FRISCO, Texas – After playing well in a stretch of three games in seven days, but with no points to show for it, defensive organization is a problem to be solved for FC Dallas.
Four of the five goals given up by Dallas last week stemmed from such issues, making it one of the top priorities for the week, according to head coach Oscar Pareja.
“Once we settle, our defense is going to have the consistency that we need, but at the moment, is it a concern – yes,” Pareja told reporters earlier this week. “The first training of the week, very specific on concentration with defenders. I need to be patient. I have to have consistency with them, believe that they can do the job and hope that the next game we can look better.“
Two of the four regular defensive starters for much of the season, Stephen Keel and Kellyn Acosta, did not play a minute of any of the three matches last week. Keel picked up an injury before the May 4 match against New York, and Acosta had surgery to address an avulsion fracture and is out for another five to seven weeks.
In their place went Walker Zimmerman, a young but talented player who had but a handful of appearances in his rookie season last year, and veteran Zach Loyd, who had missed the start of the season with an injury of his own.
“Everyone is still giving 100-percent effort for 90 minutes,” said central defender Matt Hedges. “The effort is great. We’re still executing our system really well. We still keep the ball well, attack well. There is no need to panic.”
One positive from last week’s barrage of games was the re-emergence of MLS All-Star and Peruvian national team goalkeeper Raúl Fernández. He is up for MLS Save of the Week with two entries from last week’s matches.
“We have him healthy and very close to his best,” Pareja said. “Remember that we have Chris Seitz on a tremendous season as well, so we have two players who can contribute to the team at any point with no problem.
“Raúl has shown a couple of saves that are not frequently made.”
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With another stretch of three games in eight days, starting Saturday against Chivas USA (8:30 pm ET; MLS Live) and also including games against the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake, shoring up the entire defensive effort is going to be key if FC Dallas want to get back in the business of getting points.
“Tough schedule for us, we’ve got a lot of good teams, we’ve got to go to a lot of them,” Hedges said. “It’s always tough against good teams, and its even tougher on the road. Everybody has to play a tough schedule, everybody has to play everybody so just have to get out there and get it done.”