For the longest time, I have been accused of being a Schellas defender.
I would accept that label, though I think that people wanting Schellas gone last year could not legitimately have made the case better than it can be made today. We all know what last year's injury disaster was like. It's hard to peg such crippling injuries on the coach, and it's hard to begrudge the man when he's trotting out half his bench for large chunks of the season.
Despite last night's disaster of a game, I cannot claim to know more about the game than Schellas Hyndman, a man whose college career was riddled with success (trophies are not the only mark of success). I cannot claim to understand soccer better than a man who has been coaching for the majority of his adult life.
It would be the height of arrogance to say that my career playing pick up and school soccer, coupled with some Football Manager 2013 experience, matches his breadth of knowledge. He knows more about soccer than I do. I know we're all angry at his handling of the team, but the man isn't ignorant. Of this I'm certain. So why are we seeing the same mistakes? Why do we keep seeing things that go unfixed?
Whether he can put any of his knowledge to use, or apply his experience in different ways... well, that's a different subject altogether.
I think it might be time to seriously consider switching managers. Not that we have any say in it obviously. It has finally gotten to the point where the people who want Hyndman gone have all the evidence they need. I don't believe anything prior to this year was enough to justify sacking him. This isn't the Prem, where you have quality lurking everywhere. It's hard in MLS to find a decent coach.
I'm not sure if midseason if the right time to do it (I can't remember the last MLS team to drastically turn it around after a midseason change). I also don't think there's any guarantee that we will find a replacement who will produce better results.
I do know what I have been seeing though, and it all points to one man.
For the longest time, the biggest knock on Hyndman was that he was no tactician. Most of the time, things would balance out. Dallas would lose a few games because teams adjusted and they would fail to respond in kind, or they would win a game because they did not deviate from their game plan. I have seen both results many times.
This past season though has shown that being inflexible for the duration Hyndman's tenure will eventually lead to every single coach in the league keying in on his tactics, forming a plan around them, and countering said plan effectively. When these things happen, Hyndman and company do not adjust. Switching to a misshapen 4-4-2 does not count as changing tactics. Tactics is more than a formation. It's an all around plan.
The biggest and most obvious sign is the collapses we keep seeing in the second half of games. Do we really think that George John, Matt Hedges, Zach Loyd, David Ferreira or Blas Perez all become instantly stupid the second the whistle blows to begin the second half? Hardly. Teams switch things around.
If Dallas is pressing up the wings and using their fullbacks, the other teams makes plans to exploit the space. Dallas doesn't adjust, and all of a sudden Loyd and Jair Benitez are being torched because a) the other teams is planning around them and b) no one has been instructed to stay back and help cover the space. There is almost never any visible moves made to compensate an opponent's resurgence. It's possible Hyndman issued instructions for big tactical shifts that aren't being followed, but I refuse to believe all our players would be stubborn enough to disobey them, or so unaware/dull as to forget to execute them.
The midfield has been the biggest weak point, and nothing has been really changed (that I can tell at least) to attempt to address it. Heck, the changes might not work, but at least something would have been tried.
When there are tactical changes, they don't always work so well. In fact, twice Hyndman has deviated from his standard approach and has played a high line. Both of those times were against Seattle, and I think we can all agree those were the biggest mistakes made in those games. Seattle is a better team than Dallas, but not that much better. They are not 4-2 and 3-0 better. Not if properly managed. I do not believe that.
Personnel and Preparation
Ferreira has been playing partially injured. It explains his slowed running and his touch on the ball. Being even slightly injured greatly hampers both your dexterity and mobility on the ball. Let's just, for the sake of argument, say Ferreira is injured and that that's one of the major reasons he has been struggling.
Why play him against Stoke then? Why play him at all? He is, when healthy and synced, very dangerous. He has shown this season what he's capable of. Why risk your valuable assets? Because of preparation. I do not need to explain to you, fine readers, what Schellas' preferred approach is to the starting XI. BDS readers know this awful approach well. If player X is the preferred choice, and they're not in an iron lung or crippled by leprosy, they're going out onto the field.
