McCarty: being a visitor at Pizza Hut Park definitely strange

September, 18, 2011
9/18/11
3:39
PM CT
Saturday night, an old friend returned to Pizza Hut Park. Of course, we’re talking about former FC Dallas midfielder Dax McCarty, a fixture in Frisco from 2006 through 2010. But when La Flecha Roja returned to the Oven this weekend, he did so as a member of the opposing New York Red Bulls.

It was actually McCarty’s second time to face his former club as a Red Bull. The first time came back on June 22 when the sides played to a 2-2 draw at Red Bull Arena. But this time was very different. He was back in a place he knew very well and after the game, he admits it was a unique experience.

“It was very strange, being back here the first time. It’s late in the season, so it just feels like it’s been longer than it has,” he said. “It feels like a couple years rather than year. It was strange. I walked out on the field before the game, just looking around the stadium. You just walk out of the tunnel so many times, it’s hard to realize that you’re about to be the guy on the opposing side of the field. It’s definitely a strange feeling.”

And it was also not lost on him that Saturday’s match served as a tribute to his former teammate Bobby Rhine, who tragically passed away on Sept. 5.

“It’s extra weird not having Bobby Rhine around. There are so many emotions,” McCarty said. “You can’t even really describe it. It was very emotional but obviously a great result for us. He means so much to so many people here. It’s hard to single out just one great thing about him.”

New York left PHP with a 1-0 win, just their second road win of the 2011 campaign. The Red Bulls also snapped an eight-game winless streak with that victory. Ironically enough, the former FCD midfielder was also on the field for the Red Bulls’ other road win of the year, which was back on April 21 at RFK Stadium, a 4-0 win over DC United. However, McCarty was playing for the Red-and-Black back then.

He has been a Red Bull only for a few months now, coming over from DC in a trade that sent Dwayne DeRosario to the nation’s capital. But his new coach Hans Backe is already a big fan of what he brings to the table.

“A lot of energy, a lot of energy in the central midfield,” Backe said. “Dax will always be you can say in our attacking game a late runner. He can run all day long, so of course he runs from midfield for crosses, whatever it is, final passes, means a lot to us, the energy.”

And it’s clear McCarty has taken a liking to his new coach in New York.

“Yeah, he has a good sense of humor. I think tonight was a relief off everyone’s shoulders, a big weight off everyone’s shoulders,” he said. “We’re in New York, so the media attention and fans, it’s all a little bit magnified. If we don’t do too well, the fans are all over you and the media is very critical, rightfully so.”

The Red Bulls didn’t arrive in Dallas until about 9 PM local time on Friday, which didn’t give McCarty too much time to catch up with old teammates but he planned to do so after Saturday’s game.

“First person [I called] was probably Brek Shea and then Spencer Wadsworth, old teammates. Spencer’s an old friend and Brek’s obviously one of my best friends that’s still on the team because there have been a lot of changes here recently,” McCarty said. “It was nice seeing them. I saw them all a little before the game and we’ll try to grab dinner after the game to just catch up. It’s a short turnaround. We’re not here for very long. As much time as you can spend with your friends, you try to do it.”

He also wanted to give a shout out to the Dallas fans, who turned out in droves, over 17,000 for Saturday’s game.

“I thought the fans in Dallas were fantastic tonight. They came out in numbers,” McCarty said. “They obviously wanted to see a good game and I think they saw that. I think they saw a very good game.”

But he admits when he looks at the current FCD roster, one he used to be part of, he sees even more changes have been made by former coach Schellas Hyndman.

“Schellas has made a lot of changes to the team that made it to MLS Cup last year. Those guys that he’s brought in have done a very good job for him,” McCarty said. “They were hard to play against tonight. The heat was a factor because they’re used to it and we’re not.”

And since he’s not one who usually deals in hyperbole, when he said Saturday’s win was huge for him and his teammates, he wasn’t exaggerating in the least.

“This was something that I think we needed for our team. It was gut check time so to speak,” McCarty said. “We’ve been drawing way too many games because we’ve been soft. I think tonight was a big step in the right direction toward changing our mentality and being tougher to play against.”

Also, considering that win came with a first 11 devoid of Rafael Marquez, Jan Gunnar Solli and Thierry Henry, who didn’t even make the trip because of a chronic Achilles issue, beating FCD, who was without top flank players Marvin Chavez and Brek Shea, remains a considerable achievement.

“We’re a good team and we should be getting better results but I think tonight, it’s good to just get a win, especially against a very good team on the road. That could be a season saver,” McCarty said. “We’re in a very tough playoff battle with all the playoff teams in the East. You cannot afford to drop games in this league. It’s a great step in the right direction for us. We need to keep pushing. The playoffs are the most important thing because once you’re in the playoffs, anything can happen. Look what my old team in Dallas did last year.”

Fan favorite Dax McCarty returns to Pizza Hut Park

September, 16, 2011
9/16/11
9:03
PM CT
On Saturday night, Dax McCarty returns to the place he called home for much of the last five years, Pizza Hut Park. But this time, the former FC Dallas midfielder will do so as a visitor as he now plays for the New York Red Bulls. McCarty has actually changed teams twice since FCD left him exposed in the 2010 Expansion Draft.

Vancouver first took him in that draft before trading him to DC United. But midway through this season, he was dealt to New York. And on July 23 when FCD and the Red Bulls met at Red Bull Arena, McCarty was in the first 11 for the first time against his former side. That match ended in a 2-2 draw but McCarty and his new team get a second crack at Dallas on Saturday night at the Oven.

FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman admits that on one hand, he is a bit surprised to see McCarty change teams twice. But then again, he’s not considering that player moves often come down to situational factors, which he definitely feels are at the root of him being traded by DC earlier this year.

“What ends up happening is you’re looking for something and you think you have the answer. Then, the player comes in and you go, we have that already. Maybe this wasn’t a good move. Maybe we need a flank player, a fullback or a back-up defender or back-up goalie, so now you move a player on again. I don’t think it really has anything to the quality of the player. I think it’s more situational,” Hyndman said. “I would expect to see Dax McCarty have a very good performance tomorrow because again, the external motivation of being back here.”

And even though he’s going to be playing for the enemy, his former teammates will welcome him with open arms.

“Dax is great friends with so many of us. Before the game, it’s always nice to see someone that you’re close with and haven’t seen in a while,” FCD defender Zach Loyd said. “We’re just focusing on us right now, us coming out and getting three points and getting in these playoffs.”

Fellow defender Ugo Ihemelu added: “I’m looking forward to it. I’m sure the fans are going to be excited to see him. He’s going to be excited to be back here because I know he really enjoyed his time in Dallas. I think it’s going to be a good game. He’s a really good player with a lot of talent. So, he’s going to be dangerous. Whenever a guy comes back to his old team to play at home, that’s just a little extra motivation and that can make a big difference. I’m sure he’s going to be out to make an impact on this game and leave his mark.”

