Practices on Wednesdays for FC Dallas have been rare this month...normally they'd be just starting to ramp up for a game that evening, but for once FCD has a whole week between games. Today's practice was a busy one with lots of guys out there and some full-sided drills on shortened fields. Not a whole lot to actually glean from training today as there wasn't really a huge focus, more just attacking cohesion.At the end of practice, the guys were put through Schellas' dreaded "Tunnel of Love." I won't call it punishment for last week, but then you don't generally see the TOL during unbeaten runs. Most of the goodness from this report will come in the quotes, as it normally does, but there are some notes as well.
On the side Wiedeman and Villar still rehabbing on the side, though Ricardo went through the TOL at the end which I thought was pretty telling of just how much he wants to get back on the pitch. I think this coming up week is just too optimistic, but with more than two weeks off between MLS games after that, I think the Houston game is a realistic goal for him. Fabian Castillo also trained on the side today with a bit of an ankle sprain, though I'd be a bit surprised if he doesn't start on Saturday. Ugo sat out training again today and it just doesn't feel like he plays next week either.
College week There were a lot of unfamiliar faces out there with 4 or 5 college guys out at practice today. I didn't get names but was told some were from West Virginia(What's up Drew?). I went to their website and identified two, Travis Pittman and Eric Schoenle.
Nice to see While the high profile injuries of Villar, Ugo, Warshaw and Ferreira are still there, this team is starting to at least get some guys back in from their niggling injuries. Bryan Leyva is beginning to round back into form, Carlos Rodriguez isn't showing any ill effects from his elbow injury and the bench is beginning to round back into a squad that can give Schellas some options, very important with USOC coming up in a few weeks.
Keep reading for Schellas on many topics and Daniel Hernandez on what needs to change
You’ve got three games coming up next week, how important are those three games?
I think these are extremely important. All teams start off with expectations, you look at Toronto right now and they’re going man this isn’t what we planned, you look at LA, this isn’t what we planned. But they’re both playing good soccer but just not getting results and we’ve kind of dropped into that the last three games we played were difference makers to step us up or keep us stagnant.
Well you don’t really stay stagnant because other teams are stepping up so you either get better or you get worse. We’re dropping in the standings so these three games coming up are going to be very important for us to get things right. We’ve established our season into thirds. The 12 games was the first third and now were going into the second third and this is an area we need to improve in.
With injuries to Villar and Ferreira, maybe it’s not a huge surprise that the offense is struggling, but are you surprised that the defense has given up 18 goals, tied for most in the league…
I think, and this is just me talking, is it only 18? I’ll give you another stat to look at, because this would be an interesting stat, how many goals have we given up in the second half? Because that’s where our problem has been.
We have a lead, we lose a lead, they score a goal. We fight hard in the first half and follow our tactics but in the second half, what happens? Are they just getting better, are they making changes, are we adjusting, are we not fit? Those are a lot of things that enter into my mind but I think you’ll be surprised how many goals we’re giving up in the second half. I’m surprised.
Is it down to not being able to play the same back four?
I don’t know if it’s down to something that simple. Maybe it’s a combination of the back four, maybe it’s a combination of people not focused and in shape, maybe, this is a scary thought, it’s always finding ways to play down a man. It wears us down at that point in time. Maybe when we lose players they can’t play the next game so someone else has got to go. When have we ever gone with the same starting lineup?
Who are the college guys out there?
Those are college players that we invite into our training, a lot of MLS teams do it, because that gives you a firsthand view at maybe somebody that you might want to draft. We get a lot of requests and what we decided to do was open our training up maybe for a week and let other people in to get a look at it.
Do you like having a lot of players out there for training?
I think it’s a combination of two things. It’s better than the 8 or 9 we’ve been going with for the last month but there is a point there where the level of play starts to suffer and you’ve got to keep your pulse on it because you don’t ever want mediocrity to set in.
You talked about those three games, what are the keys to beating Philadelphia?
The keys to beating Philadelphia is to have the mindset of winning. It’s something coaches don’t ever want to talk about because it always seems like when we talk about it something goofy happens. We’ve got to start with eleven players and finish with eleven players. I think a lot of it is guys are giving their best, they’re working so hard and focusing to win and sometimes when things aren’t going their way, they respond differently.
