FC Dallas practiced at 10AM on Field 5 this morning in preparation for their showdown in Salt Lake City on Saturday night with home field advantage in their likely playoff series on the line. It felt great to get back out to the practice field today for the first time in a couple of weeks. The schedule(and my sports radar) has been pretty cramped lately, but I hope the metroplex doesn't completely ignore the amazing run FCD is on with all the Rangers hoopla going on.
The bulk of practice after I got there on an extremely windy but beautiful day was spent playing in a full 11v11 game of mostly starters against reserves.
-Everyone but Kevin Hartman is back and fully training. Kyle Davies has a knock and trained on the side for the most part, but George John, Ugo Ihemelu and Daniel Hernandez were all back. Hernandez looked great today in his second day of training back with the team. He put in a few nice tackles and scored one of his trademark 30 yard piledriver free kicks. Whether Schellas wants to risk starting him in Salt Lake is a question mark, but make no mistake Hernandez will be ready to go for the playoffs. Ugo and John played together at center back today in the scrimmage and it's looking like they start this weekend. Lots more on that in the quotes from Schellas...In Kevin Hartman's case I've been told he feels great and it's just the goal kicks that are still hurting.
-For me, the player who stood out most in the scrimmage was Marvin Chavez. It's truly amazing what a run of clean health and starting appearances has done to a player that looked on the way out 3 months ago. With his confidence at 100%, the happy-go-lucky Honduran is playing the best soccer of his FC Dallas career. He's linking up with David Ferreira better than anyone on the team at the moment and had a sweet cross today to set up Jackson for a goal. As I've said before, he's the secret weapon that teams aren't accounting for who brings out the best in Ferreira.
-There's an interesting late-season battle developing at the right mid position. Atiba Harris missed practice yesterday with a bit of a knock and the good play of Jackson has forced Schellas into a tough decision now that Hernandez is returning. Perhaps it won't be a problem this weekend as Daniel will likely come off the bench allowing both Jackson and Atiba to start in Salt Lake, but don't be surprised to see Jackson usurp Atiba's position out on the right. The Brazilian scored a great goal today from a very tight angle off a low Marvin Chavez cross that went a bit beyond the goal but was fired home.
-Everyone else is looking very sharp. You can tell the young guys are beginning to hit that rookie wall, but other than that the players who need to be playing well right now are playing well. Ferreira is carrying himself with a swagger around the field, Milton and Jeff both looked extremely on today and the reserve defense is probably better than half the starting defenses in the league.
Read on for the possible date of the FCD playoff game and really good stuff from Schellas and Ugo
-If FC Dallas is a #3 seed in the playoffs against RSL, the home game will very likely be on Halloween Sunday night October 31st. As a fan, I love it, but it might be tough to get the kids out to the stadium for that one. No news on if the 2nd leg is at home when it would be.
It’s been so long do you remember what it feels like to lose?
*laugh* I think it was LA here in May 20th. Yeah it’s been a fantastic streak and I don’t feel like it’s over. I know we’ve got two very difficult games on the road but these guys are bringing something special. They’re bringing a lot of team chemistry and a lot of hard work and a lot of accountability. There’s a never say die attitude and we’re starting to get a lot of our injured players back. So I think the streak’s been fantastic been some fantastic results….the streak’s been fantastic but I really think the quality of soccer’s been good.
Will Daniel Hernandez play against RSL?
I would hope so. He still feels a little tight and part of my concern is we still have the possibility of going for the Supporter’s Shield so were still focusing on that. We have two games left against two of the best teams in the league on the road. The positive thing is we seem to play well at home and on the road. Some teams don’t find results on the road but we seem to do well with that. We’re hoping to get Ugo back, George back and Daniel back which makes us the type of team we enjoy coaching….I think all three of them will make the trip whether they play or the don’t play will be determined shortly.
Is it important to shake that rust off before the playoffs?
That’s exactly it. We know we can give them another two weeks and get them completely back but that would mean that Ugo hasn’t played since August 8th and now you’re in a playoff game, "Ugo welcome back" And you’re going to make your mistakes and you hope the mistakes are made in practice but you can never replicate the game environment so we have to get them some time before the playoffs.
Will Hartman be back for the LA game?
I think that’s the aim right now. What you’re seeing right now with him out there, this is the first time he’s really been in the goal. He’s taking the easy balls, the crosses and you can still see a little bit of foot movement that’s not comfortable yet. We’re hoping in a week’s time that can change as well.
