“Defense wins championships” is the old adage, and FC Dallas have taken it to heart in their run toward the top of the list of Supporters’ Shield contenders.
They’ll see that defense put to the test this weekend, as Saturday’s away match against the New York Red Bulls (6 pm ET, Galavisión) will pit one of the league’s most talented offenses against FCD’s lock-down back line.
“It’s interesting because you talk about our defense, but we’re a group that all 11 players are playing defense,” goalkeeper Kevin Hartman told MLSsoccer.com over the phone Friday afternoon. “You look at the effort that Marvin [Chávez] puts in up top defensively for us — it’s almost as important as it is with what George [John], Ugo [Ihemelu] and Daniel [Hernandez] do in the middle of the park.”
The team currently has a league-high 11 shutouts on the season after Wednesday’s 1-0 road win against Toronto FC. Saturday’s challenge, however, comes against a Red Bulls squad that’s among the league leaders in scoring.
“We expect a lot from them,” said FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman. "They have the most talent of any team in the league and they’ve been extremely successful at home."
New York boast the league’s top goal scorer in Thierry Henry and feature tremendous speed along the flanks with Dane Richards leading the way. Hartman spoke about playing against a similar offensive team in D.C. United last weekend, and FCD’s game plan to derail the Red Bulls.
“We are cognizant of the assets that they have,” said Hartman, “but at the same time, I think that if we are able to be beyond those guys and really get after their back four and the goalkeeper, hopefully they won’t have the ball as much as Toronto had it the other night.”
New York also had a league match on Wednesday, traveling to Colorado where they were routed 4-1 by the MLS Cup champions. That left them with a longer trip back to New York than the visiting Dallas side.
“They had a real difficult road trip,” continued Hyndman. “Not a great result [for them] so I think getting back to their comfort zone, to their fan support — they want put their last game behind them as quickly as possible.”
FC Dallas have struggled at New York in losing their last four meetings, and in addition to losing Brazilian attacker Jackson Gonçalves due to his fifth yellow card, Hyndman suggested that they may also be without right back Zach Loyd for a second consecutive game.
“We are hoping Zach Loyd will be ready to go and if he is, then great," Hyndman said. "If he isn’t, then we are going figure it out.”
But FC Dallas may have one advantage that the New York summers don’t frequently provide: familiarity with the nearly triple-digit heat.
Temperatures are estimated to be in the mid-90s at game time, and Hartman acknowledged the climatic nuisance.
“We just went through training and it’s pretty warm out here surprisingly,” Hartman said. “I think for a team from Texas to say that is pretty interesting. It’s something that hopefully we are prepared for because of the amount of training that we have been doing in the heat.”
Robert Casner covers FC Dallas for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter: @FCDallasBeatGuy