It was absolutely perfect weather when I arrived around 9 with about 75 degree temps, cloudy and no rain. By the end it was steadily raining which limited my tweets, but give me that over leaving practice drenched in sweat any day of the week. The weather allowed for a crisp practice with lots of energy from the team.
-Throughout the majority of practice, FCD was focusing on three different things, most attackers were on one side practicing attacking corners in a drill that saw 3 defenders try to stop a bunch of attacking players. Probably half of the good corners ended up in the net. Not surprisingly Milton, Jeff and Brek were the best and hungriest players of the bunch which included basically every attacking player.
-Schellas spent the majority of his time working at the middle of the pitch with the central midfielders(Avi, Bruno, Leyva, Alexander, Hernandez and Ulloa) on 2v2 and 3v3 drills designed to work on keeping the ball and passing it to good areas.
-The defenders were on the other end of the field working on what seemed to be defending set pieces and distribution. To be honest, I didn't watch much of that simply because it was a pretty dull drill.
-After that the team was brought together to alternate 6v6 short field games. This ended pretty abruptly when the rain started to pick up and the field began to lose its integrity. No need to risk a twisted ankle or any other injury.
Observations and tons of stuff from Schellas, Kevin Hartman, Heath Pearce and George John
-As I mentioned, Milton, Jeff and Brek look so hungry out there to score even in these drills. All you have to do is watch the young draft pick forwards(Peri, Wiedeman, Yeisley etc...) and compare them to these guys to see just how big the gap is between polished MLS attacking players and those who aren't. Speaking of the young forwards...
-None of these guys are playing with any confidence right now. You can really tell the confidence of an attacking player by how he plays corners. Do they attack the ball or hang back in the box and try to pick up the scraps? Maybe it was just an off day, but I don't think either of the 3 guys I mentioned above scored on a single corner out of a few dozen while in one stretch Milton headed 2 of 3 in a row in the net. Wiedeman should stick around because he's not going to graduate his GA status, but it's pretty much a matter of time for all three unless a light turns on in their head.
-Atiba Harris is a good player who has an important place on this team and does his job pretty well, but I don't think I've ever seen a player who is worse with easy chances in the box. He'll probably score a couple of more important goals for FC Dallas this year, but I just don't get how he misses all the easy ones.
-Ruben Luna shaved his head...I thought he was a trialist until #34 on his shirt showed.
-Schellas will talk about this more in the quotes, but today was all about set pieces and possession, the two things you really need to dominate to beat Columbus.
-It was great to see Leyva do his thing in the possession drills. This kid is just a year or two away from being something special. He's not polished enough yet to play serious minutes, especially on a team where every result is key coming down the stretch, but if you think Avila's got some flair just wait for 2011 and 2012 when Brian Leyva starts to see the field. His stepovers are lightning quick and he put some absolutely filthy moves on Ulloa and Alexander.
-Davies trained fully with the defenders, Dax rehabbed on the side and Ugo was nowhere to be seen until he made a cameo on the practice field right at the end of training.
-Some grainy but good video of corners practice taken from my phone at www.qik.com/bigdsoccer
I think last we trained a little bit too hard and it showed a little bit in the Chivas game with heavy legs so this week we wanted to make it shorter but we didn’t anticipate the great weather.
Thoughts about the game in Columbus
It is going to be a tough game, Columbus is a very good team and historically they’re a team that it’s hard to get a result there. They’re a mature team, they seem to play with a lot of confidence, the ball bounces right for them in that environment and of course they’re leading the East. I think they’ve got a game up on us so we’re really looking forward to the competition
What makes them so tough at home?
I think they’ve developed a really good fan base, behind the goal to one side there’s probably 1,500 people there that are very loud so they’ve developed that home atmosphere. I think they’re just a team that things have been going well, they’re a mature team, they believe in each other, the ball is bouncing right for them but they’re a team that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes that cost them games so they force you to make the mistakes….one interesting thing about them is they’ve scored 31 goals and 15 of them have come from set pieces…so they’re good in that area with a (Chad) Marshall and an (Andy) Iro who are 6’4, 6’5 so we have to be cautious about giving them free kicks and corner kicks.
