In a year in which the Cowboys have managed to disappoint even the worst pessimists, the other sports teams in Dallas have more than picked up the slack. The Rangers gave us a taste of the World Series and both the Stars and the Mavs appear, at the early stages of their seasons, to be playoff bound. FC Dallas, though, is poised to do what no DFW team has done for over a decade: Win it all.
I know many of you, myself included, aren't particularly familiar with the MLS. Consequently, I've asked Daniel Robertson, blogmaster of SBNation's BigDSoccer , to answer a few questions about the final and this remarkable FC Dallas squad. Daniel will be in Toronto to cover the game and will have a detailed breakdown of the upcoming game on his excellent blog.
Liam: How did this team go from a 2nd-worst Western Conference point total in 2009 to a championship finalist that has beaten both the current champs (Real Salt Lake) and the best regular season team in MLS (LA Galaxy) on their way to the final?
Daniel Robertson: Basically what happened is Schellas Hyndman took over as head coach in the middle of 2008 with an aging team that didn’t have a good locker room and was pretty much clueless on how to consistently win in MLS. What he did was instill a system that worked extremely well in his two decades as the head soccer coach at SMU. Things were rocky early because Hyndman did not have the players to fit the high pressure, counterattacking, very strict system the coach was instilling into his team. Hyndman made many changes in 2008-2009, including moving out some fan favorites like Drew Moor in favor of players like Ugo Ihemelu and Daniel Hernandez, who he coached at SMU.
The team finally started to believe in the system and went through an incredible transformation, nearly pulling off a miracle run by winning 5 of their last 6 games in 2009 but falling just short of the playoffs. Many thought that had FC Dallas snuck into the playoffs last season, which they would have if they had won on the final day, they would have been the toughest out.
That good play transitioned into 2010 and the team hasn’t looked back.
Liam: What will be the keys to victory for FC Dallas on Sunday? In what areas do the Rapids concern you?
DR: The main key is to not be over-awed by the spectacle of playing in the MLS Cup and playing the same game they’ve played all season. In MLS, many teams are happy with playing defensively on the road and trying to sneak a 1-0 win or a draw, but FC Dallas has been a team that plays exactly the same at home and on the road.
There is almost no question on who is the better team, but Dallas must not take Colorado lightly. If the Rapids score first, it’s going to be very tough on Dallas.
Colorado is a team that is very strong right now the center of the field. Their wings can be exploited but their two central defenders(Drew Moor and Marvell Wynne), two central midfielders(Pablo Mastroeni and Jeff Larentowicz) and two forwards(Conor Casey and Omar Cummings) all have experience with their national teams.
Liam: Explain David Ferreira's ascent to the MVP of MLS this season. Could Ferreira potentially return to Atletico Paranaense (Ferreira is currently on loan to FC Dallas from Paranaense) after the season concludes?
DR: It took Ferreira about 3 months to learn the league last season, but since about July of last season, he has been the best player in the league. Interestingly, Ferreira has been the most fouled player in MLS this season and that’s about the only way the league has stopped him.
David(pronounced Dah-VEED), has a low center of gravity, is very hard to knock off the ball and protects his body smartly. He fits into Dallas’ counterattacking style perfectly.
There’s no chance that Ferreira doesn’t return to Dallas next season. He’s said time after time that he wants to be there next year and FCD isn’t stupid enough to let the MLS MVP go for nothing.
Liam: Talk about the progress that Schellas Hyndman has made since taking over the head coach position in 2008. Would you say that he's evolved his style since SMU, or has he transferred the qualities he imparted on his SMU teams to this FC Dallas side?
DR: As I said earlier, Schellas took a disjointed team without harmony in the locker room, turned over half of the roster and established a system built on very rigid player responsibilities, defending all over the field and a devastating counterattack that involves the outside backs getting forward.
It’s tough to say 100% on how his style has evolved since SMU because I didn’t see much SMU soccer with Schellas at the helm but I can tell you Hyndman defends his system to the death(for good reason it seems) and I would be very surprised if much has changed since the day he arrived in Frisco. Hyndman made it very clear to the team early on, if you don’t fulfill the responsibilities of your position I will ship you out and find someone who will.
Liam: Do you forsee Brek Shea breaking into the national team starting XI in the near future? If so, will it be on the wing or elsewhere?
DR: Yeah, it was a great season for Brek. When he’s good, he’s dominant in the league with a huge frame, excellent fitness and a shot that’s different from anyone else on the team. Like many people say the ball sounds different off the bat of Josh Hamilton, the same is true for Brek Shea’s shot.
I believe his future is as a Cristiano Ronaldo type player in that he starts on the wing but can slash in at any point and join the attack centrally or send a dangerous ball in. If you watch both of the players, they have very similar styles
Liam: What's your prediction for the game?
DR: It’s really tough to look past Dallas. This is a focused team with 100% harmony in the locker room, strong leadership and with Kevin Hartman in goal they haven’t lost since May 20th. The team had a little blip when Hartman went out with an injury, but he’s back and playing well now and the team looks unbeatable at the moment. Colorado is a great, disciplined team, but Dallas won 3-0 last weekend at Los Angeles and are peaking at exactly the right time.
DR: Let me add that for those in Dallas not too familiar with FCD, they’re a team very similar to the Rangers. They’ve had better teams in the past, but this season it’s been a 100% team effort with 11 players on the field who fight for each other and play the prettiest soccer in MLS. They look to attack rather than simply clogging up the field and I urge all of you to watch Sunday @ 7:30pm CST on ESPN. Dallas is the favorites to bring the first major trophy back to the metroplex since 1999.