Ihemelu’s partner in the Dallas central defense, George John, also weighed in on facing McCarty for the first time in Frisco.

“Dax, I played two years with him here, always a great guy. I don’t think it’s going to be weird,” John said. “I’ve played against a lot of old friends within the league. It’s just part of the job. I’m looking forward to seeing him.”

FCD starting goalkeeper Kevin Hartman also offered his thoughts.

“I wouldn’t consider it weird. I think certainly it’s a great opportunity to see someone that we have a great deal of respect for,” Hartman said. “I think that you always understand that there’s that added stimulation for him to score. You want to make sure that you try to keep things in check as best as possible but you can’t over concentrate on one thing. You don’t want to go out of your way to think ill of a friend.”

FC Dallas scattershooting: June 27, 2011

June, 28, 2011
6/28/11
1:55
AM CT
Several interesting thoughts on FC Dallas covering a wide array of different subjects, so here are a few random things about the reigning Western Conference champions.

Shea’s Art a Big Seller

The art show that included several pieces from FCD midfielder Brek Shea on Sunday was a big success. Shea said every one of his pieces got sold and that all told, the event raised some $10,000 for the FC Dallas Foundation. He had 10 total pieces in Sunday’s exhibition but the most interesting story might have surrounded the one work that wasn’t officially in the show. That piece, which was on display, was seen by Hunt Sports Group President Dan Hunt and he promptly bought it. Shea said he goes to his studio to work on his art usually on Mondays after a game and also on Tuesdays, which is usually the team’s day off during the week.

Gaffer Absent

Speaking of Schellas, he wasn’t in attendance for Monday morning’s workout on the stadium field in advance of Tuesday’s third-round US Open Cup match with Orlando City SC. Hyndman had what was termed a family emergency and top assistant John Ellinger led the team through drills on Monday morning. Schellas will be back at the helm on Tuesday and will coach the team in their first match of the 2011 USOC.

McCarty Dealt Yet Again

From the category of no one saw this one coming, DC United has traded ex-FCD midfielder Dax McCarty to the Red Bulls for Dwayne DeRosario. It’s the second time each player has been traded in the past year. Of course, Dallas fans remember McCarty being taken by Portland in last fall’s MLS Expansion Draft before being dealt to the Red-and-Black while De Ro was traded to the Red Bulls in the off-season after basically going scorched earth during his time with Toronto FC.

McCarty even served as Ben Olsen’s captain for much of the 2011 season but it looks like this deal had been in the works at least for the last week, especially since McCarty lost the captaincy in favor of Josh Wolff for DC’s last game. As for De Rosario, he never came close to being the player in New York that Red Bulls brass thought he’d be. Then again, he didn’t exactly set the world on fire in Toronto either. His best days were in Houston and before that San Jose and maybe it’s time to say that De Ro has had it. Still, have to feel for Dax getting dealt yet again but maybe this is a much better situation for him than he was in with DC. At least the Red Bulls made the playoffs last year, something United still looks to be light years away from doing.

Talkin ‘Bout Practice-April 28, 2011

April, 29, 2011
4/29/11
1:27
AM CT
FC Dallas was on the stadium field at Pizza Hut Park for Thursday morning’s session. Normally, the gaffer likes to get on the big pitch the day before a home game but with EdgeFest invading the Oven on Saturday, this morning marked the only time before Sunday night’s tilt with the LA Galaxy that FCD will get a chance to practice on the game field.

As for injuries, nothing much to report except that Colombian wunderkind Fabian Castillo missed today’s session with what we hear is a right hamstring issue. Castillo collided with the Vancouver goalkeeper during Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Whitecaps and had to leave the field early. The Soccer Sinsei talks about his injury a bit more in depth below.

But the big news was that a possible 4-4-2 shift might be in the works now that No. 10 David Ferreira is out for at least the next two months with a fractured leg suffered in Saturday’s win. Of course, Hyndman is holding his cards quite close to the vest as expected but in today’s session, Milton Rodriguez and Ruben Luna were paired up top while the central midfield featured the tandem of captain Daniel Hernandez and Andrew Jacobson.

However, there are still two days of training left this week, so this may or may not be the look fans see when David Beckham, Landon Donovan and company visit PHP on Sunday night. Some think Eric Avila might get the nod in Ferreira’s spot while others see the more-experienced Ricardo Villar as getting the highly-coveted opportunity. Wait and see is all we can say. So without further delay, here is a Q&A with the gaffer.

SCHELLAS HYNDMAN Q&A

On the 10-game suspension Brian Mullan got for his hard tackle on Steve Zakuani

“I think it’s a tough one for any coach to make a comment about any type of suspensions, especially when it’s not even your player. But I do think the directive from the league was to protect the player on the ball and I keep going back to that statement. That’s Zakuani. That’s Ferreira. That’s Castillo, Mullan. That’s for anybody, anybody with the ball, I think we have to protect. Injuries like these last two with Ferreira and Zakuani, I think just brings that back to the surface again.”


On the tackle that took Ferreira out on Saturday

“Jonathan Leathers is not a dirty player. He worked as hard as he can to block the cross that could have led to the goal. He left his feet and unfortunately, was a hard, behind-the-ball tackle but no foul was called.”


On if he plans to petition the league to punish Leathers for said tackle

“No, I’m going to get involved with any type of area that’s not my domain.”


On his thoughts on Ferreira’s absence and who could replace him

“That void, it’s not just a void. He’s played every minute since he’s been here. MVP of the league. He’s a player that’s the most fouled player in the league because people know he makes this team move. Without him, we really need not just one player to step up but we need the whole team to kind of step up and raise their level.

It’s fine on the chalkboard and it’s all fine in the locker room but those are just plans. The action’s on the field. If we don’t have good action on the field, it’s just a hallucination, just dreaming.”


On Ferreira’s situation

“I think from what I now is that he’s still interviewing potential doctors and the swelling’s going down, which is important. And then once he’s made his decision on who he would like to do the operation, then I’m sure he’ll go through the process.”


On the biggest pro of switching to a 4-4-2

“The biggest pro is you’ve got two people up front, a little bit more of a strike force-two people who are hanging up in the box and maybe getting on knockdown balls and so forth. I think you look at most teams, most teams are playing in the 4-4-2 and most teams are playing in the 4-4-2 with two pretty good forwards.”


On if Jacobson can play the No. 10 role

“I don’t know. I think this is always an opportunity. Ricardo Villar could fill that role. Eric Avila could fill that role. We can go with two strikers-Milton and Fabian if he’s healthy or Ruben and Galindo could fill in. It’s always that analogy I use about a poor man’s blanket. You’ve got to give something up and what are you prepared to give up?”


