FRISCO, Texas – The 2011 season has been a marathon for FC Dallas. Heading into Wednesday’s Wild Card matchup with the New York Red Bulls, the team has played a franchise-record 47 games.
But the message from the FCD locker room on Monday was clear: That's in the past; they’re just getting started.
“It’s a new season,” head coach Schellas Hyndman told reporters after the team’s training session on Monday. “It’s the playoffs.”
Following two straight wins in league play, the team suffered consecutive losses to end the season. With an opportunity to advance in the CONCACAF Champions League, Dallas dropped a 3-0 decision to Toronto FC at home. FCD then lost their regular-season finale at San Jose this past Saturday, 4-2, with a mostly reserve squad traveling.
But defender Zach Loyd (above) knows his side is capable of bouncing back.
“Last year, we lost our last two regular-season games to LA and Salt Lake and we did the same thing this year,” he told reporters on Monday. “I think we’ve been through a lot of adversity, but I think we still have the belief in ourselves that we can go into the playoffs and make a solid run like we did last year.”
Defender Ugo Ihemelu, who started 30 games this season in MLS play, is excited for the fresh start the playoffs provide.
“It has been a really long season,” he admitted Monday. “There have been some disappointments, but we ultimately achieved our goal of making it to the postseason. It’s a whole new season now.”
FCD will have their hands full as New York return to Pizza Hut Park on Wednesday (9 pm ET; Fox Soccer, TSN2). On Sept. 17, the Red Bulls visited Dallas without leading scorer Thierry Henry and midfielder Rafa Márquez, escaping with a gritty 1-0 win.
Nonetheless, Dallas defender George John remains confident heading into the postseason.
“We always have a lot of confidence,” he told MLSsoccer.com following the team’s loss to Toronto. “We’ve got to turn things around and stay positive and go into this Wild Card game expecting to win.”
Villar’s availability in question
The status of midfielder Ricardo Villar is still unclear after Monday’s training session. The Brazilian injured his foot in the CCL loss to Toronto last week. He was seen jogging at practice, but was withheld from contact drills.
Hyndman stressed the importance of Villar to the Dallas attack in the aftermath of the Toronto loss.
“That really was a big blow for us,” he coach said. “Without Villar, there just really isn’t that connector in the attacking third to create opportunities for players.”
Though the team managed 20 shots in the loss, only three were on frame, as Dallas failed to create many clear opportunities in the second half.
“What you saw from us today was a lot of penetrating balls and trying to isolate people one-on-one and use our speed to get behind them,” said Hyndman. “We got the shots off, but they weren’t the quality shots that we needed to get.”