After last week’s 1-0 loss to Los Angeles, FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman called his team’s performance one of the worst in his nearly two years as FCD’s head coach. One had to figure Hyndman, who has never been afraid to try different things, might do some tinkering with his lineup this week.
He did exactly that, essentially having Jeff Cunningham and Atiba Harris switching spots at training. Cunningham dropped back to right midfield while Harris shifted up top. By no means does the move mean that’s how they’ll line up on Thursday night in Chicago, but there is a precedent.
Last year, Cunningham struggled early in the year and Hyndman started him at right mid on May 31 in Chicago. The veteran striker responded by scoring his first goal of 2009 in the 3-0 win at Toyota Park.
Harris is well aware of what he can bring to FCD as a forward.
“The coach is going to want me to hold the ball up because of my size," he said after training on Wednesday. “I’ve been training there a few times [in the past] and didn’t play in the game, so I don’t know if he’s going to play me there. With my physical attributes, I can get behind the defense and stretch the field.”
The St. Kitts native is a close friend of Cunningham’s, dating back to their days as teammates with Real Salt Lake. He knows the accomplished scorer can bring some different attributes to the FCD midfield.
“His speed on 1-v-1 [is the biggest thing]," he said. "With his speed, he can beat anyone in this league. He’d probably take on the whole team if you asked him to do it. If you isolate Jeff with a defender out there, he can definitely beat him and get behind him easily.”
Better off the ball
In his postgame remarks after the loss to the Galaxy, Hyndman said that he has been working with his team for the last few weeks on being better off the ball. That remains a work in progress.
“It’s not as much as I would like,” Hyndman said on Wednesday. “Our three-man strike force is Jeff [Cunningham], Atiba [Harris] and Brek [Shea]. Sometimes we find Atiba and Brek a little too linear, just going straight down the lines. And it makes it difficult for Jeff to go into those spaces if they’re there, so we’re not getting a lot of mobility there.”
However, at least this week, the FCD coach has adopted a bit of a different approach to help make his side better off the ball.
“We’ve really been concentrating on David [Ferreira] and Dax [McCarty] getting forward and maybe coming through," Hyndman said. "We’ve also really concentrated on not just going with the killer pass, but trying to build up a little bit. I think it’s getting better. You get what you want, but you might end up getting things you don’t want. We’ve got to be a little bit cautious that we don’t spend so much time and so much energy doing one thing that we overlook some of the other things.”
Gorman’s trip pays dividends
Last Thursday, Barry Gorman returned from Brazil, his first trip as FCD’s technical director. He and Hyndman have spent much of the last week reviewing DVDs of players Gorman saw in South America. Now, Hyndman wants to have a closer look at one such player.
“Because Barry and I see things very similar, we were able to look at the DVDs together," Hyndman said. "I’ve looked at the DVDs with him twice now. He’s identified some really nice players. They’re players that we really hope to bring in for trial, or we hope to at some time, bring into FC Dallas.”
The FCD coach would like to see at least one of those players in Frisco, Texas, within the next few weeks.
“We’re really only talking about one player potentially coming in on trial," Hyndman said. "The other player won’t go on trial. He’s a pretty good player. We’ve got a full roster right now. So we’d have to either trade players or find another place for them. We want to make our team better. I think the defending has been greatly improved. The attacking phase, now we have to get better in scoring goals.”
Hyndman didn’t want to release the names of the players, but he did give a few more specifics.
“One is a defender and the other is an attacker," he said. "It doesn’t mean that we’re going to get one of them or both of them. But it is another opportunity to continue to look. We’re not the only team out there looking right now.”