Manchester United is soccer's most storied franchise, and this year has been a disaster. David Moyes, in his first year as manager, did his best to replace Sir Alex Ferguson, but was never able to put his print on the underachieving squad. This week, he was fired, with Ryan Giggs named as the interim replacement.
Back in the state of Texas, FC Dallas had a big decision to make during the off season as well. After two seasons in Colorado, Oscar Pareja was the choice in an offseason. Pareja played in Dallas and his departure from Colorado was a little strange, but he gave hope to a fan base that had been disappointed with the team's resiliency during the season.
After just seven league games in 2014, the Hoops are 5-1-1, sitting three points ahead of Seattle, and Pareja's fingerprints are all-over this team's success.
This team is prepared. Instead of playing varied styles against different teams, Dallas has chosen the tact of playing their game and their style and forcing other teams to adjust. Fortunately for Dallas fans, their style is fast-paced and pleasing to the eye.
The Dallas game-plan is really fun to watch. So far this year, it has centered around speed on the wing, midfielder Mauro Diaz creating dynamic opportunities, and timely finishing from a variety of players.
The best example of preparation (and I've written about this already) is their success on set-pieces. Set pieces are a part of the game that players can demonstrate preparation the most. Dallas has drawn their fair share of free kicks and when they get them, they're deadly. They don't have any single player they try to serve the ball to, but they do have great ball-strikers and players are confident in where their teammates will be on the pitch.
The last goal on Saturday night was also off a free-kick -- from near midfield.
Instincts and Trust
When you're prepared, instincts of talented players can take over. Aside from the second half against Seattle, there has been very little hesitation on the part of Dallas to continue to play their game and attack.
The system Pareja has installed isn't just Pareja's system. Instead, it's a system that he continues to modify and tweak to accentuate the skills of the players Dallas has on its roster. From game one, everyone has known their role. With all the early success, how could any player not be completely bought-in at this point?.
When players (in general) are in a bad situation, you can often see a level of angst and frustration on their face or in their actions -- no matter the score of the game.
Conversely, Dallas continues to look poised and calm no matter the situation. Even as they lost to Seattle, you didn't see players going after the officials or the other team. Every time you see a "professional" foul committed against a counter-attacking Dallas side, keep an eye on the player who got fouled. Chances are, you'll see him get up, dust himself off, and try to get the game restarted as quickly as possible.
It's an attitude that a team who believes in its ability takes. It's an attitude of a team that's easy to root for and, so far as I can tell, it's a great attitude to have.
All of the above means nothing if you aren't getting the results. The battle between focusing on process versusresults is one that is as old as coaching itself.
Right now, FC Dallas has both going for it. For fans and players alike, this is about as exciting as it gets. With every win comes a new level of trust in the process. With every goal, organizational confidence is built.
Dallas is playing a kind of soccer that is rare in that it's both pleasing watch and wildly successful early in the season. While a solid groundwork has been laid, there will, of course, be lots of adjustments during the entirety of the long season.
And isn't that what a good manager is for?