2011 Season in Review is a Big D Soccer series that recaps the performances of players and coaching staff while looking at pros, cons, the best moment, the worst moment and overall feelings on each individual's 2011 season.
Hoo-boy we're starting off with a doozy. 2010 was a fantastic year for Schellas Hyndman. He won MLS Coach of the Year and guided FCD to an MLS Cup spot while stabilizing a roster with a fantastic mix of young defensive talent and plenty of youth.
Expectations were, perhaps, the highest ever heading into 2011 with the same basic team returning from last year. A season ending injury to David Ferreira as well as new challenges such as Concacaf Champions League and a record-setting sweltering summer saw FCD collapse down the stretch while leaving Hyndman, a contender for a second straight COY award at mid-season, with some egg on his face as Dallas crashed out of the playoffs at the first step despite sitting near the top of the MLS table for the entire season.
-Holding this thing together without the MVP When David Ferreira went down, many of us thought Dallas would do well simply to make the playoffs. If there was one player on one team that couldn't afford to be lost, it was David Ferreira. However, Schellas masterminded a remarkable run through the middle months of the season that saw FCD get enough points to withstand their late season swoon and finish with 52 points(1.52 PPG, 4th best in franchise history). The mid-season success ended up being a blessing and a curse for Dallas as the solid play from that lineup without Ferreira caused most to expect the same in October without the MVP.
I don't think enough can be said for the job Schellas did in motivating the players to not collapse through the early months of the season. It was a fantastic job and one that I'm sure Schellas learned a ton about himself from.
-Winning in Mexico and El Salvador I'm about to lay into the gaffer on some of the late-season results so it's only fair to praise him for what were two historic wins. The nights of winning at Alianza and Pumas were two of the historic wins in team history. It doesn't matter who was on the field, FC Dallas will always be the first MLS team to win a competitive game on Mexican soil and Schellas deserves a ton of credit for that.
Best Moment of the Season
I would say the win at Pumas is probably Schellas' moment of the season. Any time you can make league history like that it's a huge deal. Other contenders would be the 4-0 win vs Portland, 3-2 comeback win over Kansas City and 1-0 win away to Alianza.
-Overuse of starters It's been discussed at length by myself and others, but I think things started to go wrong in mid-August even as the team was still grinding out results. Using the same back 4, and midfield started to catch up with Hyndman as the season wore down. Though he tried to fix things late in the season, giving players multiple days off, it was too little too late. The exhausted legs were never more apparent than in the two games that defined the season, home losses to New York and Toronto in which Dallas couldn't muster the energy to come back from halftime deficits.
Schellas blamed fatigue many times this season for the poor results lately, but to me that is an excuse that shows poorly on him rather than something that indicates things will be better next year.
-Poor roster management A lot of this possibly falls to Barry Gorman, but there is plenty of blame to go around for why Jackson was starting at forward in the two most important games of the season. The inability to find a true forward is something that has followed the team even going back to 2010. Maicon Santos could potentially be the answer as he gets a full pre-season with the team and Ruben Luna looks poised to take the next step after leading the 2011 MLS Reserve League in goals, but the lack of a forward to finish the multiple chances created is, in my opinion, the biggest reason for the failure at the end of this season. The work starts right now on improving the depth and balance of a roster that had plenty of defensive options, but no one Schellas trusted up top.
-Listless play at home There is nothing that drives me more crazy than losing at home. FC Dallas had 7 competitive home games in September and October. They went 0-6-1 and scored in two of the games while suffering two of the most demoralizing losses I can ever remember in falling out of the Champions League and MLS Cup Playoffs to home shutouts. For a team that is fighting tooth and nail to raise their attendance, this kind of thing can kill the momentum from an MLS Cup run from last year. Road losses are understandable, but losing at home in the last month of the season to teams that couldn't muster a road win to save their life is just unacceptable and something that should cause change in the gameday lineup rather than business as usual.
Worst moment of the season
The 3-0 CCL loss at home to Toronto was certainly the lowest moment of the season. All Dallas needed was a win or draw at home against a team they had beaten 3 times this season to historically advance to the knockout round of the Concacaf Champions League. However, TFC came in the better coached and more motivated team knocking FCD around their own park to send FCD crashing out of the CCL group stage despite winning their first two games.
I think that anyone who wouldn't want Schellas Hyndman as the coach of this team for 2012 and beyond is crazy. Schellas is the leader of this franchise and the guy I want coaching this team. That being said, I think he made some mistakes this year dealing with things he's never had to contend with in the college game, much like 2009. While that year, it was problems with man management and how to treat players(problems that he reconciled 100% in 2010), in 2011 it was playing multiple competitions and how to manage a roster through the stress of two games a week with international callups that ended the season early.
It's kind of interesting to contrast 2009 and 2011 under Hyndman. That year, it was an early start which doomed the team as Schellas underestimated the talent level needed to win in the league. He fixed his mistakes by mid-season and nearly guided Dallas into an unlikely playoff spot that probably would have seen Dallas make a deep playoff run. In 2011 it was the exact opposite, a team that rode in the front seat for almost the entire season but ran out of gas. Had the season lasted another month, you could've seen a scenario in which Dallas would've crashed out of the playoff spots all together.
I believe Hyndman and FCD will bounce back in 2012 with Ferreira, a team that is extremely talented on paper and youngsters that will be a year older. However, it's what have you done for me lately and this late season collapse has earned Schellas a C rating from me for the season.
2011 Season Rating: C