This actually begs the question as to how Je-Vaughn Watson is still getting playing time. He had a stretch of about three games in which he was a solid contributor. Has Schellas forgotten how horrid he has been outside of those three games? Lazy work ethic, poor positioning, low soccer IQ and a complete lack of regard for possession make him much more trouble than he's worth. I cannot imagine why Bobby Warshaw is sitting on the bench in favor of Watson. At the very least Bobby isn't a complete liability. At the very least the man tries.
Watson's continued playing time is for one of two reasons, both of which reflect badly on Hyndman:
Hyndman either a) does not recognize Watson's massive limitations or b) he notices said limitations and plays him anyway. I do not believe, not for a single second, that Warshaw hasn't earned at least a few run-outs given Watson's form. I know he might not be the best, but he certainly can't be worse.
The midfield is a gaping chasm of failure. Two attacking midfielders with skill, one ho-hum midfielder in Jacobson, and Watson. That's your midfield. The team has no one but itself to blame on these issues. True, Luccin was injured after he arrived and that definitely hurt their plans. So you sign another one. Erick? Oh, that guy's hurt too. You know how so many athletes injure themselves in training? By not being in shape or keeping up with their muscle/flexibility work. I'm not saying that's the cause but it's something to think about.
Speaking of form, look at the personnel on the roster:
John, Loyd (who has been better lately, save for Seattle), Hedges, Benitez (who is mostly good), Michel, Ferreira, Perez, Kenny Cooper. ALL of those players have had great success in the past, and more than a few in the present. It's possible (and likely) that all of our joes are slumping at the same time. It happens. Morale gets hit, and players show it on the pitch. I cannot blame them. Can you? The tough ones will come out better for it, but it doesn't happen overnight. The problem is, how can they overcome management issues that they have no control over?
Is it Andrew Jacobson's fault he's no better than average? Is it his fault Watson is incapable of complementing him or regularly assisting him in clogging up the field? Is it the defense's fault that the midfield gets shredded to pieces so often that they don't have a moment to catch their breath? Is it Ferreira's fault he has to drop back constantly because he can't get the ball otherwise? Loyd and Benitez are some of the fastest guys in the league, so they're instructed to push up. Where's their cover? Is Hyndman surprised when teams try to get in behind our fullbacks who constantly cheat forward?
A coach has to plan around deficiencies. The next paragraph is the crux of my entire argument:
I don't believe Hyndman has the power to make everyone play better. He doesn't have an xbox controller in his hand. He can't make Fabian Castillo smarter on the ball, or make Jacobson have better passing vision, or make Watson less crazy. But he can plan around it to minimize these issues whenever possible. We should be seeing less of these faults, not more of them. At worst, they should at least be stable. Far from seeing improvements or even stability, things have gotten worse.
Peaks and valleys are to be expected in form. But these issues have been around for long enough to be a recognizable patters that cannot be blamed entirely on injuries, officiating or luck. A trough as deep as the Mariana Trench in our form should never happen with our roster.
That's why the fans are so frustrated. That's why I look at a team with this talent (make no mistake, this team has good talent on the roster. Decent talent, at the minimum.), and cannot understand why they are playing worse than before. They haven't even levelled off. Each performance is worse than the last!
Saturday on twitter, Dallas doubters and haters were having a field day. "See? I know they would come back down to earth! I saw this coming!"
Liars. No one saw this coming. No one saw such a gutsy team collapsing in such an inglorious manner. Perhaps their luck would run out and they would go back to being average. The team we have seen for a month now has not been average. They have been bordering on poor. Saturday night they were abysmal. Anyone who said they expected this sort of crash either hated Dallas so much they wanted to see this outcome, or they're lying. The Sounders fans were crowing about beating Dallas. That is silly I think, because last night a JV squad with a plan could have beaten Dallas. It hardly seems worth bragging about.
Something has to be done though. Last night was the breaking point. I don't know if sacking Schellas will fix the issues. But as an observer I'm plum out of other ideas. I can't change the field of play, but it seems our manager can't either.
Maybe things will improve, we will make the playoffs, and this post will be all for naught. I sure hope that happens.
It's a tough time to be a Dallas fan.
But we're in it together, and we're not about to let one coach or one ugly couple of months get us down.
Well, not too much at least.