The count is down to five days before FC Dallas players must report for pre-season training and head coach Schellas Hyndman was kind enough to take a few minutes out of his day to chat about the pre-season. This is part 1 of our 20 minute conversation. As I'll hopefully be able to get out to practice at least once next week we should have a bunch of stuff coming up soon with players but for now I think it was good to just get Schellas overall feelings on the pre-season and such. Enjoy...
In 2009 going into the pre-season you may not have been quite sure what you had, then in 2010 the mantra was "make the playoffs" the entire season. What are you going to preach to your team going into 2011?
Well I think for all coaches you want to establish a culture of winning and once you get that you want to keep it. So our mentality going in is basically trying to find the success that we found at the end of last year.
Playing a good style of soccer, players taking responsibility every game to not only do their best but to also follow their job descriptions and then at the end of the day to be competing for an MLS playoff spot. Those are the kind of things we will talk about
The one area that’s going to be different this year and an area that we have to be cautious with is expectations. I think we’ll be very realistic in what the demands and expectations we have on our players. I think from afar whether it’s the fans or the media whatever it is I think expectations for FC Dallas will be higher and that can bring a lot of pressure.
I think it's very interesting that Schellas specifically mentioned tempering expectations. I'm not sure what conclusion to draw from this as it's very clear as you keep reading the conversation that Schellas is very confident in his young team and fully expects his young guys to step up their games.
With that added pressure do you rely on guys like Daniel Hernandez to help that with the younger guys?
Yeah of course and I think it’s very easy to look at Daniel Hernandez because he’s such a great leader for us and the captain, but if you go a little bit deeper you’ve got Kevin Hartman with tremendous goalkeeping last year, a great leader, a guy who’s been in the league for many years who is helping everyone around him not just the second keeper but everyone around him.
Then you look at David Ferreira, MVP of the league, we were able to re-sign him and he’s really been the guy on the field that everyone knew they had to try to stop. He brings great intensity and work ethic…he’s very able to lead our latino players.
Then Ugo Ihemelu who’s a Dallas boy as well. Ugo and George John have developed a great team chemistry, they like each other they have great respect for each other and George John is a better player because Ugo’s there next to him so I think we have a lot of players who have that leadership quality.
You said in 2009 maybe you weren’t as fit as you wanted to be so you brought in Michael Johnson people for 2010, is fitness something you’re going to stress in 2011?
Absolutely, once you get it right you don’t want to lose it and a big part of it was Michael Johnson people coming in and now they were held responsible and accountable to help establish a fitness regime whether it’s testing, whether it’s extra work for the ones who aren’t quite there.
The thing I really like about this environment is players want to be at their best and if they’re not where they want to be they’ll seek Michael Johnson’s help themselves and go there for an afternoon training session and try to continue to raise their standards whether it’s fitness level, recovery, body weight or whatever it might be. Michael Johnson tests them quite often so we always have an accurate gauge of where they are.
You placed more of an emphasis last year on playing MLS teams in pre-season last year as opposed to international teams, what are some of the advantages to playing MLS teams in pre-season instead of international teams?
I think it’s tremendous. You get a chance to look at your opposition, let’s say it’s Houston. When you are evaluating Houston, what do they like to do, how does Dominic(Kinnear) have his attacking shape? How do they defend, what do they try to do on their free kicks and corner kicks? Those things don’t change no matter who’s on the field, they have their tendencies. That’s one great value.
Another value is you’re playing against teams you’re going to be competing against for a playoff spot so you see them and they get a chance to see you. Hopefully we pay very close attention to what were seeing.
The third thing is you get a chance to evaluate your personnel. Evaluating your personnel in an environement that you’re going to be praised on. It’s one thing to play for a college team and then when he gets to the MLS games he’s average.
So competeing against the kind of team you’re going to be seeing, that perfect environment and then you’re going to get a chance to look at your opponents personnel competing and if we’re having trouble say our right back is having trouble with their left sided midfielder we’re going to note that.
...so I think it’s a wonderful learning opportunity but I think all the games are quite serious because you do try to set a little bit of a mind control. If you’re able to beat somebody in these exhibition games 4-0, that’s a little bit of a mindset and that hurts the team that just got beat.
And then would you say it helps the rookies with their confidence if they can play well against MLS teams in exhibition games knowing “hey I can play with these guys”
Absolutely that’s part of the personnel…I think you saw last year two of our rookies came on, Zach Loyd and Eric Alexander and both of those guys really did a good job in our pre-sesason games last year.
We know what we’ve got returning, we trained them for 9 ½ months last year, we know what we’ve got returning. We don’t know what we’ve got added and those are the games where we’ve got a chance to look at our drafted players or some of the international players and players we traded for.
We really have to evaluate them not only against MLS teams but their character and their teamwork.
Talk about the competition for roster spots in this year’s pre-season it seems more fierce than we’ve seen in past years with maybe just two or three spots for seven or eight players.
You’re absolutely right, we’ve just brought in another player, Jonathan Top so right now we’re sitting at 5 academy players taking up roster spots….we have to have players that come in and come close to replicating what they(McCarty, Harris, Cunningham) have been able to do and we will have a couple of international players coming in.
I’ve always believed that if we train the players well were going to see more out of Eric Avila and Eric Alexander and George John and Zach Loyd. We picked up Chris Seitz who I believe is going to be a very good goalkeeper for us.
I think Chris is a player that’s started in the league but having Kevin Hartman with him will be a good learning opportunity for him to embrace and then the competition for these spots are going to be very high level.
We were going through this yesterday thinking wow we may only have four or five spots available if we take our roster to 30 and if we take our roster to 28 we’ve only got three spots available so it is going to be very competitive but I do know that we’ve established a very good culture of winning here but I also know we’ve established a culture of work ethic so we’re looking forward to the first day of pre-season.
Lots of interesting stuff there including Schellas saying they're bringing in not just one but two international players.
Come back later for part 2 of the interview with Schellas including his thoughts on what players like Wiedeman and Peri need to do to earn more playing time, a great story involving Eric Alexander, what Schellas thinks about our guys' performances for the national team, a Super Bowl prediction and the question on everyone's mind....will the butter leather jacket return next season