FRISCO, Texas – The season starts in two days and FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman hasn’t decided on a No. 1 goalkeeper yet. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
When Peruvian national team goalkeeper Raúl Fernández was signed from OGC Nice, most thought that he would easily take over the absent starting spot, but incumbent Chris Seitz has come into preseason in the best shape of his career, sparking a friendly battle for who will start that rages up until Saturday night against Colorado.
“We’ll be making that decision very shortly,” Hyndman told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. “What’s going to be probably the main influence is [goalkeepers coach] Drew Keeshan. He works with them every day and he’ll have an opportunity to give me some thoughts on who he thinks should be the best keeper to be starting the season with.”
Hyndman has given away no secrets this preseason through his match lineups regarding who will start this Saturday and, truth be told, it’s probably not something he has known either. Fernández and Seitz split the minutes evenly in three preseason games in Portland and even shared playing time with the starting group in Wednesday’s practice. In reality, the margins couldn’t be thinner in choosing between the two.
“I think I’ve shown really well,” Seitz said. “Basically that’s all I can really do. If my number is called, I’m going to go out there and perform well and do everything I need to do to help us win. I’m capable of all these things, so to me it’s not really one of those things I can control.”
In Seitz, Hyndman has a goalkeeper who has six years of league experience and an opportunity to emerge from the shadow that former goalkeeper Kevin Hartman cast as the unquestioned No. 1 over the past three seasons. Seitz spent the entire offseason working out and Hyndman raved earlier in the preseason about how impressed he was with his goalkeeper’s fitness levels.
Fernández, on the other hand, is the wild card. He’s a guy who can flash out some truly spectacular reflex saves that Seitz perhaps doesn’t have in his arsenal, but the Peruvian still has some communication issues with his backline that showed themselves in the first goal given up in the preseason finale against San Jose.
“From the moment I arrived in Dallas, it was my intention to play and that’s what I want to do,” Fernández told MLSsoccer.com through a translator. “But at the end of the day, you have to respect the decision of the coach.”
Choosing between the two capable ‘keepers is probably Hyndman’s toughest decision heading into Saturday night and it’s a fight that will be hotly contested through the first six weeks of the season.
“The other guys are really great,” said Fernández. “But right now the decision lies with coach Schellas and I definitely know it’s a very difficult choice.”