On if he feels Avila is better on the wing than he is in a more central role

“I don’t know if we’ve ever had a situation where we had him inside because we’ve always had David, so it was hard to measure him on the inside. When he did play in the middle, in the midfield, he always played along with David. He never was in that position.”


On Castillo’s injury status

“I think he’ll be fine. We’re hoping that he’ll be fine for this weekend. He took a pretty bad hit with the goalkeeper that took him out of the game. He has a very sore hip pointer but we’re training him. He was unable to go today but it looks like he’s getting a little bit more comfortable in opening up and sprinting.”


On if Castillo has adjusted well

“Yeah, I think he’s adjusting to the team. I don’t know if he understands the play of the league yet-the athleticism, the physical play, the officiating, the demands on the road. I don’t know if he understands those type of things but again, he’s 18 going on 19. He shows us some wonderful moments. What we’re trying to do is extend those moments into a longer period of time.”


On if he’s getting enough consistency from Chavez thus far

“I think Marvin came in probably the best player in preseason and I think he was probably the most fit and the most prepared because he was with Honduras national team and training. So he came into preseason game sharp. Everyone else is catching up and I think that’s probably what you’re seeing. That inconsistency is everybody else is catching up.”


On what he told the team after Ferreira’s injury

“The thing is, you can only beat up players to a point. You have to be able to give facts and reality. The fact is that David is injured and he’ll be missing part of the season. How much of that I don’t know. But the fact of it is that he’s the MVP of the league and the player that everyone is trying to stop that earned the most-fouled player in the league. Those are the facts.

We will look for players and we’re challenging players to step up their game. Yes, we have depth. We have players that we can come in and fill but it’s kind of ridiculous to say we have someone on our team that can replace David. That’s the BS part that you want to stay away from. There’s going to be life without David. Everybody’s just going to have to pick up their game a little bit and if it’s just five percent. If all you can give is another five percent, we’ll take it. Five percent across the board, if everyone gives five percent more, then we’re looking at another 55 percent of our team’s level being raised. I’m really anxious and looking forward to the game because I think this is another opportunity to evaluate ourselves.”


On if the referees have done a good enough job of protecting players on the ball

“It’s not really me. It’s our president, Doug Quinn. It’s our ownership. I think it’s other coaches in the league because this wasn’t just a David Ferreira injury. The night before, it was a Steve Zakuani injury and I thought that game was officiated very well because there was a red card given immediately and a player was hurt.

In our game, I think Jonathan Leathers went for the ball the best way he could. It was a hard, aggressive tackle. It was a tackle that was from behind and I know for certain there was no intention of hurting David. Jonathan Leathers is not a so-called dirty player. He’s an aggressive player and he didn’t want to get the ball across. I think the fact that the referee did not call a foul is a statement in itself. I think that’s about as clear and as much as I can talk about it.”


On being on the stadium field on Thursday instead of the day before the game

“Yeah and this is why we came out tonight because of the concert, we can’t come out on Saturday because they’re going to lay it down. But we wanted to get on it. Last year, we were able to put it into policy that we were on it the day before the game.”


On what Villar could bring if he starts at the No. 10 spot

“I think Ricardo’s a very skillful player. For one thing, he’s a very skillful and a very technical player. He’s also another experienced player. The question marks come to the adjustment to the league-the speed of play and the intensity, the physical play and being a two-way player. Those are question marks but at least he’s got a good head start by being skillful and experienced.”


On how possible a switch to the 4-4-2 is

“We’re looking at it. It makes sense not having a player like David there and maybe not having a player that can carry that load, it makes sense to go with two strikers. But it’s also a change of system. It’s a change of shape and it may take more than two or three days of training.”


On if it makes more sense to shift into a 4-4-2 now that David is out of the lineup

“On the chalkboard, in the locker room and coaches’ meetings, yes. Does that transfer into what’s happening on the field? I’m not quite sure.”


On how much he likes the tandem of Hernandez and Jacobson in the central midfield

“I think it’s been a nice combination. We lost a very good player in Dax McCarty because he was a box-to-box player. But I think at the end of the year, Dax McCarty scored two goals and then if you look historically, Dax was a player that was a great connector. He wasn’t a good defending midfielder and he wasn’t a good attacking midfielder but he was a great connector.

I think what Andrew brings is the potential to be that good connector but he just brings a little bit more size and with some of the smaller and younger players out there, he helps us.”


On if he feels like his back four is now set

“Yeah, outside of Heath Pearce, this is our back four. If you think about our game against LA last year without Heath Pearce whenever he was serving a game suspension and then when we got back, he pulled a hamstring on fitness running, we missed him the whole playoff series. This is really the same back four from the whole playoff series.”


On what kind of atmosphere he expects on Sunday night vs. the Galaxy

“I give complete credit to our marketing and sales department who worked awfully hard to sell all the seats. I think they’re obviously one of the best teams in the league. They’re the Supporters’ Shield champions. We took away the Western Conference championship from them. A lot of emotions maybe coming into this game and I’m really looking forward to this game because it’s a great opportunity to evaluate our team against a good opponent and how our team needs to continue to improve without David Ferreira.”


Stream of Consciousness: San Jose Earthquakes at FC Dallas

March, 27, 2011
3/27/11
9:14
AM CT
Disclaimer: DJ Walkers Stream of Consciousness is exactly what it says it is, a stream of consciousness while watching the game. It's not a match report, but is rather meant to be entertaining. Hopefully you find it so, even if unconventional.


Ricardo Salazar, the Ed Hochuli of American soccer, is your referee tonight. They don't really look alike, but their arms were definitely separated at birth.

Much smaller crowd tonight, compared to the home opener. Unfortunate, but not terribly surprising. These things take time. After all, Seattle can't sell out their stadium either.

Wait. Bad analogy. Never mind.

Wait. Wait one minute. What did I miss? Where's Brek Shea? I he with the National Team? Did he get kidnapped by aliens? Swept up in an immigration raid? You know how those immigration folks always pick on blonde-haired blue-eyed Anglo types.

Why is he neither on the field or on the bench? See, if I spent more time on the Internets, and wasted less time reading books and going to work, I would know these things. I feel so out-of-the-loop.

I know he was having a little trouble adjusting to center back, but certainly he hasn't gone and inherited the Dax McCarty memorial doghouse suite at the Hyndman Arms Hotel. Has he?

OH! OF COURSE! Now I remember. Red card last weekend. Duh.

I should start taking that herbal supplement that helps with memory enhancement; but for the life of me I can't remember what it's called.

Speaking of central defense – Chris Wondolowski beats ours for his first goal of the season, only four minutes in to the game. Well, we've always been a slow-starting team. No need to panic. He was only the Golden Boot winner last year; it's not like we were going to keep him off the board forever. Maybe he has it out of his system now, and will be a nice boy, playing quietly with the other children.