What if Dario is having super games? Even if Hartman does come back do you change now? The reason Hartman went on the field was because Dario slipped and Hartman never let up so it was too difficult to put Hartman back in. Now the same scenario’s happened for Dario.
The injury to Kevin has opened the door for Dario. He keeps the position if he continues to do well. The thing that concerns me is we’ve had so many injuries and in the goalkeeping as well that we’ve given up a lot of goals in the last few games…so that’s a concern. Is that the goalkeeping, the defenders that’s out? I think it’s a combination of both right now.
Is Rio Tinto a special place for you?
It’s not special to me. It’s special to John Ellinger who coached there first and was let go….I think it’s going to be a great crowd. If I’m guessing I say 24 or 25 games unbeaten at home. They have the altitude, the confidence, the crowd they have everything going in their direction. What we have is a 19 game unbeaten streak and were going in there trying to make it 20.
Salt Lake is a team you’re going to get pretty familiar with can you talk about them?
I think our next two games, Salt Lake and LA, are playoff type of games because they’re teams that are also going to be in the playoffs. As we evaluate those teams they’re going to be evaluating us and watching video. To watch our videos from April will not do you a lot of good, if you look at our videos from a month ago it probably wouldn’t do you a lot of good because we’re changing personnel.
Is there any thought in the back of your head going to Salt Lake this weekend to not give anything away with a possible playoff matchup ahead?
No, our thought in the back of our head, in the middle of our head, in the front of our head is to go for the Supporter’s Shield. We’re going into their place to play soccer the way we’ve played every game and that’s to try and get three points.
Was it just a confidence thing to get Marvin Chavez going?
Yeah, Marvin Chavez is a very good player. He’s a wonderful young man, an outstanding athlete. He’s very quick, determined, courageous and he had a very good preseason then he got hurt, then he came back and he got hurt. It opened an opportunity for Atiba and Brek Shea to get playing time….saying that I think Chavez if you look at FC Dallas a month ago Chavez is not there. We’re a little bit different team with him because of the quickness, the hardness, the defensive structure. He brings a lot of good things and don’t forget the understanding between him and Jair and him and David. I think there’s a lot of quality we’re starting to see from him.
How do you think Brek played last night?
A wonderful opportunity for a young man to be called into the full national team. What a wonderful opportunity for a 20 year old. He’s played very well for FC Dallas, it’s what got him into the team. As I talked to Bradley we didn’t want to bring him in there and not play him…so Bob said he would play him whether he started him or in the second half. So I think it’s a wonderful debut for him to come out and play.
I think the performance was obviously very nervous and I don’t know why it would not be. I was nervous for him and I was sitting at my house. I think that’s a normal thing, it’ll be much easier the next time.
Are you disappointed the Colombian coach didn’t call in the Colombian players?
You know it’s interesting you say that because I asked David I’m really surprised you haven’t been called into the national team and he said "well it’s the coach." After watching the game yesterday, I think David belonged there. I thought they could’ve used him but sometimes it’s how you leave, the impression that you leave people when you leave. He may be a better player today than when he left Colombia. I don’t think they watch the MLS as much as we are.
How are you feeling?
Feeling good, the fact that I’m out here training running around again makes me feel great.
Feel good to get minutes on Sunday?
Yeah, I needed to get some rust off and I feel pretty fit to be honest. Some competition against guys that I don’t normally play against. It’s a good measure of where I am exactly and how far I need to go.
You won the Cup in 05 do you feel this team has what it takes?
Yeah you just get to the playoffs and the run that we made in 05 everything just came together at the right time. We had some quality players but there was also some luck involved I’d say because to win the championship the ball has to bounce your way. Personell-wise I’d say we have that, Chemistry-wise I’d say we have the right chemistry. Guys with heart and character that are gonna play. Now were getting to the playoffs and we just need things to bounce our way or close and make the rest of our luck.
You’re going to get very familiar with Salt Lake talk about them
Quality team, I’d say in my opinion probably the best all around team in the league. They have some depth shown in the games they play this year and in the Champions League. They have a solid team so this game against them Saturday is going to be a good team, it’s going to be fun. To get us familiar with that atmosphere because we haven’t played there. It’ll be good going into the playoffs getting us ready.
You grew up here and know how bad the Rangers have been is it time for both teams to break their playoff woes?
Yeah I think it is. It’d be great if it happens, the Rangers have done really well this year I’ve been do a few of their games. They’ve got a big challenge coming up with the Yankees but I’m confident they’ll do well.
Raw quote sheet below with a couple of bonus from Schellas and Ugo