Monday, June 17th, 2008 is a day I can’t forget.
That was the day Schellas Hyndman addressed his new team for the first time as FC Dallas manager. As he began to speak to all of the players in the locker room, the message was very clear – he wanted to create a culture of winning.
As I sat and listened I could think of only one thing – when? I thought, anyone can deliver a concept, but only someone with a plan can actually execute it. Hyndman had his plan from the get go – but could he make it a reality?
The first part of the plan was to get the players he wanted, or a stage he calls “forming.” I remember well the criticism he took as he began acquiring more and more of “his guys.”
But think about it – what manager doesn’t do that?
Look at Ricardo Carvalho for example. The Portuguese center back has been acquired by Jose Mourinho on three different occasions starting at Porto, Chelsea and now today at Real Madrid. Hyndman has done the same thing with his player acquisitions.
During one week last September he made moves to bring in Ugo Ihemelu and Daniel Hernandez. Both were players he had a great deal of familiarity with from his days at SMU. Hyndman was starting to build the team in his image. Atiba Harris, Jair Benitez, and Heath Pearce were the other pieces to his puzzle. With those five players in the starting lineup by the end of the 2009 season, FCD won four of the last five to fall only a point short of the playoffs.
But there were certainly times in 2009 when there was an incredible amount of turmoil or, as Hyndman would say, “storming.” The second part of the plan required the team to buy into his system. It’s my opinion that he didn’t really have that until he made his changes in personnel. With locker room leaders like Hernandez and Ihemelu, the process was expedited.
Despite a record of 2-2-6 in the first 10 games of 2010, the belief remained unwavering because of the trust between clubhouse leaders, role players and management. During the next 10 games FCD amassed a record of 6-0-4. This was the first sign of what Hyndman would call “norming” – confidence was building and the buy-in was complete.
The fourth and final piece for Hyndman’s team was “performing.” It required an evolution of the team’s character, chemistry, resiliency and ability to handle adversity – all characteristics which Hyndman himself possesses. With injuries occurring to as many as six usual starters, the depth of his young team has been tested. They’ve bent but not broken en route to an 18-game unbeaten streak, losing only twice in 27 matches.
And so it seems the coach’s process is nearly complete – only one lingering question remains.
Can Schellas Hyndman lead his team to win the biggest game?
We don’t know the answer yet, but we do know that this is an FC Dallas team unlike any other. They are incredibly resilient. They are very difficult to play against. And they carry the character of their coach with them every time they step on the field.
Because of those things, they have a chance to win every game they play – even the biggest one.