Millions upon millions of dollars spent on Designated Players last year, and lil' Wondo from Chico State, a 41st pick in the supplemental draft, leads the league in scoring. I absolutely love that. I hope the kid at least got a raise this year. Fredy Montero did, and he hasn't scored since, like, August or something.

Apparently it's cold and windy in Frisco tonight. I see some folks on the East side with blankets. Of course, the crowd is so quiet, I'm pretty sure I can hear them discussing whether it's really cold enough for a blanket, and whether pink is really the right color for a soccer game.

Oh, again with the goal, Wondolowski? 2-0 and it's not even 25 minutes in to the game yet? I'm telling you, what with the porous defense and sparse crowd, this game is taking on an eerily 2009-ish type of vibe. I actually just shivered at the thought.

Must remain calm. Must carry on.

Non Sequitur Alert: I think Wondolowski's nickname should be The Dude, because Wondolowski rhymes with Lebowski. Just a thought. Either way, he's thrashing us like a gang of German nihilists.

This is not good. I'm so desperately trying to remain positive, I'm actually going to type the following sentence:

So, we've made it to halftime only down 2-0. Not bad.

It physically hurt typing that sentence. Like stubbed toe.

I hope this gets better.

We're in the second half now, and, oh, wow, Jon Busch just robbed Milton Rodriguez. Robbed him like he had shares in Lehman Brothers. Robbed him like he left a window open at the pawn shop. Robbed him like he was flashing money at the bus station.

If you get my point.

Now things are getting interesting. Fabian Castillo is in the game, replacing Ricardo Villar.

He's a baby – 18 years old. And, he looks even younger. He'll have more trouble getting a driver's license than he did getting a work visa.

He's been on the field five minutes and he's already blown by a good percentage of of the Earthquakes. Some of them, twice. Fast, this kid is. Fast. Like Rocky in Rocky II after Mickey made him chase chickens fast.

Bah! I hope Jon Busch will have a change of heart and give Milton Rodriguez his wallet back later, because he just upped and robbed him. Again.

Things are going better. The boys are really starting to impose themselves on San Jose. We're putting on tons of pressure, and we have most of the possession. It's a complete 180 from the first half. I wonder what Sifu Schellas said to them in the locker room. But for Busch, the score would be level right now.

Ouch. I like Ricardo Salazar, and he is without a doubt one of the better referees in MLS, but he really blew a call just now that we really needed. Ramiro Corrales brought down David Ferreira at the top of the box, and Mr. Salazar just plain missed it.

Well . . . no one's perfect. Maybe he heard Carlos Ruiz was back in the league and mistook him for David.

Ohhhhhhhhh. Young Fabian just picked up the ball on the touch line, about 40 yards from goal, made a bee line for the box, popped a little cross to the goal, only to have Milton head it over the bar. This kid is giving me goose bumps. Plus, when he's going full speed, I'm pretty sure time compresses.

Whoever found this kid and brought him to Dallas should get an immediate bonus. A bar of gold, perhaps, or one of those tiny giraffes like in the DirecTv commercial. Something.

George John barely misses pulling one back with a header. Just for the record, I'm a huge George John fan. It doesn't rise to the level of man-crush, mind you, but I really like the kid. He's got size, talent, brains, humility, and a tough, winner's attitude. No down side to this guy.

Non Sequitur Alert:

Also, did you know his Dad's name is John John? I mean, come on, how cool is that?

Another huge save by Jon Busch, this time a diving-to-the-right save off of a Ruben Luna header. Busch is getting better with age, like fine wine. Which is ironic, since he's named after beer.

Well, full time. This was about as encouraging as a 2-0 defeat could possibly be, in any alternative universe you could conjure up. Which is to say, slightly, but not very. The first half was dismal, but the second half was unquestionably better. But for a pretty nice goalkeeping job, we'd have another draw on our hands.

And, wow, Fabian Castillo. That was a nice glimpse of our future (I hope).

I'm afraid 2-0 losses at home, however, are not going to be what it takes to get big crowds to come to the park. And we need that as much as we need goals, in the long run.

Anyway, it's early in the season. Lots of soccer left to play. See you next week for The Crew.

Zip it: Chicago Fire at FC Dallas

March, 19, 2011
3/19/11
10:47
PM CT
It has been Schellas Hyndman’s dream to play Brek Shea at centerback for FC Dallas in MLS matches. On Saturday night, in the club’s 1-1 opening night draw with the Chicago Fire at Pizza Hut Park, the experiment lasted until the 55th minute when Shea was sent off with a straight red card for his foul from behind on Gaston Puerari.

Perhaps the call was a bit harsh, but it spoiled an otherwise exciting first leg of the Brimstone Cup.

Chicago would open the scoring on the night in the 17th minute from a corner kick. Lax defending and a save from Kevin Hartman laid the ball at the feet of Fire forward Diego Chaves. Chaves easily punched the ball to the back of the net, pushing Chicago into the early 1-0 lead.

Dallas would answer immediately.

After the ensuing restart, Zach Loyd beat a defender into the left side of the box, slipping the ball to the feel of Milton Rodriguez, whose deft backheel tied the score at 1-1 in the 18th minute.

It was perhaps a frustrating match for both sides. Shea’s red card certainly curtailed much of what FC Dallas wished to do in the second half. Puerari was stoned on a breakaway one-versus-one with Hartman. Hartman also played Superman twice near the end of the match as he made two very nice reaction saves off the boot of Marco Pappa.

But this match did invite some interesting observations for Dallas supporters. The prospect of Brek Shea in the back may very well be an interesting one. His size is an obvious factor, but his speed and his ability to pass and get forward on occasion are obviously exciting. Shea’s jaunt up the right flank in the first half was exciting and dangerous. Shea’s ability to attack could put serious pressure on defenses as the season moves forward if he’s playing in defense.

A less savory kind of excitement was his two obvious defensive miscues, the last leading to his early exit and absence from next week’s match. Clearly Shea’s decision-making must improve. Lapses along the flanks are not the same as in the middle of the pitch, and Shea nearly cost Dallas the match.

Another problem for Dallas in the center is the absence of Dax McCarty. While McCarty was wearing the arm-band for DC United, Eric Alexander showed few signs of handling McCarty’s vital role from a year ago. If Alexander is to prove a replacement, a improvements to his game must come, or Dallas will suffer as opponents smother the Dallas attack before it even starts.

But it’s early yet; one match does not indicate how an entire season will play out. Hopefully next week will possibly provide some more answers.

