CARSON, Calif. – FC Dallas manager Schellas Hyndman relishes mind games, and he pulled one on the LA Galaxy in Sunday night’s 3-0 Western Conference Championship victory.
Many expected speedy veteran Jeff Cunningham to start in place of the injured Colombian Milton Rodriguez in the lone forward spot. Instead, Hyndman opted to go with Atiba Harris, who usually plays at right wing.
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“I think we caught them by surprise by going with Atiba Harris in the attack,” Hyndman said. “I don’t think they were ready for Atiba Harris and Atiba had a very good game.
“We thought that Omar [Gonzalez] would have a little more problems with Atiba because he is big, strong and physical. I think that Atiba surprised us all how well he held the ball under pressure.”
It didn’t hurt that FC Dallas scored the first goal of the match, taking a 26th minute lead through MVP candidate David Ferreira. FCD points to the Colombian’s strike as the turning point of the match.
“Scoring that first goal really changed the game and put them into a situation where they had to chase us,” Hyndman said.
“[It was] an amazing finish," midfielder Dax McCarty added. "After that, we knew we could sit back, defend, and hit them on the break like we did.”
Hyndman said that the counterattack was one of the focal points of training sessions in the week leading up to the match at The Home Depot Center. They stressed the importance of getting numbers forward as soon as they won possession of the ball and that tactic “kept LA on their back heels,” according to the FCD manager.
Goalkeeper Kevin Hartman also played a major role in the match, stopping the Galaxy with several spectacular saves throughout the match. On Hartman’s one misstep, a punched ball in the 56th minute, LA’s Landon Donovan missed the mark with an open goal at his mercy.
“That’s the not the same Galaxy team that would capitalize and put those opportunities away,” Hyndman said.
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