After tonight’s 2-2 draw with Columbus, FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman wasn’t about to pull any punches. In his postgame media remarks, Hyndman said that his 2009 team, much of which is no longer in Frisco, would not have pulled out that result and salvaged a point.
The FCD coach didn’t make those remarks to indict many of his former players, he merely made them to illustrate how much his club has changed from the one that struggled early in the 2009 season to the one that finished last year as the hottest club in all of Major League Soccer.
When Columbus’ Guillermo Barros Schelotto scored on a header after FCD goalkeeper Kevin Hartman denied him on a penalty kick in the 82nd minute, it looked like it might be points dropped for the home side.
However, Eric Avila’s unassisted tally in the 93rd minute tied things up at 2-2 and allowed FCD to salvage a point.
“To give up a PK there at the end and to come back and tie it the way we did, I think shows a lot of character and determination by our team,” Hyndman said. “I don’t think last year’s team would have been able to do that. I think this year’s team is so much more focused and conditioned to get results.”
FCD’s other goal came from Jeff Cunningham, who converted a PK in the 29th minute to give his club an early lead.
Hyndman made five changes to his first 11 from the group that started in a 1-1 draw with Houston on March 27 to open the season.
Hartman got the start in goal after Dario Sala was unable to go with a hamstring injury. Sala had returned to training earlier this week and was called a game-time decision by the FCD coach. No. 3 keeper Josh Lambo was recalled from Tampa, where he is on loan, to be Hartman’s backup.
In the back, Heath Pearce moved to the left, with rookie Zach Loyd replacing him on the right for his league debut. Ugo Ihemelu returned to the middle after missing the Houston game with a hamstring injury.
In the midfield, Jair Benitez took over on the left side for Brek Shea. Benitez is normally FCD’s starting left back and saw his first action in the midfield since joining the team in 2009. He did have midfield experience during his stint in his native Colombia.
“I wanted to put [Jair] Benitez and Heath [Pearce] on the field at the same time,” Hyndman said. “Where I thought we really looked good in the first half was on the left side with Jair and Heath overlapping each other. I think they’re the perfect combination. If one goes forward, the other feels comfortable coming back. I don’t think you’ll find that very often in soccer, but that’s something that we want to continue to use.”
Shea wasn’t even on the 18-man game roster.
Loyd played a full 90 in his league debut, and his coach had good things to say about the performance of the fifth overall pick in this year’s MLS Super Draft.
“I thought he did very well,” Hyndman said. “I think he did a lot for himself today.”
Avila’s game-tying strike marked the second straight year he has scored against the Black and Gold in Frisco. Last June, he had a tally in a 2-1 win over the Crew.
“I don’t know what it is about Columbus,” Avila said. “I think it’s a bet between me and [the Crew’s] Andy Iro. We played in college together, got drafted in the same year and all that.”
For FCD captain Daniel Hernandez, tonight’s result boiled down to one thing.
“I think we just let it slip away in the second half,” Hernandez said. “We didn’t do the things that we were doing right in the first half. The good thing is we kept fighting until the very last minute.
“Avi had a great goal there at the end. It just shows the character of the team and the big difference that we have this year. It’s probably not the result that we wanted, but we showed good fight.”