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Hyndman's positivity and self-policing key to FC Dallas' playoff return

FRISCO, Texas — When FC Dallas named Schellas Hyndman as head coach in June 2008, there were question marks. Could the former Southern Methodist coach make the transition from the college to pro ranks? Could a guy with no experience in MLS succeed under the salary cap structure and the unique rules of MLS? Most important, could he finally bring the club its first MLS Cup?

His first few months on the job illustrated what a tall order he had ahead of him. FCD went 4-5-8 to finish the 2008 season at 8-10-12, missing the playoffs for the first time in three years.

In 2009, the team limped to a 4-9-5 start, and after a 4-2 loss at Real Sale Lake on July 24, some FCD supporters donned bags over their heads and displayed banners calling for Hyndman’s head.

But just a week later, Hyndman’s side responded with a 6-0 win at home over the Kansas City Wizards, thanks to four goals by Jeff Cunningham and went on to go 7-4-1 in the final 12 games. They narrowly missed out on the playoffs, falling short by a single point after dropping their regular-season finale against Seattle.

But in 2010, things have been different. After a loss at home vs. LA on May 20, FCD have gone on an 18-game unbeaten streak. They are now regarded as one of the top clubs in MLS, even reaching #2 in this week’s MLS Power Rankings.

And with their 3-0 win over Chicago last weekend, they clinched a playoff spot. If FCD can continue with their good results, including getting another win on Saturday when the Colorado Rapids come to town, they may be able to make a late push at conference leaders Los Angeles and defending champions Real Salt Lake. 

“When you don’t find success, it’s a natural thing to doubt,” Hyndman said. “I think it’s very natural but I try not to stay there very long. I try to get positive and just work. I can tell you that every day I’ve been on the job, my only focus has been getting this team into the playoffs.”

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One thing that has been integral to his success is the team-first mentality of the 2010 Dallas side.

“What you find now is these guys are not only willing to do it, but they’re taking responsibility and accountability of making sure their teammates are doing it,” Hyndman said. “So, they’re policing themselves which is fantastic.”

Hyndman has also received great support from his family and fellow coaches, many of whom have reached out to congratulate him as the club has improved over the past 12 months or so.

“They’re the ones that I’ll get three or four emails a day from telling me I’m doing great,” Hyndman said. “They read websites all the time and they tell me to keep everybody on the bus going in the right direction. It’s a fantastic feeling that I have so many friends out there that care. You can imagine how many emails from this past game.”