FRISCO, Texas – Consistent goalscoring on set pieces is supposed to be a simple equation: Good service, big men get on the end of it, the ball goes into the net. Win.
It was just that easy for FC Dallas when they were leading MLS and scoring set-piece goals in bunches, as they were through June.
On the year they’ve scored 15 goals off dead ball situations, but only one of those has come in the last 14 games. And instead of leading the league, they're now below the red line in the playoff hunt.
FCD are 2-7-5 during that 14-game stretch and have tumbled to the brink of elimination from a spot in the MLS Cup playoffs. Anything less than three points in each of their final three games means Dallas’ season is over.
Coach Schellas Hyndman said that finding that early-season magic on corner and free kicks has been a major point of emphasis during this week of training leading to Saturday’s match against the Chicago Fire at Toyota Stadium (8 pm ET; Free MLS Stream of the Week) in the Brimstone Cup.
“I just think our services have not been up to the level that we are accustomed to and because of that, we’re not getting on the end of them,” Hyndman told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. “We put the responsibility back on the server and also the other players have got to get there.”
Cooper said that set pieces are still a strength of this team that their opponents should be concerned about it. And, of course, it helps with confidence to have a set piece specialist like Michel delivering the ball.
“I think back to my goal against Seattle, I mean the ball Michel played was just ... perfect,” Cooper told MLSsoccer.com. “Any time you get a great service in there, a team’s got a chance. We’ve done some great work on set pieces [in training] and … we’ve scored some great goals off of them this year, it would be great to score some more in these last couple games.”
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FCD players realize that they also need favorable results in other matches for their slim playoff hopes to come to fruition. But midfielder Andrew Jacobson said that their focus is on the only thing they can control: winning their last three games.
“We’d like to lift a trophy, for sure,” Jacobson said on Friday. “I think we’ve been saying it a lot this season, but this is the time where it’s not about individuals, it’s not about what [the Fire] do, it’s about what we do tomorrow, how we come out.
"Eighteen players, 11 starters, anyone coming off the bench – you work for the team. That’s really the most important thing right now.”