Scoring Summary:
CHI – Diego Chavez 17
DAL – Milton Rodriguez (Zach Loyd) 19

Misconduct Summary:
CHI - Cory Gibbs (caution; tactical foul) 30
DAL – Jackson (caution; unsporting behavior) 35
DAL – Daniel Hernandez (caution; reckless tackle) 37
DAL – Brek Shea (ejection; denied goal scoring opportunity) 55
CHI – Michael Videira (caution; unsporting behavior) 60
CHI – Josip Mikulic (caution; unsporting behavior) 72
CHI – Segares (caution; reckless tackle)

FC Dallas – Kevin Hartman, Jackson, George John, Brek Shea, Zach Loyd, Marvin Chavez, Eric Alexander (Andrew Jacobson 73), Daniel Hernandez, Eric Avila (Ugo Ihemelu 63), David Ferreira, Milton Rodriguez (Ruben Luna 66).

TOTAL SHOTS: 16 (David Ferreira 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (Jackson, Ferreira, Rodriguez 1); FOULS: 11 (Daniel Hernandez 2); OFFSIDES: 1 (Rodriguez 1); CORNER KICKS: 5 (Ferreira 5); SAVES: 5 (Kevin Hartman 5)

Subs not used: Chris Seitz, Bruno Guarda, Ugo Ihemelu, Andrew Jacobson, Ruben Luna, Ricardo Villar, Bobby Warshaw.

Chicago Fire – Sean Johnson, Bratislav Ristic (Patrick Nyarko 42), Jalil Anibaba, Josip Mikulic, Cory Gibbs, Logan Pause, Marco Pappa, Gonzalo Segares, Michael Videira (Baggio Husidic 62), Gaston Puerari, Diego Chaves (Orr Barouch 75).

TOTAL SHOTS: 10 (Diego Chaves 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 6 (six players tied with one); FOULS: 18 (Pappa 4); OFFSIDES: 1 (Barouch 1); CORNER KICKS: 5 (Puerari 3); SAVES: 2 (Sean Johnson 2)

Subs not used: Jon Conway, Dan Paladini, Davis Paul, Dansan Robinson.

Weather: Clear, 81 degrees
Referee: Terry Vaughn
Referee Assistants: George Gassner, Adam Wienckowski
4th Official: Elias Bazakos

FC Dallas 2011 Preview

March, 18, 2011
3/18/11
11:32
AM CT
Well, it’s finally here, the start of the 2011 MLS regular season. And for FC Dallas fans, that means it’s time for renewed optimism surrounding their beloved club, the reigning Western Conference champions. Of course, much of the cast is back for more, including reigning league MVP David Ferreira along with solid veteran goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, up-and-coming midfielder and sometimes center back Brek Shea and Honduran speedster Marvin Chavez.

But there were some notable departures from last year’s league runner-up. At forward, Jeff Cunningham and his 11 goals will be missed but the veteran scorer did most of his damage off the bench in 2010. Still, it would’ve been nice to see No. 9 become the league’s all-time leading goal scorer in an FCD shirt but what’s done is done.

And in the midfield, there is a pair of departures with linking mid Dax McCarty, who is the new captain for DC United, being the biggest loss. But seeing right mid Atiba Harris was another notable loss but Chavez is clearly an upgrade in several ways. About the only other personnel change of note that hasn’t been mentioned was at right back where Heath Pearce was shipped off to Chivas USA earlier in preseason. Pearce never really was on the bus that FCD gaffer Schellas Hyndman so eloquently speaks of, so he was traded. Now, versatile Brazilian Jackson is the new right back.

And there are some new faces, including a new backup goalkeeper in Chris Seitz, Brazilian midfielder Ricardo Villar, who could be McCarty’s long-term replacement in the middle and young forward Fabian Castillo, a Colombian striker who heads to MLS after a solid early career in South America. But the big question on everyone’s mind is, will FCD finish the job and win MLS Cup in 2011? That one won’t be decided for several months but with a solid returning cast, this club remains one of the top contenders in the West and the league for that matter. So, a title is definitely within the realm of possibility.

GOALKEEPER

Hartman was an absolute rock between the posts last year before that unfortunate collision with New York’s Thierry Henry last September at Pizza Hut Park resulted in a knee injury that shelved him for much of the rest of the regular season. To his credit, the veteran goalkeeper returned and was his former self in the playoffs.

Before his injury, Big Kev was one of the top candidates for MLS Goalkeeper of the Year but missing so many games basically took him out of the running. Still, he brings a calming influence to the FCD back four and one shouldn’t discount the positive effect his addition had on making this side a much tougher club to score against in 2010.

If Hartman can remain healthy in 2011 and shows similar form to what he did one year ago, then there isn’t any reason to think he won’t contend for and possibly win the league’s top ‘keeper award for a third time in his storied career. And now that FCD has a viable backup in Seitz, giving Kevin a rest when he needs it isn’t a bad thing.

Nothing against last year’s backup Dario Sala but it was clear that the Argentine ‘keeper just didn’t have the range of movement he once did and when Sala was pressed into duty during Hartman’s absence, it quickly became clear that the club needed an upgrade at backup keeper. They got that in acquiring Seitz from the Union for basically nothing.

The ex-Maryland Terrapin also figures to get his share of playing time as FCD will also play in the CONCACAF Champions League, US Open Cup and possibly SuperLiga this year in addition to whatever international friendlies the club books throughout the season. So, with a one-two punch of Hartman and Seitz, the FCD goalkeeping corps is again a big strength.

Josh Lambo is still on the roster mostly due to his Generation adidas status and is the third ‘keeper. He could go out on loan again like he did in 2010 to get more seasoning. And the club also has Home Grown ‘keeper Richard Sanchez, who is only 16 but could represent the future between the posts for this club.

DEFENSE

Even though he will miss FCD’s season opener on Saturday against Chicago because of a preseason spitting incident against Houston, Jair Benitez is entrenched at left back. He is somewhat of a polarizing player. While some see him as an absolute rock who is one of the best players in the back, others get nervous by his occasional lack of poise like the red card he got last year at Houston, which also netted him a suspension and which was also seen earlier this year against the Dynamo in preseason.

Maybe the Colombian defender just hates Houston, which should further endear him to FCD supporters but Benitez’s decision making at times has to be called into question. Still, he remains the best option on the left side. Zach Loyd will fill in for him against the Fire but he is much better in a more central role. That means Hyndman will go with Benitez until someone else better steps up, which appears unlikely.

In the middle, it is something of a mixed bag. The rangy George John has recovered from his off-season surgery to remove bone spurs from his ankle and after missing the early stages of preseason, has shown he is back to his old self. That’s definitely a good thing for FCD.

However, his usual center back partner, Ugo Ihemelu, won’t be ready for the season opener after having surgery to repair a sports hernia earlier in preseason. Brek Shea will shift over from his usual spot at left mid to fill in and yes, the big Texas native does present some intriguing possibilities at center back.

