FC Dallas defense finding their stride amidst adjustments
When FC Dallas exited the field at Pizza Hut Park on May 1 against the LA Galaxy, they were running away from a thunderstorm. But at the same time, they were just hitting their stride defensively.
In the following four games, FC Dallas have shut out opponents using on-field communication and a workmanlike attitude instilled in them by head coach Schellas Hyndman and his coaching staff.
They’ve run their shutout streak to 399 minutes — second-best in the league this season — and needed every one of them as they continue to adjust to life without 2010 MLS MVP David Ferreira.
“Without having David on the field, I think what we’ve come to rely on now is just being a hard-working team,” Hyndman told MLSsoccer.com by phone after Tuesday’s training at the Starfire Complex outside Seattle, where a midweek match with the Sounders awaits. “The mentality is not to get outworked by the opposition.”
And Dallas haven’t been. The last goal they gave up was five games ago, in their 2-1 win over the Galaxy. Without Ferreira to engineer the offense into striking distance, FCD’s normally potent attack has taken back seat to a strong, defensive presence.
Credit can be spread all over the pitch. Center backs Ugo Ihemelu and George John have done the dirty work of making necessary tackles, winning headers and snuffing out through balls. Goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, who is currently tied for the league lead in shutouts with five, has come up with big saves. And the fullback slots have been filled superbly by Jackson Gonçalves and Zach Loyd after an offseason of turnover and several injuries.
“I’m not sure if we’ve been overlooked as a defensive team in the past,” said Hartman after Sunday’s scoreless draw with Real Salt Lake. “I think last year, at the end of the year, our goals against average ended up probably being under one.”
Defensive midfielders Daniel Hernandez — the captain — and Andrew Jacobson have been a stabilizing force during the run. Jacobson, sent to Dallas from Philadelphia during the preseason for a 2013 MLS SuperDraft second round pick, has excelled in his role as a two-way player and is enjoying putting the "D" back in Dallas.
“The people behind every line are talking, so Hartman’s really talking to the defense, the defense is directing the midfield," said Jacobson. "It’s definitely clicking defensively."
Hartman mentions work rate. Hyndman describes the team as blue-collar. Jacobson cuts to the chase.
“I can’t imagine its fun to play against us,” Jacobson stated bluntly Tuesday afternoon. “We are a really tough team to play against and we are a really tough team to score on."
His coach agreed.
“We are not giving up as many situations where its tough saves off of Kenny Cooper’s looping back header or Chris Wondolowski’s cracker,” added Hartman. “Now everything’s a little bit more predictable.”
Hyndman summed up the value of defense with his typical pith.
“A great defense will give you a good offense, and that’s what we’re hoping for.”