FRISCO - It’s a rare early-season bye week for FC Dallas, but one that comes at the right time for a group fresh off an emotionally and physically grueling 10-day stretch.
Dallas saw their CONCACAF Champions League hopes dashed on their home field last Wednesday night, just a week removed from a long trip to Panama in Leg One. Three days later, largely the same group of guys tried to put that experience out of mind, opening the 2018 MLS slate with a come-from-behind draw against Real Salt Lake.
“You know we had three games very quick with a lot of stuff happening in the middle of preseason,” head coach Oscar Pareja said, acknowledging he wants to level out the group this week and put the CCL exit in the rear view mirror. “Right now we're just having this week to kind of turn the page and get everybody on the same page, recover some of the players who have been injured and all those things are important. At the same time we are trying to lift ourselves back into league play.”
“I think for some of these guys, with the week off, its a good way to set our minds again on focusing on the regular season for MLS just with the way that CONCACAF kind of ended abruptly and then we jumped straight into the first game of the season,” Ryan Hollingshead said, as he and the group embark on a busy week with two days of double sessions planned without a game to plan for this weekend. “[It] gives us time to really refocus and get our minds set on the rest of the season we have ahead of us.”
While mentally it is important to try and wipe defeat from the minds of the players and staff to fully focus on the MLS campaign, there are some things that Pareja and Co. do want to carry forward.
First and foremost is the ability the team has shown to create chances in each of their first three games, while improving on the finishing end of those looks. But Pareja is also valuing the growth shown by some of the new faces integrating into the group - a large reason the same starting faces played nearly the whole match over the weekend.
“We have 11 days until our next game and our coaches see this as an opportunity to work as hard as possible to face a long MLS season ahead,” Maxi Urruti said. “We are creating chances, but we’re not converting goals, so we are working to change that for the better.”
“I think we all agree we have not been punishing teams when we are creating opportunities,” Pareja said. “Players are responding to the effort, the new players are gelling with the other ones and having those last 20 minutes in the first half [against RSL], that was very good.
“We have some positive stuff happening. We have this week not just to remark those things and build on those aspects that the team is showing and that we're good at. And trying to correct the other ones too, to see if we can have more complete performances.”