Most notably, Shea’s size and toughness could make him a good central defender in the future but it will take him some time to get used to the intricacies of being a great center back. The ideal scenario sees Ihemelu return to full health, reclaim his old spot, which would send Shea back to the left flank, where he can realistically still help this team the most but watching him in the back will be intriguing to say the least.

With the departure of Pearce, Jackson is the new starter at right back. The versatile Brazilian played in a number of spots last year and has nice pace along with a solid soccer IQ. He should be a solid replacement for Heath and fits the vision of a Hyndman fullback as a guy who can handle his defensive responsibilities yet still get up and down the flanks to provide doses of offense when possible. A goal or two along with several assists isn’t too much to ask from him in 2011.

Along with Loyd, 2011 draftee Bobby Warshaw gives FCD considerable cover at center back. Once Kyle Davies returns from ankle surgery, which won’t be for at least two more months, he too could provide some cover in the back for Hyndman. Forward Andrew Wiedeman has also been seeing a lot of action at right back but would only be pressed into duty with the first team unless an absolute emergency arose. Still, he could see some time there in reserve games or any of the other competitions FCD is in this year. Homegrown talent Moises Hernandez could also get a look as the season progresses.

MIDFIELD

Of course, Ferreira leads the way as the reigning MVP and the man who makes this entire attack go. In 2010, “El Torito” was the most fouled player in MLS and that total could grow even further in 2011 as he is now even more of a marked man as the reigning MVP. So, the obvious question with the Colombian dynamo is can he take a similar beating in 2011?

Hyndman and FCD fans alike both hope so because in 2010, he was the soccer equivalent of a Timex watch who could take a licking and keep on ticking. It’s an obvious statement but so goes No. 10 and so goes the club. The gaffer expects clubs to focus more on containing Ferreira, which will result in him coming up with some solid countermeasures to combat bottling up FCD’s central attacking midfielder. Since there’s little reason to question his in-game adjustments at this point, there’s no doubt Hyndman will come up with something good.

Still, should the opposition be successful in taking Ferreira out of the game, that makes FCD’s flank midfielders of Shea on the left and Chavez on the right even more crucial. Both are capable of delivering pinpoint service and each starter has enough speed to stretch opposing defenses on the flanks and to draw their focus, leaving the forward(s) open up top.

Eric Avila will likely start the season opener in Shea’s place and this is clearly a huge opportunity for the amicable California native. If he doesn’t show well for himself in his latest big chance to show he belongs in the first 11, he might not get another shot. Avila has good speed, a nice touch on the ball but up until now, he has shown that he’s best suited as an instant energy guy off the bench instead of as a starter.

As for Chavez, he battled through an injury-marred early part of 2010 to become a starter on the right side late in the year and it was clear, FCD was a better team with him on the field last fall. Now with a new contract in hand and his health no longer an issue, the pressure is high for the Honduran speedster to perform. Can he deliver over a full season?

Moving inside, holding mid and captain Daniel Hernandez has recovered from off-season knee surgery but his advancing age and health concerns from 2010 still could loom large later in the year. Recent acquisition Andrew Jacobson, another Philly expatriate, looks like a solid backup option for Hernandez at that spot along with ex-SMU standout Bruno Guarda, who is facing a make or break year with FCD.

But at McCarty’s old spot, linking mid, there are some questions. It’s hard to fault FCD’s rationale for letting Dax go, especially since Eric Alexander performed so well as a fill-in while McCarty missed considerable time with a hamstring injury last summer. And even though Alexander might not have performed as well as some would have expected this preseason, he remains the answer there until proven otherwise.

But if the ex-Hoosier does take a step back in year two, there are other possibilities. Newcomer Villar has shown pretty well for himself since arriving early in preseason but health has been an issue for the Brazilian midfielder. So, that could leave Guarda as another possibility. He also hasn’t done much in preseason but maybe he feels this is his last shot to stick with FCD and if given a chance, might decide to make the most of his opportunity. Fans saw it just a few years back at SMU but that Bruno Guarda seems like a completely different player compared to what he’s been in his first few years in MLS.

There are also two Home Grown players to mention here. Of course, the first is Bryan Leyva, who made his first-team debut last year but has struggled to adjust to being a professional, namely when it comes to his fitness. If Leyva can become fit, then he could also get a look. Big Victor Ulloa, also a product of the FCD youth system, is another possibility for the future but he also needs some seasoning.

FORWARD

This could be the biggest question mark for FCD in 2011. Cunningham is gone but it looks like fellow veteran Milton Rodriguez, who had five goals in 13 games, looks to be the starter at least for the near future in Hyndman’s 4-1-4-1. Rodriguez joined FCD last July and considering the substantial hype his signing got before the fact, the results were somewhat disappointing. What can he do with a larger sample size? Hopefully score more goals and maybe provide more assists, at least that’s the hope.

But the minutes Milton receives could depend on if and when Hyndman and his staff feel 19-year-old phenom Ruben Luna is ready. The Home Grown player is clearly FCD’s striker of the future and like Leyva, made his first-team debut last year. He is an exciting, young player who has good speed and a clinical approach around the net that has the FCD faithful salivating at the mere possibilities surrounding this local product starting up top. But when will he be ready?

FCD also has Peri Marosevic at striker but in his first two years, the ex-Michigan Wolverine hasn’t shown a ton and has yet to see any action with the first team. Wiedeman is in his second year and as previously mentioned, has seen most of his recent action at right back. Home Grown talent Jonathan Top is another possibility but like the rest of the FCD youth system products, he figures to need additional experience, which could come in reserve games and friendlies, before he’s ready for his big chance.

However, the wild card in this equation is 18-year-old Colombian Castillo. He has yet to join FCD and there’s no telling when that might happen since the club is waiting for him to get his visa. And once he does join the team, there is the whole question of how fit he will be once he arrives and how long it will take for him to be comfortable enough with his new teammates and in Hyndman’s 4-1-4-1 to make his MLS debut? Honestly, it could be a month or more before FCD fans get their first look at Castillo but once Hyndman feels he’s ready, he will be out there. The only question might be if the gaffer decides to switch to a 4-4-2 formation, possibly with a young duo of Luna and Castillo up top or if he decides to stick with the one-striker setup that served FCD so well in 2010?

A few notes, links, and other bits

March, 17, 2011
3/17/11
2:27
PM CT
Soccer America, continuing their positional rankings, has FCD's back four at #4 in the league.

4. FC DALLAS. Ugo Ihemelu and George John are primed to emerge as one of the league’s best central tandems, though the Brek Shea Experiment is an interesting study. Jackson has big shoes to fill, those of Heath Pearce, at right back. Jair Benitez on the left is money.


Soccer America has the FCD midfield at #4 also.

