Not wanting to give any tactical information away while training in enemy territory today, FC Dallas Head Coach Schellas Hyndman focused on well-known keys to tomorrow’s Western Conference Championship – retaining possession of the ball and defending against the cross.
Training began with another simple game of keep-away in the center circle. The addition of FC Dallas Equipment Manager Marcus Owens gave the team a total of 16 players on the perimeter of the circle while three players stationed in the middle tried to win the ball back. Players on the perimeter only had one touch per possession. Turning the ball over to one of the defenders carried a penalty of taking their place in the middle. The ball also had to remain inside the center circle.
The team ran the drill for roughly 20 minutes while Hyndman spoke to members of the media.
“David Beckham coming that far back to defend against Seattle and David Ferreira, an MVP candidate, coming back to throw his body in front of a shot to beat Real Salt Lake are two perfect examples of why these two teams are in the conference final,” Hyndman said. “Great players have to be two-way players in the modern game.”
As Hyndman concluded the media availability portion of training, the team ran laps around the field.
Following the jog, FC Dallas Assistant Coach John Ellinger divided the players up into two teams, which he termed the "School of Hard Knocks" vs. the "Pretty Boys." The former represented players who had not attended college, while the latter represented those that had. One exception was Eric Avila, who ended up on the "School of Hard Knocks" despite attending UC-Santa Barbara. Ellinger's playful explanation? "He never went to class."
White Team, aka "School of Hard Knocks"
Eric Avila, Jair Benitez, Brek Shea, David Ferreira, Marvin Chavez, Atiba Harris, Ruben Luna, Jackson
Blue Team, aka "Pretty Boys"
Daniel Hernandez, Zach Loyd, Bruno Guarda, Eric Alexander, George John, Jeff Cunningham, Dax McCarty, Ugo Ihemelu
The teams continued possession-based drills with another game of keep-away in a 40x40 yard area. By removing the circle from the drill, players were forced to make runs to find open space. Players were also required to close down the open space on defense. Hyndman intervened every few minutes to change the amount of touches each player had on the ball per possession.
Defending against the cross
After a short talk, the team moved to the east goal to work on defending against crosses. FC Dallas Assistant Coach Marco Ferruzzi, who is charged with discovering the tendencies of opposing teams by watching video, looked to recreate situations in which the Galaxy broke down Seattle’s back line.
The primary message of the drill was to ensure FC Dallas remained level at both the front and back post when defending against crosses. Players were also instructed to remain with their mark for the duration of the play. Defenders were warned to be aware that the first man to the ball would often let the ball run onto a teammate taking a similar path to goal behind him.
Practice came to an end a few minutes later and players were instructed to take a few minutes on their own to work individually.
Bits and pieces
Cunningham, Hernandez, Luna and Harris took the opportunity to work on shooting from the top of the box. Goalkeeper Dario Sala jumped in net to offer some resistance.
“I can see how you scored 100-some goals in MLS,” Sala said after Cunningham picked out the near and far post on back-to-back shots.
On the opposite end of the field, Kevin Hartman took shots from FC Dallas Goalkeeper Coach Drew Keeshan.
Avila, Shea and Ferruzzi worked a three-way passing drill while making their way across the entirety of the training field.
Benitez and Chavez, as always, played soccer-volleyball over a practice goal stationed on the south side of the field.
Defenders John and Ihemelu knocked two-touch passes back to the other players’ hands while midfielders McCarty and Alexander performed the same exercise using only their feet.
Upon leaving the stadium, the FC Dallas players were greeted by members of the local Ventura County Fusion Youth Academy, who had gathered at the top of the stairs to wish the players luck heading into tomorrow’s match.