Almost from the moment he was announced as FC Dallas head coach in June 2008, Schellas Hyndman has had one mission: developing a winning culture.
There have clearly been some growing pains as the FCD manager retooled almost the entire roster, and in the second half of 2009, it was clear those changes were beginning to pay big dividends. His club was a tough opponent down the stretch and came just one game short of making the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
Many expected FCD to carry that momentum forward into the 2010 campaign. Were it not for a lack of finishing, they would clearly rank even higher than their current third position in the Western Conference table. Hyndman's charges are now riding a seven-game unbeaten streak heading into Saturday afternoon's match at Colorado.
For the FCD gaffer, it’s a testament to how far this team has come since his hiring.
“I think we’re now at that stage where you’re starting to see a lot more character-the Seattle game and this game [at Toronto] being down, both games on the road and coming back to get a point," Hyndman said. "I don’t think the teams in the past would have done that.”
Only six players remain from the squad the Hyndman inherited and only two of those, Dax McCarty and Brek Shea, are members of the first XI.
McCarty is currently nursing a strained right quadriceps injury and might miss his second straight game this weekend. Now in his fifth year with the club, he notices a distinct difference in the current atmosphere surrounding the team compared to past years under Steve Morrow and Colin Clarke.
“I think the main difference between those guys and Schellas is that guys aren’t relaxed during training," McCarty said. "Some training sessions in the past would be very casual and there wouldn’t be as much of an emphasis on winning every single thing you did.
"I think Schellas has done an excellent job of imparting that in guys’ minds whether it’s a three-v-three game, six-v-six game or 11-v-11 starters vs. reserves that there has got to be that attitude that you’re not going to lose.”
Backup goalkeeper Dario Sala came to FCD under Clarke in 2005 and he, too, has noticed a positive change in his surroundings since Hyndman came on just more than two seasons ago.
“I’ve had more than 20 coaches in my career and I can put Schellas in the top three," Sala said. "Look at the environment at practice. Everyone comes out early, stays late and they go to the gym. The atmosphere is fantastic.
"It’s taken Schellas a long time to develop a group that is 100 percent focused and going in the same direction as the coaching staff. That’s a hard thing to get on a professional team because you have jealousy and egos. He’s made it better and made the group better.”
The FCD gaffer has also placed a very high priority on strong team chemistry. In the last few years, this has included either trading or not renewing the contracts of several mainstays of the starting lineup but there is little doubt those changes have been made for the better.