4. FC DALLAS. The loss of Dax McCarty is a huge hole to fill, but Coach Schellas Hyndman has Eric Alexander and other options. David Ferreira is the top No. 10 in MLS, Marvin Chavez is an emerging star on the right flank, and if Brek Shea lines up on the left he’ll contribute his height and hunger to score. Daniel Hernandez is still spry at 35 (in July).


A couple of ex-FCD strikers are floating around MLS. Here's a Q&A with Jeff Cunningham in Columbus. Carlos Ruiz is now in Philly. Last, but not least, Kenny Cooper is in Portland and looking to get back to his FCD form.

Following up the Jair Benitez suspension, Jeff Cameron has a comment in the Houston Chronicle.
I don’t really have much to say. Glad the MLS decided to take action on him. Nothing happened to me. Just happy they took responsibility, and now we can all move on.


Brian Ching declined to comment.

The Dallas Business Journal is still tracking the FCD jersey thing. Not much new in their blurb, but it's nice to see a publication like the DBJ paying attention to MLS.

"Main stream" media getting ready for the start of the season. WFAA has a feature on FCD you can watch here.

MLS is climbing onto the Ruben Luna bandwagon. It's starting to get crowded, thankfully I got my seat early.
F Ruben Luna, FC Dallas (pictured above)

FC Dallas currently top MLS with six Home Grown signings. And while three or four of them might be able to sneak some minutes this year, one of the strongest candidates to put together a solid campaign is Luna, a 19-year-old forward from Mexico. His six goals in preseason give him a chance at seeing some playing time when the season begins against Chicago on Saturday.

Dax McCarty has been named captain for DC United.

Francisco "Panchito" Mendoza apparently saw executions while playing in Juarez, Mexico. As you can imagine, he's happy to be back in MLS.
I really saw bad things. I saw executions. But I never got scared. I think when I got there, I knew what I was getting into. I tried to think about the positive side of things: how nice people treated me there, and it's one of the cities that has treated me the best. But to tell you the truth, I saw a lot of stuff. But that's something you don't want to mess with, because the last thing you want is trouble.

What's going in Toronto with Dwayne De Rosario reminds me of what some FCD players were saying during the Micheal Hitchock era.

Ever wonder what happened to Denilson?



DENILSON (FC Dallas). The Brazilian broke a world record when he commanded a transfer fee of $32 million in 1998, but by the time he debuted with Dallas in September 2007 his career was on a downward slide. He lasted only 11 games before Dallas decided not to pick up his option. He spent the 2008 season on the bench at Palmeiras in Brazil before moving on to Vietnam, where he lasted three weeks, and Greece, where was released by Kavala after having failed to make an appearance in three months.


FC Dallas having a hard time replacing Dax McCarty

March, 2, 2011
3/02/11
8:59
AM CT
Just a few days after losing to Colorado in the 2010 MLS Cup final, FC Dallas made news by leaving starting linking midfielder Dax McCarty exposed in the Expansion Draft. It wasn’t a big shock when McCarty was taken by Portland and then summarily traded to DC United.

The move brought an interesting reaction from FCD fans and media types. Many felt the move was puzzling considering that McCarty was one of the club’s longest-tenured players having been with the team since 2006 and when healthy, had been a key part of the club’s success last season as a rock in the middle of the yard.

But as the team’s rationale for leaving Dax unprotected surfaced, it was quickly learned that one player’s emergence was the big reason why McCarty was allowed to walk basically for nothing, Eric Alexander. The 2010 third-round pick from Indiana had performed well while filling in for McCarty during a lengthy absence with a leg injury last summer, a performance that caught the eye of US national team head coach Bob Bradley, who invited him to the team’s January 2011 camp in Los Angeles.

FCD also brought in Brazilian-born Ricardo Villar, who played for club TD Barry Gorman at Penn State, early in preseason. He was expected to vie for the starting spot with Alexander but now the position looks like a pretty big question mark. Here’s a closer look.

Eric Alexander

No doubt that the ex-Hoosier’s emergence in the second half of the season was a big story last year. Alexander also earned a well-deserved invite to the US national team’s January camp. But it’s time to ask the question, what has he done lately? The Michigan native hasn’t been very sharp either in games or practices during preseason and has quickly gone from being a guy many felt they could count on in 2011 to a major question mark going forward.

But if you look at Eric’s rookie season, there is some precedent for what's happening now. He got some minutes early in the year but then disappeared and didn't get any more PT with the first team for several months. As it turns out, Hyndman pulled him inside in the middle of the year and the two had a heart-to-heart chat about him hitting the proverbial rookie wall.

The Dallas gaffer basically told Alexander that he had to step it up and to his credit, he responded. Have Hyndman and his young midfielder had a similar chat already this preseason? If not, then that conversation could be nigh. And if Alexander responds in similar fashion, then he could be the answer in the wake of McCarty’s absence.

But if he doesn’t find his form before the end of preseason, is there any reason to expect him to find it during the regular season?

Eric Avila

With Villar still on the shelf due to his leg injury, Avila has been getting some runs in the linking spot. He spelled Alexander in the game with Houston last Saturday. Avi also played a more central role in several earlier preseason games and honestly, the results were far from pretty.

It’s abundantly clear that Avila is more comfortable as a wing midfielder. When he did get some time inside, he displayed a tendency to drift to the flanks, which isn’t all that unexpected considering that’s where he has played for most of the last few years.

In fact, after the Houston Baptist scrimmage two weeks ago, Hyndman commented on Avila’s performance in the middle and the always brutally honest gaffer basically said the California native would best serve the club as a flank player.

Andrew Jacobson

One player who could be the wildcard in all this is recently-acquired defender/midfielder Andrew Jacobson, who came over from Philadelphia just prior to the SMU game. Jacobson is a defensive midfielder by trade who can also play center back. Is it a huge stretch to think he could maybe slide over and play linking mid if the need arose?

Jacobson has good size at 6-3, considerably bigger than the smaller stature that McCarty brought to the position, but there is the question of his experience, or possible lack thereof, at that particular position and how long, or short, his learning curve could be there.

Jacobson was brought in primarily to be an insurance policy should captain and starting d-mid Daniel Hernandez not be ready to go for the start of the regular season. But now that Hernandez looks like he’s almost up to speed and back to 100 percent, why not take a serious look at Jacobson in the linking role? After all, that’s what preseason is for, trying new things, and Hyndman has been known to throwing on the mad scientist hat and throwing something out there to see if it sticks.

Ricardo Villar

As was previously mentioned, Villar was brought in after an interesting run abroad, most recently in Germany’s third division, to be the likely answer for McCarty at the linking spot. He did play in the first few preseason games and looked OK but it was clear that fitness was an issue.

