FRISCO, Texas – They may still be in first place in the Western Conference, but when it comes to playing defense this season, FC Dallas have been Dr. Jekyll in the first half and Mr. Hyde in the second.
Through the first 45 minutes of their six games in 2013, they have yet to concede a goal. But they’ve allowed seven second-half goals, all but one of them after the 75th minute.
“It is fixable,” head coach Schellas Hyndman insisted to MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. “You recognize that teams are going to put more numbers in a box trying to come back as it doesn’t matter if they lose 2-0 or 3-0. So you know the services are coming. We’ve made mistakes on fouling people, soft fouls, that have given chances for their big boys to come forward, so we have to do a better job at [managing] that.”
Hyndman went on to explain that the conundrum when absorbing heavy pressure late in matches is deciding whether to stay compact and set a line of confrontation, or spreading the defense in an attempt to disrupt crosses and early balls.
The team had a shortened practice on Wednesday because of the cold, rainy conditions in Frisco, but one thing they focused on was their strategy closing out games, especially with the two-time defending MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy coming to town on Saturday (7:30 pm ET, NBCSN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
“We’re working on trying to … put a little bit more pressure on [opponents] to make their services a little bit lower quality, maybe force them to serve on the run instead of just serving it whenever they want,” Hyndman said. “That’s our idea right now, I think we can do better with that.”
Last weekend in a disappointing 2-2 draw at Toronto FC in particular, FC Dallas also had to deal with an injury to George John early in the second half and the fact that both Stephen Keel and Walker Zimmerman were unavailable as backups.
“We’re a much better team, definitely, when [John is] on the field,” Hyndman said. “He’s not going to get pushed around.”
Non-injury substitutions, however, could be impacted by a shift in closeout strategy as FCD look to minimize the mismatches they face defensively.
“One of the problems we have is when they bring in bigger and bigger players, it doesn’t help guys like Jair Benítez, who is one of the shorter players in the league,” Hyndman said. “It also may not help with players that don’t have a really good work ethic.
"You try to put pressure on [opposing] players so that they don’t get the service off, but if you’re tired and you’re not an aggressive player running back trying to shut it down, then basically that may affect the substitution as well.”