A year ago FC Dallas played just two fellow MLS sides in preseason, and head coach Schellas Hyndman admitted that might have been a reason why his club struggled to just three wins in their first 12 matches, a poor start that left his team playing catch up for the rest of the year.
This year, however, Hyndman decided to change his approach and has his team facing six other MLS teams. The first of those was a Tuesday morning scrimmage with New England in Orlando, which FCD won 2-0 thanks to goals by Marvin Chavez and Atiba Harris.
"To come away with a 2-0 win against an MLS team no matter what their level of play is or the players they've got out there is still something that we want to accomplish," Hyndman said. "Last year, I didn't think we had enough MLS games before the season started and it put us a little bit behind when we started the season at home. What we hope to do is continue to get better, continue to look at individual players, develop team chemistry and an understanding of their job description and structure."
Hyndman specifically lauded his back four for their performance against the Revolution.
"I think our defense is really performing well. Ugo (Ihemelu) and George John continue to get better in each game," the FCD coach said. "I think that's a step in the right direction. One of the things we did last year was give up a lot of goals. So we've made a huge attempt to make that better by bringing in Jair (Benitez), Ugo and Heath Pearce. I think those are three great additions and hopefully George (John) can stay healthy (for the entire season). [Anthony Wallace] had a good performance today. I played him at right back and he did a pretty good job. Then I played him at left back."
However, if Hyndman had to name a man of the match for his team, it was the man who will start the year at holding midfield and also his potential 2010 captain.
"The guy I thought was really part of the glue was Daniel Hernandez. He's a very difficult player to beat, is a quick distributor of the ball, (delivers) quality diagonal balls and is able to handle pressure," he said. "He's somebody who is giving direction out there. He had a very good game. (Marvin) Chavez I also thought played quite well. Then we had great movement out of Atiba (Harris) and Brek Shea. If I had to pick one player, I would probably pick Daniel Hernandez. For me, he was the guy who ran the show."
Equally impressive to his ever watchful eyes was the performance of speedy Honduran Marvin Chavez, whom Hyndman sees making a strong push for the starting job on the left of midfield.
"I think Chavez has done a fantastic job (so far in preseason). He's so quick and fast," he said. "He picked up the second goal. Ruben (Luna) got taken down in the box, which probably would have led to a PK but the ball popped loose and Chavez was all over it. He's a quick little player and he's got an extremely good work ethic. He'll be up there fighting for a spot for sure."
The match also provided the opportunity for some of FCD's younger players to see what MLS competition is like.
"We got [Wallace] out on the right side and went with Eric Alexander for the full 90. We got Zach Loyd in and (Josh) Lambo into goal. It was an opportunity to play quite a few players in this type of competition," Hyndman said.
Tuesday's scrimmage marked a return from FCD's 1-0 to Florida International University on Sunday. It might have only been a preseason match but that didn't preclude Hyndman from letting the result get under his skin.
"It (losing) is always a concern. We play the game to win the game," he said. "We never play the game to lose the game. I left at halftime. I had urgent meetings back in Dallas, so I left at halftime and came back the next morning. The score was 0-0 when I left. So, when I heard the score was 1-0, it was surprising because we had numerous chances of scoring and we didn't. When that happens, it just catches up to you. We also had some open goals that we missed. The college games are really games where we're trying to get a lot of our trialists an opportunity. If they don't perform well against college players, that's a pretty strong indication."
FCD will train on Wednesday morning before making a drive over to Tampa to watch teammates Jeff Cunningham, Dax McCarty and Heath Pearce play for the U.S. national team that night at Raymond James Stadium. Then, Hyndman's club will face Toronto FC on Thursday.
"The game against Toronto is again another measuring stick. They've been down here quite a while, so I think they'll come out pretty fast and hard," the FCD coach said. "They've been doing two-a-days like us and it should be a nice match. It will be good to see where we are today compared to other teams."