Hyndman even alluded to that fact and said it would likely take as long as a few weeks for the Brazilian-born midfielder to get his fitness where it needed to be. From what he’s shown thus far, there is little reason to doubt his ability to fill the role on the field but with the March 19 season opener now less than three weeks away, but with the current injury time is truly running out for Villar to make his push to start the year in the first 11.

Villar was held out of the SMU scrimmage and also didn’t play in either of the two games in Florida. Who knows what his status will be for FCD’s current excursion out to Arizona, but if he’s not back in the mix and with just one preseason game left after they get back, it isn’t inconceivable to think he starts the year on the bench, a far cry from the role many thought he’d fill when he came to Frisco not that long ago.

The Dax McCarty question

January, 30, 2011
1/30/11
7:57
PM CT
Going into the 2011 off-season it seemed FCD had left themselves a few holes to fill. Some spots, like backup center back, weren’t of urgent need, while others, like striker, were, and are, at the top of the list.

Over the next couple days we’ll look at a few of these questions to try and decide whether they have, or have not, been addressed.

Question #1: Central Midfield (aka the Dax McCarty question)

Perhaps the biggest individual player loss of the winter for FCD was the loss of Dax McCarty in the expansion draft. Or so it would seem. McCarty was a key cog in midfield, linking play from the back line to Ferreira and the offense. McCarty had a terrific season, made it into the US senior side, and his loss leaves a gaping hole in the starting lineup and roster. FCD must do something about filling the spot.

It would be silly, however, to think FCD was caught off guard in leaving McCarty exposed. FCD knew the draft was coming and protected the player they felt had more long term value and potential: Eric Alexander.

As much as I like McCarty’s game, and I really think the kid can really play, I think we all know he was never one of Hyndman’s boys. Occasionally at conflict, and never really 100% a Hyndman fan, the relationship between McCarty and coach was, in my view, cordial and respectful but not much more.

To Hyndman I think McCarty was always a bit of a tweener, didn’t have a lot of size, wasn't a wonderful defender, and could be a little injury prone. Part of the valuation that led to his departure is McCarty’s cap cost. McCarty’s significantly larger contract ($165,000) is likely to go up now he’s in the US pool and playing well. His probable rising cost is a legit concern in a cap tight league, at least relative to Alexander’s $40,000 (Though Alexander should be getting a raise I would think).

Just a week or so ago, FCD Technical Director Barry Gorman said everything was in place for the acquisition of a European midfielder FCD was lining up about a month before. We should see something on him soon according to Gorman. The speed with which FCD moved on this signing tells us FCD more than likely was looking for someone well before they lost McCarty. That alone for me is quite telling. Is said midfielder the linked Ricardo Villar who once played for Barry Gorman? We don’t know yet.

In addition to this hypothetical European, FCD picked Bobby Warshaw, a holding mid and/or center back out of Stanford. A holding midfielder helps in the Dax McCarty spot because his presence should free Eric Alexander, a player Hyndman clearly really likes, from backing up Daniel Hernandez. Can Alexander win and hold down McCarty’s spot? Possible… only time will tell. I wouldn’t be to upset to see Alexander start the year in that spot.

Unfortunately at this point we don’t know if either of these moves will solve the McCarty problem and we might not know until well into the season. Perhaps not even till the end of 2011.

So check back… um, well I’m not sure when.

MLS Cup 2011 time maybe.

Dax McCarty goal in US camp

January, 27, 2011
1/27/11
10:34
AM CT
The ESPN editors passed along this little video of a nice Dax McCarty goal in US camp for me to share with everyone. No, he doesn't play for Dallas anymore, but it's still a nice goal, even if it's in training.

Enjoy.

David Ferreira Named FC Dallas Most Valuable Player

November, 30, 2010
11/30/10
7:04
PM CT
It will come as no shock given he was named league MVP, but none the less David Ferreira has been named FC Dallas Most Valuable Player. Ferreira notched eight goals and thirteen assists on the season.

Kevin Hartman was also named FC Dallas defender of the year, Jeff Cunningham received the golden boot, and Daniel Hernandez was named Humanitarian of the Year. Hartman set a league-record 0.62 goals-against average and 11 shutouts in 20 regular season games. Cunningham earned the Golden Boot with a team-best 11 goals. Hernandez received the Humanitarian of the Year for his work with the Christopher Reeve Foundation.

Here's the FCD press release on the local media voted awards.

Ferreira, Hartman, Hernandez and Cunningham earn FC Dallas team awards

FRISCO, Texas (Nov. 30, 2010) – Midfielder David Ferreira has earned the FC Dallas Most Valuable Player award, while Goalkeeper Kevin Hartman is the team’s Defender of the Year, as voted by the local media.

Jeff Cunningham is the team’s Budweiser Golden Boot winner for his team-best 11 goals, while team captain Daniel Hernandez is the MLS W.O.R.K.S. Humanitarian of the Year, as chosen by the FC Dallas Foundation.

Ferreira was named the 2010 Volkswagen MLS Most Valuable Player and to the 2010 MLS Best XI following a season that saw the Colombian international tally eight goals and 13 assists. During the Dallas side’s playoff run, Ferreira added two goals and three assists, helping guide FC Dallas to its first MLS Cup appearance and a Western Conference Championship.

Although Ferreira finished the regular season as the most fouled player in the league with 84 fouls suffered, he still played every game, missing just one minute of action all year. Ferreira earned a spot on the MLS All-Star squad this season, playing 45 minutes against Manchester United in the 2010 AT&T MLS All-Star game on July 28.

A finalist for MLS Goalkeeper of the Year with a league-record 0.62 goals-against average and 11 shutouts in 20 regular season games, Hartman was spectacular in 2010. The all-time leader in multiple MLS goalkeeping categories, including saves, wins and shutouts, Hartman made repeated spectacular saves in the Western Conference Semifinals and Final to send the Dallas side to its first MLS Cup, earning Man of the Match honors following the team’s 3-0 win at L.A. on Nov. 14.

A native of Tyler, Texas, Hernandez has a soccer field, “Estadio Daniel Demetrio Hernandez,” named after him there. He played both football and soccer at Southern Methodist University, earning NSCAA National Player of the Year in 1998 under coach Schellas Hyndman. Hernandez’s brother, Nico, also played soccer at SMU before a car accident left the promising young striker paralyzed from the chest down. Inspired by his brother’s plight, Hernandez recently reached out to the Christopher Reeve Foundation seeking ways to help the organization with its quality of life programs.

He is working with the Reeve Foundation to spread awareness about the activities available to children with paralysis, including wheelchair soccer. Hernandez is also working to set up regular visits to a local children’s hospital and is continuing his involvement with a local school called MiEscuelita. Hernandez started a MiEscuelita Cinco de Mayo Celebration when he was still a student-athlete at SMU.

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