FRISCO, Texas – FC Dallas have spent significant training time during the past week working on diagonal balls on set pieces to prepare for the lethal dead-ball capabilities of David Beckham and the Los Angeles Galaxy. (Sunday, 8 p.m. CT, ESPN2/Deportes)
On Thursday, though, head coach Schellas Hyndman put them through a drill designed to play to one of their best proactive strengths: the counterattack.
Using his speediest attackers, Hyndman had his players run a quick-succession five-on-two exercise with the express intent of sharpening the team’s transition from the midfield on a turnover. With Dax McCarty quarterbacking from the middle, Eric Avila and Brek Shea on the flanks, and Atiba Harris and Bruno Guarda as the forwards, the quintet repeatedly advanced the ball on a quick release to simulate a counterattacking situation.
“What I wanted to do was to set the mentality in our mind that we’re a very good team when we break out and we go through transition or a counterattack,” explained Hyndman on Thursday. “I wanted them to understand there’s a few principles to that and that is that we look forward, we pass forward and we run forward.”
The counter has been an effective weapon for Dallas all season, especially during their 19-game unbeaten streak and their race to the Supporters’ Shield, which came up just short with two weeks remaining in the season.
Against the Galaxy in Sunday’s Western Conference Championship – a team that’s no slouch itself in the counterattacking department – the team that’s able to convert more of its chances on transition play could be the decisive factor in who goes to MLS Cup in Toronto.
“It’s going to be an important balance for me and Daniel Hernandez to make sure that I’m helping him defensively, but also that I get forward,” McCarty said. “David Ferreira and our flank guys, they need help in the attack.”
Thursday’s drill could come in handy in sharpening Dallas for Sunday, as the Galaxy have shown a tendency to become rattled when they’re scored upon first – they were winless through six games in 2010 when trailing at the half. McCarty believes it’s important to open the match with intensity and to find those seams when they’re presented to FCD early.
“You’d think they’re going to want to come out early and put their stamp on the game with a lot of energy, try to get their crowd behind them,” he said. “It’ll be probably one of the fastest-paced games we’ve played all year.”