Cohesion and communication key to defensive shutout streak
FRISCO, Texas - After the dramatic 3-2 Texas Derby win over Houston, Schellas Hyndman said that the two late goals allowed to the Dynamo were fixable mistakes. Those words certainly ring true a couple weeks later.
FCD hasn’t allowed a goal since Brad Davis’ 83rd minute strike, a two-game shutout streak that’s the club's first back-to-back clean sheets in MLS play since July 2011. For Hyndman, the defensive effort is one that stretches beyond the back four.
“In the past, [the defense] has been a back four with a goalie and now the two center midfielders are holding and being much more responsible,” Hyndman said after Thursday practice. “The flank midfielders are putting initial pressure making it more and more difficult for teams to break us down.”
There are a number of reasons the defense has tightened up recently, but at the top is the simple presence of continuity across the defensive line. Hyndman has had the luxury of naming a nearly unchanged lineup for three weeks in a row, allowing for defensive cohesion to become stronger with every passing game.
“Not just the backline, but the whole team is playing collectively great team defense,” said George John. “Obviously as defenders, we’re primarily responsible for stopping their forwards and attacking players, but when we get guys swarming the ball in the midfield, it helps the team out tremendously. It’s just a total team mentality of defensive play.”
Heading into week six, FCD is the only Western Conference team with three shutouts, tied with New England and Kansas City for tops in the league.
“Our shape has been great, but that’s because the communication is coming from the middle,” said Zach Loyd. “Whether it’s George [John] or [Andrew] Jacobson, it’s coming from the middle to out wide and I think it’s a huge reason for our success.”
The defensive shape is something both Loyd and Hyndman pointed to as reasons for the recent shutouts.
“I think guys are learning to play a little bit more within the structure,” said Hyndman. “And we’re learning to not get as stretched out as we did in the Chivas USA game.”
Improvement from one game to the next has been something preached by the head coach every week this season and true to form, there is still one more thing he’d like to see from his defensive structure.
“The one area we need to continue to improve on that we talked about today is that we’re getting players to work hard and get around the ball, but now we just need players to get in there and win the ball.”