Whether it’s a dissent statement to a referee, whether it’s a tackle on an opponent, they just feel like they’re getting frustrated. I think for us to beat Philadelphia we’ve got to come out, knowing we’re at home, knowing we’re desperate to get a result and keeping eleven players in the match no matter what occurs.
With all the red cards, have you sat down with the team and said, look guys what’s going on why are we losing these leads what’s going on with all this?
I’m going to have Fernando Clavijo meet with the team this afternoon and we’re going to address all that. We really have been so busy, it’s been hard outside of sitting down before a game or talking to an individual player. We have our sports psychologist coming in this week, he’s going to be meeting with the team today at 1 and that meeting will go from about 1 to 230 and then tomorrow, he’ll have the second phase of meeting with the team.
If I had a crystal ball when I set this up last year for him to come in from England, I couldn’t have picked a better time. Because this is the point in time where you really need an expert to come in and say “Hey I’ve been down this road before, this is not unusual, here’s some of the things I’ve seen in practice, you guys are having great practices” Whatever he’s going to say, but it’s going to come to a point of discipline, and this is where we’ve kind of lost our discipline a little bit which is so frustrating for me, but discipline is a choice.
Players make decisions, they make choices. Sometimes what’s been getting us in trouble is they’re making bad choices, wrong choices. So I think to answer our question, this is a perfect time to be meeting with the team which we will in the next two days.
What’s the problem with Ugo? He just kind of popped up on the injury list again with the concussion symptoms…
The concussion, when you look at all the injuries out there, is probably the one that you’ve got to be the most cautious with because there’s signs, but there’s not signs. When a player comes to you and says “I’ve got a headache” you say “Yeah, I wake up with a headache, what’s your problem? Get out there and play” but when a guy comes to you and says “my ankle is sore” and it’s swollen or black and blue, the visual view tells you he’s injured and can’t go.
With the concussion though, we’ve made so many mistakes with so many athletes in all sports. We try to get it be, "hey you’re tougher than that get on out there and play". So with Ugo, it’s probably once every four days, I say hey how are you doing just to be courteous because I don’t want to put any pressure on him to come back and play for me. I don’t want to ignore him where he thinks I’m angry and feels like he’s got to come back.
This is a very, very touchy one and I think as long as we, as coaches, think of these players like our children, we’ll always make the right decision….the fact that he hasn’t trained this week, the better idea is that he’s probably going to wait. He came out today wearing sunglasses on, he doesn’t wear sunglasses so for him to have those on, I think one of the signs of still having some problems is it’s too bright, very sensitive to light.
You’ve got three games coming up next week, where is everything at right now?
I think right now we’re just focused on Saturday. Obviously right now we’re not getting the results we’ve wanted, but I have all the confidence in the team. The people that are panicking or stressed out about results, it’s understandable, but us in the locker room are completely confident that we’re going to get better and get the results. It’s a long season and we can’t be non-chalant or complacent, we know that we need to get results as soon as possible and we’re confident that we’ll get three points on Saturday.
That’s the thing, it’s still very much the same team from 2010, do you remind you what you’ve done in the past as you look towards the future or is it just one game at a time?
Every game is it’s own game, every game is different. Obviously we have three games in a week but we have to make sure and stay focused on this one particular game on Saturday. Obviously us as players need to step up and try to come to work on gameday.
The club has invested a lot of money in some of the young guys that are making big money now, they need to step up and they’re getting paid big money for a reason. They need to step up and be leaders on the field, this isn’t a daycare anymore they’re not little kids and the same thing for the older veteran guys. We need to step up, help lead this team and get things back on the right track so everybody has a responsibility in that locker room to work for each other and try to win for each other but by no means are we any less confident. I feel completely confident with how the group is feeling right now.
What do you feel like needs to change with the offense because it’s just struggling a little bit right now getting goals?
We’ve always been a team that plays great soccer, that plays as a team for each other. I think as a team we need to get back to that. I think we’ve been getting opportunities, we’ve had a lot of breakouts for counter attacks. We’re just always missing that last pass. We’ve missed a ton of wide open goals so I think we just need to have a little more patience when we’re making that last pass or finishing on goal.
How was the team BBQ last night, I saw something on Twitter about it…
I don’t know anything about that man.
So the haircuts, guys went and got those on their own?
That’s the Texas cut. I think it’s the southside fade. It’s the Texas fade and I guess they’re just representing Texas playing for FC Dallas. Commitment to the team man, that’s it.