TORONTO -- FC Dallas relished the opportunity to return to the training pitch this morning, this time at BMO Field in Toronto. Since arriving in Canada, the media spotlight has chased the squad from appearance to appearance, but on the grass at BMO the team was finally able to get down to business.
Head Coach Schellas Hyndman kicked practice off with a drill the team has not used since late October. Starting from two opposite corner flags at the same time, the team calmly worked a ball through midfield before sending a pass out wide. From the flank, players would send a cross in to a target player, who was looking to get on the end of the cross.
During the drill, players would move from station to station to take a turn: starting the drill, receiving the inlet pass, knocking the ball out wide, sending in the cross and having a go at goal. The players moved slower than usual, taking caution as to not cause injury in the cold weather.
At 10:50 a.m. Hyndman brought the team together for a short discussion before handing out bibs for a speed of play drill. Returning to training for the first time since playing against the Galaxy on Sunday, defender Zach Loyd was tossed a white bib. Jackson and Daniel Hernandez are both still being held out for precautionary measures, but are expected play in the MLS Cup Final on Sunday.
Speed of Play Teams (white and blue versus yellow and red)
|Zach Loyd||Eric Alexander||Jair Benitez||Jeff Cunningham|
|Eric Avila||Marco Ferruzzi||David Ferreira||Dax McCarty|
|Bruno Guarda||Ugo Ihemelu||Jason Yeisley||Victor Ulloa|
|Bryan Leyva||Marvin Chavez||Moises Hernandez||George John|
|Ruben Luna||Brek Shea||Edson Edward||Andrew Wiedeman|
More familiar with both the cold and the Toronto field than most FC Dallas players, Jeff Cunningham looked sharp again today. He set up Eric Avila for a good opportunity on Dario Sala, but the goalkeeper was equal to the task early in the drill.
FC Dallas homegrown player Bryan Leyva had little trouble finding the back of the net after a ricochet off of Sala fell to his feet – a good sign for one of the bright stars of FC Dallas’ future, who also just so happened to find the back of the net against the Colorado Rapids’ Reserves on Oct. 10.
This speed of play drill was the second dose of mental weightlifting Hyndman threw at his team this week. FC Dallas ran the same drill just before stepping on the bus to leave Pizza Hut Park for Toronto Thursday afternoon. The drill forces players to make several decisions every time they pass the ball.
While white and blue were on the same team, players wearing white were limited to one touch on the ball per possession. This forced the blue players to play a ball to a member of the white team that could be handled with just one touch. Making the game so difficult may seem strange heading into the biggest match in FC Dallas history, but come gametime when all the restrictions of the game are removed, players feel very comfortable.
If things go according to Hyndman's plan, that means Sunday’s match will feel much more open, decisions will feel much easier and players will have more time and touches on the ball.
FC Dallas returns to training at BMO Field tomorrow morning before shutting it down and preparing for their huge match Sunday night. Stay tuned to FCDallas.com for all the action here in Toronto!