I haven't had a chance to do one of these in awhile so I wanted to get this out to ya'll.
Today FCD returned to the practice field in preparation for Saturday's big match against RSL. It's a chance for Dallas to earn 9 points from their first 4 games, something that hasn't happened since 2006 and a big opportunity to gain some early-season breathing room.
International Absences - I counted 20 players participating in training today as Raul Fernandez, Kellyn Acosta, Je-Vaughn Watson and Blas Perez are away on international duty while Victor Ulloa is still nursing a little injury and Ramon Nunez works his way back to fitness.
Speaking of Ramon - It's clear that he's getting closer. You can see sprints and cutting in his work which is obviously a great sign for someone coming off a knee injury and I don't think it's crazy to say within 6 weeks he's going to be nearing at least a return to full contact training and he should be contributing to this thing before too long.
Danny Garcia training - One thing that was really nice to see was Danny Garcia out there training with FC Dallas this week. Garcia, the ACC Freshman of the Year, is taking the semester off from UNC as he prepares for the U20 World Cup and if he has a good tournament, a homegrown contract will certainly be coming soon for the little sparkplug winger.
Passing out of the back
The biggest focus of training today was working with the back four and central midfielders on passing out of the back. It really was a fascinating exercise watching the back four focus on passing it around and trying to suck the players pressuring the ball over to one side of the field then working on switching it to the other. I know a lot of people on here have mentioned how AJ hasn't done enough showing for the ball to provide an outlet for the back and that's something that was specifically mentioned today and something I saw him working on.
The OPTA stats show that when FCD's back four gets a lot of passes and a lot of touches on the ball, this team is playing at it's best and it's something I'm really going to be watching closely on Saturday against RSL.
I'll have a piece up for MLS tomorrow talking about the solid start to the season - at least points-wise - but here's some stuff from Schellas, Michel and Zach Loyd
You're coming off such an emotional and hard fought win over Houston and it seems to be something very common in all sports to have a drop off after a majorly emotional game. What do you need to do this week to ensure the same effort is put into the RSL game that we saw against Houston?
I think you’re absolutely right there was a lot of effort. We won a majority of the duels and against Houston that’s saying a lot because they’re such a competitive team and such great fighters. For us to come away with more of the duels showed a little bit more commitment.
For that to occur again, there has to be a standard set. Here’s the standard and here’s what it’s going to take to beat good teams. Standard set, standard get, so now we’re just going to ask them to continue. We’ll lose some players just like Real does and that’s going to upset things a ltitle bit but you know this team, we spent a heck of a lot of time on group videos. What our midfield does, what our defense does, what our forwards do, our back line. We spend a lot of time with players showing them if it was a good decision or this was a bad decision or your first touch let you down a little bit so what we’re hoping to do is just to get them to be better players both technically and mentally
You worked a lot on passing out of the back today, is that something that you've seen to be a big emphasis?
I think when you look at the game against Houston, because they’re one of the best teams in the league to pressure you in pockets, they like to pressure you out wide where they’ve got a striker going one way and a midfielder going one way and a fullback coming one way and when they win that ball they can counterattack you quite well.
They very seldom got us in those pockets and a big reason for that was we were able to move the ball, change the point of attack and get players moving forward and gaining territory on the field. When we showed the team the videos, here’s what we did well now look at this clip, we didn’t change the point of attack and they got numbers around us.
How did you feel playing in the midfield on Saturday?
It’s a new experience for me and I thought I gave my best in the position. I had some good moments while some other moments can get better but I’ll continue to work towards playing better every time.
It seemed like it took you a little bit of time to settle in, was it tough at first?
In the first ten minutes I was a bit nervous about the position that I wasn’t really used to but I began to read the game and do well in the position
How have you seen MLS as different to where you've played in Europe?
I think it’s more physical and a more aggressive style. It takes more from a physical point of view but I’ve got the size to adapt well and do well.
Could you really feel the rivalry against Houston?
I could tell that they were a very strong team too and we trained a lot to explore some of their weak points that we could take advantage of. I could feel the rivalry during the game an dit was great to come up with the win.
How was it playing next to Jacobson?
He’s a very physical and smart player so it’s great playing next to him because we talk and I know when to listen and when to talk. We dicuss when we should go up and cover so it’s great to play with someone like that next to me.
I thought you had your best game of the season so far against Houston, were you just feeling really good out there?
Not only me but the team. First game jitters get out and second game we weren’t really connected as well and I think this game we really came out and played as a team. Guys were working for each other and it was really more of a collective effort than individual play. Not only did I feel like I had a good game, I think the team had a good game and that’s the biggest thing. Everyone stepped up and I think playing at home is huge for us this year.
What do you need to do to make sure the same effort is brought against RSL that you brought against Houston?
I think in sports you can’t dwell on your past accomplishments. It’s nice to relish a victory that day and the day after with your family but I think as soon as we got in here today it’s a whole different mindset. Salt Lake is our next team and we know we’ve got to get every point at home because at the end of the season the last few years I’ve been here we’re just clawing to get points and it’d be nice to be in a position where we can play our game and not feel the pressure. I think it’s important that we get points early and the guys have already turned it over and are getting ready for the next game.
Passing out of the back was a big emphasis today, is that when you guys are playing your best when you move it fluidly like that?
I think it showed last game. I thought we played out of the back very well, we’d get closed on one side and move the ball over to the other side to free up our midfielders, especially guys like Fabian and Jackson with 1v1s, that’s when we can get them free. I thin kwe’re just continually working on that and continually getting better at working the ball out of the back so when we do enter the ball into the midfield, those guys aren’t getting swarmed but in more 1v1 and 2v2 situations. I think it’s something we’re just going to keep having to get better at and hopefully it can free up our midfield a lot more.