As I pulled into the Toyota Stadium parking lot and saw several hundred cars, I wondered what event could have brought all these people here. Walking out to the fields it was obvious; there were several hundred kids strewn across the practice facility’s 17 fields. There were kids one field over from the first team wearing the numbers of their idols. Dozens of little 23’s, 24’s, and 10’s stood in a circle and executed one touch passes.
While people can complain about attendance numbers all they want, it is obvious that FC Dallas is a huge part of the community. All across the metroplex you can find kids wearing their FC Dallas youth team jerseys. They’re proud to be a part of the FC Dallas program. There isn’t a Texas Ranger’s tee ball affiliate, there’s nothing else quite like this in the world of sports. Almost more impressive were the hundreds of parents standing in the rain for their child’s practice, who knows how far they had to drive for this. We can praise the “busca the forma” mentality all we want, but no other MLS team has this kind of youth participation. Just by sheer numbers Dallas was destined to have one of the best youth programs, and it starts with the parents. So thank you parents for your sacrifices so your kids can play soccer, if not for FC Dallas, just somewhere so that they can take joy in the game.
Last week Dallas’ capped off Monday’s practice with a barbecue. After an embarrassing 4-0 loss to Vancouver later that week, in hindsight that wasn’t such a great look. Dallas have not been taking this week with the same leisure.
On Monday the first team (minus All-Stars and Homegrown game players) lost 1-0 in a tense scrimmage against a patchwork team of academy and college players. Pareja seemed determined to turn things around on Tuesday. Normally Marco Ferruzzi takes control of practices, but this time Papi took control of it himself.
After warm ups and stretching the team ran short sprints and then started the first of their scrimmages. This one was confined to a 40-yard long and 20-yard wide rectangle. There was little space to pass in this 10 v 10 drill in which teams tried to make high pressure passes and move the ball from front to back without losing possession, then lay it off to an academy player. This was also the same drill that the kids on the field next to them did, just with less people.
Next, they broke off into attacking and defensive groups. The attacking group was run by Ferruzzi. The first team players were practice creating chances from different locations. On Ferruzzi’s whistle Diaz would dribble towards the goal from about forty yards out with Lamah to his left, Barrios to his left, and Urruti ahead of him, he would try to create a scoring opportunity for one of his teammates against five academy players. After Diaz’s effort either ended up a goal or he lost possession, Lamah would start immediately from the left wing and try to create something. Next, Barrios would do the same from the right. When he felt the attacking players were taking too long, Ferruzzi would begin counting down.
Homegrown striker Bryan Reynolds was taking reps on the right wing after Barrios. I’m not sure if this was a depth issue (does Barrios even have a true back up?), or if this is an ongoing effort to acclimate his game to the wing. At least he was in Frisco, it feels like he had been gone for international duty most of the season. Javier Morales watched from the sideline with an injury.
The defensive group practiced playing the ball out of the back. A back six would try to play the ball forward forty yards against pressure from academy players. Full backs and center midfielders also took turns attempting to switch the play.
Practice ended with a 9 v 9 scrimmage with academy kids out wide to put in crosses and be used as an outlet when there wasn’t an available pass.
There was no post-practice barbecue this week.