FC Dallas will face the New England Revolution on Saturday at Gillette Stadium, a venue where Schellas Hyndman’s club hasn’t won since 2003.
But the odds for FCD may have significantly improved on Monday, when the Revs announced that star midfielder Shalrie Joseph is on an indefinite leave of absence for personal reasons.
But while the loss of Joseph is a big loss for the home side, one thing his absence won’t do is change how Hyndman and his team prepare for Saturday’s match.
“He’s been a key fixture for their team for years,” Hyndman said Tuesday. “He seems to be in the right place at the right time, a real warrior. I’m sure the hope of the coaching staff is: ‘OK, we don’t have Shalrie and everybody else is going to have to pick up at least 10 percent.’ You never want to walk into the game thinking it’s going to be an easier game because they don’t have Shalrie Joseph. I think other players are going to get opportunities and try to raise their level.”
For FCD forward Jeff Cunningham, who has had his share of battles with Joseph, he still expects the usual hard-fought game from New England.
“Last year, besides Landon [Donovan], I thought he was the person who would get my vote for MVP of the league. Over the years, he’s been very steady for that club,” Cunningham said Monday. “Not having him, you can see he’s definitely missed on the team.”
Cunningham also realizes, however, that much of New England’s success over the last few years has been because head coach Steve Nicol and his staff have done a great job of bringing interchangeable pieces into the team and putting those players into spots where they can succeed.
“I know the coaching staff. That team is going to compete,” he said. “Even though Shalrie isn’t in the team, it’s going to be a difficult game.”
“It’s the same song, different verse with them. They’re always the same,” Dax McCarty said. “You always expect that from their team. Steve Nicol is a coach that I have a lot of respect for. I think he’s gained a lot of respect around this league for taking certain guys and drafting certain guys that come in and really make impacts for him.”
Even though FCD (0-1-3) are just one of two winless teams in MLS, Hyndman still feels that with a couple of breaks going his side’s way, his team’s record could be drastically different.
“If you look at the four games we’ve played, we could have won all four games," Hyndman said. "We’re inches away from winning games and soccer is probably the cruelest game in the world. We could be in a wonderful position right now but it’s hitting goal posts, not following up on chances, not putting opportunities away, giving up soft goals, all the things that matter.”