Defensive injuries pose problems ahead of FC Dallas opener
FRISCO, Texas — FC Dallas allowed multiple goals only twice in the first 23 games this season, but after a 2-2 draw with New York on Sept. 16. at Pizza Hut Park, they surrendered multiple goals in five of their last seven matches of the regular season.
Chalk it up to injuries which sidelined starting center backs Ugo Ihemelu and George John, as well as veteran goalkeeper Kevin Hartman. Ihemelu and John are back for FCD’s series opener on Saturday against defending champions Real Salt Lake, but Hartman hasn’t played since the Red Bulls draw and is a question mark heading into the postseason.
“I think that [the personnel changes] is part of it," Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman said. "I think it’s also the potential MVP of the league in goal [Hartman] isn’t there. That’s the reality. When you look at the saves he has made, the key saves that Kevin has made, he was always good for one a game where he’d make a fantastic save.”
Dario Sala has stepped in admirably for Hartman over the last six weeks of the season, but there’s a noticeable difference without the team’s regular starter manning the net. Hartman is questionable for the RSL series opener.
“The other thing you really miss is the coordination between goalkeeping and back line," Hyndman said. "Yes, you have changes in players, but you also have to have coordination and communication. I think Dario has done a good job for us, but when you look at why we’re giving up those goals, it’s a combination of the changing of the players and then the communication and the coordination.”
FCD also played without defender Heath Pearce in their 2-1 loss in last Sunday’s season finale against the Galaxy, but he’ll return against RSL after serving a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation.
“Part of it is the guys who weren’t out there on the pitch," captain Daniel Hernandez said. "I think we’ll be fine. I think we’ll have everybody healthy for the playoffs and, hopefully, we can get that chemistry back on the defensive side and avoid those big mistakes.”
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