On Tuesday afternoon in Florida, FC Dallas won their second consecutive preseason match, a 1-0 decision against fellow MLS Western Conference side Colorado. However, in their three games against league opposition -- two against the Houston Dynamo and one against the Rapids -- FCD has yet to score once in the run of play, which is a bit concerning to head coach Schellas Hyndman.
The Hoops prevailed Tuesday thanks to a converted free kick by Kenny Cooper in the 57th minute.
"Yes, of course (it's a concern)," Hyndman said. "I've also made it very clear to everyone that we've spent a lot of time in our shape, a majority of our time in defending principles. So we're just starting to work on attacking principles. It's much easier to destroy than it is to build and the attacking phase is usually focused on building-combining, beating someone, doing something creative and then putting the ball in the goal. In the defensive phase, it's a little more about destroying."
The Hoops did manage to find the net regularly in a 5-1 win Saturday against the University of Memphis. After going scoreless for nearly the entire first half, FCD got two goals from striker Jeff Cunningham, his first two tallies of preseason. The Hoops also got two-assist performances from midfielders Dax McCarty, who also scored, and new acquisition Dave van den Bergh.
After arriving late to preseason camp because of a visa issue, Andre Rocha made his 2009 debut Monday, playing approximately 20 minutes.
"Andre did fine," he said. "Andre is a very skillful, very technical player. It's just that he came into camp late and his fitness level is what's holding him back. We're taking this week and probably next week to try and help him with his fitness level. Right now, Andre is trying to get himself fit again."
FCD will face Florida International on Thursday afternoon but Hyndman doesn't see Rocha's minutes increasing in that preseason affair.
"I think his level of fitness has got to improve," Hyndman said. "One of the things that happens when you play players that aren't fit, miraculously, they end up getting an injury that will keep them out of there."
A player fighting for a roster spot is forward Jamie Watson, who had a goal on Saturday despite suffering from a stomach virus that forced him to miss training on Friday. Watson has continued to be bothered by the same virus in Florida and played only the final 10 minutes in Tuesday's match.
"He's not (feeling too well)," Hyndman said. "He didn't play too much yesterday and part of that was because he didn't have a good training yesterday morning because he wasn't feeling really well. I think he's still recovering from the stomach virus. He's got great character and great heart. But at the same time, he's competing for a roster spot. He's hungry and realizes that he's got an opportunity."
While the attack remains a work in progress, there has been marked improvement on the other side of the ball. In their last three preseason games, FCD has allowed a grand total of two goals. That came after a resounding 3-0 defeat in Houston on Feb. 6. Since then, the Hoops kept a clean sheet in the return match against the Dynamo three days later in Frisco and allowed one goal each against Memphis and Colorado.
"I think our defense is getting better," Hyndman said. "It's a combination of not just our defenders getting better, it's our whole team coming together in some type of structure and understanding their roles to defend. I think that has helped us a bit.
"I think our goalies have done a good job. Ray (Burse) did a really good job yesterday in the second half when they were really putting on a lot of pressure and we were making a lot of changes. I thought Dario (Sala) did a really good job for us when we played Houston at home. I think it's a combination of defending structure, people taking a little bit of pride in it and I think our goalies are coming up with some big opportunities to make a difference."
Steve Hunt is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.