Whew, been a little bit of a whirlwind day for me so apologies for the late report. In case you haven't seen, I'm extremely proud to announce that I've been hired to cover FC Dallas for MLSsoccer.com and occasionally appearing also on the FC Dallas website. It's a huge step for me, one that I'm very humbled by and I'm super excited to bring you guys more coverage of the team. Does the website change? No, not really. As I'm sure you can understand, I have to act with a bit more of a filter(Sell-out) but the end result is more comprehensive coverage of the team whether the content comes here or elsewhere so cheers to that! With that out of the way, on to practice.
M*A*S*H update Things are looking up a bit. My first article for MLS gives an update on Ricardo Villar returning to the pitch. In addition to Villar, David Ferreira took a step forward as he's now running pretty steadily around the pitch during training, a step up from the stationary bicycle. Brek Shea is jogging around the pitch as well. Tough to put a timetable on either, but mid-July still seems the time where everyone comes back.
Ferreira is definitely in pretty good spirits right now joking with Brek Shea during training and ribbing Bobby Warshaw a bit on his boot. You feel like he's getting close, tough to not get excited.
Hernan Pertuz looks very, very close to returning to training while George John and Zach Loyd look to have no problems at all for heading down to Houston. Andrew Wiedeman is around 85%, but seems to get better with every practice and scored a nice goal today.
In case you missed it, Blas Perez picked up an ankle injury on national team duty with Panama yesterday. X-rays were negative and he tweeted out some positive messages this morning. Whether he will be available on Saturday is still very much up in the air though.
Acosta trains FCD Academy grads in college, Bradlee Baladez and Jack Coleman, were joined by another Academy player in training, U16 captain Kellyn Acosta. This guy, a class of 2013 player committed to Maryland, is really something special. He played at right back during the 2011 U17 World Cup, but plays as a defensive midfield destroyer for the U16s and started for the U18s down in Houston this past weekend. I kind of scoff at the Top Drawer Soccer rankings a bit, but if that's your cup of tea, Acosta is the #1 ranked defender in the country for his year. Today was the first time I've ever seen Acosta with the first team and once Top & Garcia graduate from the system this year, he's certainly the #1 academy prospect.
The format was very similar to last week's practice. The 9v9 scrimmage was the highlight of the day and Fabian Castillo was one of the stars showing his amazing speed burst. I feel like if anyone gives Houston problems on Saturday, it's going to be Fabian. He looks on point.
Saturday is huge Another vocal practice today with Schellas talking a bunch and players very hungry. You can see it in players that they just need a spark to turn the season around. No player or coach will say this, but it just feels like Saturday could be a tipping point one way or the other this season. I don't want to hype things too much, but Saturday is very important.
Watching Leyva He's such a talented player, but he needs to get more assertive. Multiple times in the scrimmage you see Castillo shimmy and shake to make space on the right. Both center backs key on the forwards leaving tons of space for Leyva to crash the far post, but he still sits outside of the box watching the play while Schellas gestures at him to move into the box.
I will save the stuff that will appear in MLS articles in the coming days, but here's some nuggets.
How close is Ricardo Villar?
I don’t know how close he is, I think what’s going to end up happening is how much pain he can put up with. He wants to be able to strike the ball and right now he’s unable to do that. Another tackle from someone could set him back weeks. So it’s just good to have him training.
How does the team dynamic change with Villar back?
He brings a lot of things that we’re really unable to find right now and that’s just a calming force slowing things down. We’re getting ready to play Houston right now and they’re a different team if they don’t have Brad Davis on the field.
I don’t know if anyone would call him a playmaker but he comes from the side into the middle and becomes a pretty strong personality for that team so not having anyone, you’re asking people to step up and try and do it and it’s not really part of their qualities or their strengths. But you’ve got to love the fact that they’re trying.
How do you feel Andrew Jacobson's season has gone?
think Andrew has been solid for us. When you look at the season and the way the season has gone, it’s not the way any of us have wanted but when you look at the number of injuries we have out there you can kind of understand...But I think the number of games we had back to back really took a lot out of AJ because he just puts so much into a game, it’s really hard for him to come back and bounce back 100% for the next game. So I think if you see some inconsistencies in his play, it’s mostly because he hasn’t had the chance to recover yet. I think he’s been solid for us.
Is the key to unlocking his forward passing play getting another attacking midfielder in front of him?
I think what have we scored 15 goals this year? I think it’s hard to get the assists when you’re not hitting free kicks and corner kicks but at the same time during the run of play we need to get more people around Blas Perez and we need to get better services in there. Andrew has got to get himself into better positions for knocked down balls or second chances. Not only to assist but to score goals and I know he’s working awfully hard trying to do that.
You’ve got Houston this weekend, whats your thoughts on going down there, it’s a tough place.
It is a tough place. It’s a very, very demanding atmosphere for any opponent that goes In there. It’s a lot of intensity. We’re excited to see their new stadium and I think that’s going to be fantastic for the Dynamo and their fans. It’s always been a battle. It’s interstate, Dallas and Houston a battle about many things, not just about MLS Soccer so I think for us we’re looking forward to the competition.
Do you really feel the hostility down there from the fans more than other places?
Probably, but it’s probably hostility they give to every team, I don’t think they pick us out. It’s probably the hostility because they have so much pride in their own team. They’ve done so well there historically, it’s hostility towards any opponent who comes in there.
Have you heard anything out of Blas?
We just basically heard about it and we got the tweets that everything seems to be ok. There’s nothing broken but I think he’ll need a couple days to get healthy. We’re anxious to see him when he arrives today
Did you see those Tweets from your own personal account?
I don’t do Twitter, I’m not allowed on Twitter at all.
What's it like playing down in Houston?
It’s always tough conditions because of the climate down there. Obviously playing down there in the summertime and I think it’s been obvious because they changed the game from 430p to 630p. Whether that’s going to make a big difference or not that’s another question.
It’s still going to be tough conditions because of the climate but we’ll be prepared. Obviously we’ve dealt with the heat here in Dallas although it’s a different kind of heat and then them playing in their new stadium with their fans and the Texas rivalry. I think it’ll be a great atmosphere, we’ll definitely be ready and try and get those three points.
Is it different playing them then just another MLS game?
Theres different cups going around, different rivalries going around, we have the Lamar Hunt Trophy and the Brimstone Cup and stuff like that. I think this is probably one of the bigger rivalries from our team. Obviously we’ve had a pretty big rivalries with Salt Lake, Seattle and LA, bigger teams in the west but this is a Texas classic rivalry.
It’s definitely a big game but for us I think at this point in the season the way things have been going the most important thing for us is getting those three points. I know the rivalry and the cannon and all that stuff is great for the fans but for us the most important thing is trying to get off this little break on a good foot and a good note and get those three points.