So have you been doing a lot of extra set piece work this week?
This week we’re hitting on 3 areas, the first area is defending flighted balls, corner kicks/free kicks/services…they’re not as strong in the air any more than any other team in the run of play, they’re stronger in the air on set pieces when they can get their defenders up. The second area we’re concentrating on is attacking airballs. When you’re attacking attacking airballs, you’re trying to score but you’re also working on heading which can help you defend. The third area is getting a little bit more communication and coordination in the center midfield so it’s not just Daniel trying to cover a space by himself. It’s that second midfielder, not counting on David to be there but whoever’s the second midfielder…so that’s what we’re working on this week.
You talked last week about FCD being a team that plays the same home and on the road, will you be looking for that again or changing it a little bit?
I think the one thing I’ve committed to is that our team is going to compete and go for 3 points whether it’s at home or on the road. We can make it a more comfortable game for us by sitting back and trying to absorb their pressure, but that takes us away from what we do well. So I think we would not be at our best. The other thing is if we try to sit back and absorb the pressure we’re going to see a lot more corner kicks and free kicks. It’s interesting last year we focused on not letting Chad Marshall get a head ball because he’s very dangerous on free kicks…and 10 minutes into the game he scored on their first corner kick and I’m looking at the bench thinking there’s a week of work that was wasted…
Big game Saturday with Columbus, tough environment, what makes them tough to play against?
I think there’s a bunch of different dimensions to it, the field’s a different grass for us, it’s usually a little bit slower. The fans have a pretty big role, I think they do a pretty good job of supporting and making the other teams feel uncomfortable. At the end of the day, you play against a good Crew team and it’s never an easy thing to beat the Crew as of late. Any time you play a team that good it’s going to be difficult. So we just have to make sure that we go about it cognisant of what we bring to the table and make sure we do the things that we keep doing the things we do well.
Your name has crept into the MVP conversation talk about that
I’ve read a few articles, so I think he’s said that about Danny and a couple of guys so I’m just going to continute to plug away and obviously I’m very appreciative of the opportunity I’ve been given here. It’s not really about awards with this team were in a position to have a great opportunity to make the playoffs and really make a push for MLS Cup. I think that’s the number one thing for me just trying to be an asset to this team and hopefully be here for awhile to come.
As a defender how do you see Columbus?
Columbus has been getting good results as well this year. They’ve got a lot of points, they’ve got a strong attack and a defense that’s playing well and they’re really good at home so it’s going to be a difficult match but I think if we play our game we have a good chance to get points.
Besides getting closer to the playoffs with a result you set the road unbeaten streak what would that mean?
I think it’s something that will be thought about once and if we get that. It’s not something we’re thinking about now. It’s not something that’s on our mind because what’s important to us is to play well and get results. Records and all that stuff are fun but what’s most important is that we focus on the game and getting 3 points
How do you learn to play well in a tough environment on the road?
I think it’s just a commitment to the team. I think the guys are realizing that despite all the criticism at the end of last year or all last season, we got some new players and we’ve built a group that’s a family like atmosphere and we’re going to fight together whether were home or on the road.
Talk about defending against Columbus who’s great in the air and the challenge of playing against them.
Chad Marshall’s a great, great centerback on Columbus, I try to emulate my game a little bit after him. he’s fabulous on set pieces. I think last game I got called for a penalty here at home tackling him in the box unfortunately so it’ll be a good challenge for us.
How is it different with Zach as opposed to Ugo in the defense?
It’s a bit different because Ugo’s a veteran and he takes more of a leadership role when I’m playing with him. Not to say anything about Zach but it’s different because now I’m the more experienced player so I have to step up vocally and leadership wise. Zach’s a great player, quality player, we trust him and have a lot of confidence in him.
If you get a result this weekend, you’ll set the MLS record for longest road unbeaten streak is that extra motivation?
I actually didn’t know that…I guess, yeah, that would be great. Our motivation right now is getting points to make the playoffs. That wasn’t made aware to me until now…but yeah our motivation right now is getting to the playoffs and getting home field advantage.