FRISCO, Texas – There really is a silver lining in every cloud. FC Dallas’ silver lining comes in the form of an extra two days of rest before beginning their Western Conference semifinal against Real Salt Lake on Thursday at Pizza Hut Park.
Though FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman would have liked to see his team win their season finale against the LA Galaxy, a win would have seen them open their MLS Cup Playoffs schedule on Thursday against Los Angeles.
FCD will get a few extra days of rest before their match against RSL. But that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t some thought about their playoff fate beforehand.
“Of course, it was a big concern,” Hyndman said of his team’s potential playoff scenarios. “The way this whole set-up is with the conferences and everything else, you can sit there and have theories about how you want to do it. Would you rather be in the East than the West?”
High Praise for Harris
Atiba Harris had FCD’s lone goal of the evening against the Galaxy, a nice headed finish off a great cross from rookie Eric Alexander.
“I thought Atiba was a handful," Hyndman said. "You know what you’re going to get with Atiba and it’s his best. He’s going to give you his best and he’s going to work at it. What a great goal he scored on that header.”
Harris did pick up a caution in the 45th minute, but that did not diminish his manager’s opinion on the performance.
“I think he got called for a yellow card that was an interesting call,” Hyndman said. “He ended up getting his nose broken on the call.”
Avila in Bench Rotation for Playoffs?
Fellow midfielder Eric Avila came off the bench in the 60th minute for Eric Alexander and provided a nice spark in the FCD attack. His performance in front of friends and family from the San Diego area could be enough to land him some minutes in the playoffs, possibly as an energy guy off the bench.
“I thought he did fine,” Hyndman said. “He brought to us what we were hoping for, which was quick in the midfield and penetration, whether it was a shot, a pass or a dribble. It was just hard for him to get past them. They had four midfielders back and four defenders back. The passing lanes were very difficult and if you tried to dribble by them, they would either knock him off balance or foul him.”
Unexpected Minutes for Ihemelu
After the game, Hyndman admitted his plan was to keep center back Ugo Ihemelu on the bench for the entire night. Ihemelu had returned to the starting XI in last weekend’s loss at RSL after missing the previous 10 games with a concussion. In the second half at Rio Tinto Stadium, he suffered a hamstring injury and was limited in practice this week.
Rookie Zach Loyd started in his place on Sunday evening but Ihemelu was pressed into duty when versatile Brazilian rookie Jackson Gonçalves had to leave the game in the second half with an injury.
“He didn’t really put himself in the situation where he had to sprint away and chase after anything at full speed” the FCD manager said of Ihemelu. "One time, there was a ball with [Landon] Donovan and he just took it away from him. He decided not to mess with it and put it out of bounds. That was smart on his part. I thought he did very well.”