May 19, 2012; Frisco, TX, USA; FC Dallas poses for a team photo before their match against the Philadelphia Union at FC Dallas Stadium. FC Dallas and Philadelphia Union ended tied 1-1. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE
In the midst of nine consecutive games without a win, Dallas will try to turn their season around during a long break in the MLS schedule due to international play.
FC Dallas has endured the worst month-long stretch in its history with no wins since their match against the expansion Montreal Impact back on April 14.
Dallas' record since then? An abysmal 0-3-6. Three draws, six losses and no wins.
A long, two week break is now well underway, as Dallas does not have its next competitive match until June 18th against the Houston Dynamo. The break is an odd confluence of a pre-determined MLS bye-week and a FIFA international date scheduled for World Cup qualifying. With the United States participating in qualifying matches this week, most MLS matches are put on hold to give international players time to meet up with their national teams while other players get to have a break from their regular club duties.
A break could not have come at a more opportune time for Dallas, as their well-documented struggles have ruined a good portion of the season. With the extra time off from competition, head coach Schellas Hyndman is using the time to focus on extensive training and passing drills, while some others are being given plenty of time to rest up from injuries.
Andrew Wiedeman has returned to the practice field alongside Colombian speedster Fabian Castillo, while George John and Zach Loyd both participated in non contact drills. David Ferreira, the league MVP in 2010, has finally returned to the practice field, albeit simply on an exercise bike, but his presence on the pitch is something every player on FC Dallas feels, according to Hyndman who spoke to Daniel Robertson.
From Daniel Robertson at Big D Soccer:
He's in the warm up with the guys and he's probably more inspirational and motivating by his presence then forme to try and keep motivating players. And it's not like "oh David's back he's going to take my place" that's not the mentality. The mentality is "Great we've got David back, we're going to be a better team."
The silver lining in this injury-addled season has been the play of Matt Hedges (filling in for the injured Ihemelu), FC Dallas' first-round pick at the MLS SuperDraft in January, and Brian Leyva, an FCD Academy product and homegrown signing who is showing significant signs of progress. Leyva's free kicks have Toros fans excited for set pieces, something FCD fans are not accustomed to being excited about as the opportunities are usually wasted through poor delivery. Meanwhile Hedges has earned two FCD man of the match awards and has already scored two goals on the year. Playing as a center back, that is no small feat for the rookie out of North Carolina.
While the team has struggled mightily with Ferreira out of the lineup, it is important to note that the man brought in to be his replacement should things go wrong, Ricardo Villar, has also been injured fior an extended period of time. This has forced FCD to spend most of the season with a 3rd string CAM, hardly an ideal situation for a team that is built around midfield creativity and tactical discipline. With their season's hopes hanging by a thread, the Toros will face their Texan rivals, the Houston Dynamo, next.
Up for grabs is the cannon, El Capitan, which is awarded to the winner of the season's matchup between the two sides. The Dynamo have just opened their new stadium, the BBVA Compass Stadium, and will be looking to put a special shine on it by defeating Dallas. While Houston is not performing at its best so far this season, facing Dallas always brings out strong emotions and hard-nosed play.
There is still time left in the season, though not much. Where before FCD had the luxury of some cushion from an abysmal start to the season from both the Timbers and the Galaxy, they can no longer depend on others' failure to allow them breathing room. Chivas USA has been significantly strengthened via trades (acquiring Danny Califf and Juan Agudelo) while the Vancouver Whitecaps have started finding a rhythm in their play.
The Hoops sit with a measly 13 points out of fifteen games and even the LA Galaxy are performing better, with 11 points in 13 games. Dallas needs to start winning consistently and pulling out more draws than losses if they are to entertain any hope of emerging from the bottom of the western conference pack and contend for a playoff spot. They are currently seven points behind the fifth place Colorado Rapids, who hold the final playoff spot.
Nabbing El Capitan while away at Houston's new stadium would be a potent way to kick-start a hopefully healthy Dallas side. With Ferreira scheduled to rejoin the team sometime in July and health returning to important injured squad members, the extra training being used during this break will be critical in reestablish FCD's preferred style of play: Winning.
Fans just have to hope the substitute troops can hold the line while they wait for the Cavalry (Ugo Ihemelu, David Ferreira, Brek Shea, Zach Loyd, Ricardo Villar) to arrive.
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