Their Florida trip now concluded, FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman felt his team's venture to the Sunshine State was rewarding despite losing three of five games on the 10-day excursion.
FCD split a pair of games against college competition, then defeated the New England Revolution in a scrimmage. But Dallas dropped both games in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic, falling to Toronto FC 1-0 on Thursday, then going down 2-1 to the Houston Dynamo in the third-place game of the event on Saturday night.
"These games are important for us. We want to establish a culture of winning but at the same time, we really do want to look at some of these players so we don't make some drastic decisions after only looking at players in practice," Hyndman said. "We need to put them through games in the league. It's a great opportunity for some players and then another opportunity for trialists. It's also an opportunity for other players to step up a bit and get extra coverage."
In the 1-0 loss to Toronto FC, the Reds took an early lead after a 16th-minute goal by trialist Vincent Kayizzi. Just four minutes later, FCD midfielder Marvin Chavez nearly drew things level but was denied at close range by TFC goalkeeper Stefan Frei. Hyndman's club also nearly tied things up in second half extra time but a free kick by Dax McCarty caromed off the far post. FCD played the entire second half with a man advantage after TFC's Nick Garcia was sent off just before the break but were never able to completely break down the Reds defense.
"The result, it is what it is. It's a little disappointing because we take every game seriously," Hyndman said. "How do you develop a culture of winning unless you're winning? We got a chance to look at different players. We got a chance to look at Josh Lambo in goal. He got a start and a chance to play the full 90. Then, we got a chance to look at some other people like Ruben Luna, (Eric) Alexander and then we were able to get (Steve) Purdy on the field. So it was an opportunity to continue to evaluate players.
"It was a little bit more physical than we would have liked it to have been for a preseason game. Saying all that, we had numerous chances to tie the game and score goals. Nick Garcia was immediately red-carded for a foul and then, it became very difficult to get behind them because they were very compact and very cautious. I thought we had a really good second half as far as getting scoring opportunities. It just wasn't going to be our night. That was my comment to the players. We did everything we needed to do. We just didn't score. It just wasn't our night."
FCD backup goalkeeper Josh Lambo played the full 90 in goal. While Hyndman was largely pleased with his performance, he did find some fault for the only tally of the evening.
"Lambo did OK. The goal was created by a turnover in the center of midfield," the FCD coach said. "A foul could have been called but it wasn't. They quickly got the ball out wide. They went with Lambo one-on-one and shot the ball inside the box. He hit it to the near post and goalies are supposed to cover the near post pretty well. He got a hand on it but it was hit with a little too much power and went in. Then, they had one more shot. Throughout the whole game, there were two shots taken.
"It was a routine play. The disappointing part was that they didn't have a lot of scoring chances and when they were a man down, there wasn't enough action on our defense to evaluate players the way we wanted to or to evaluate Josh. I think in all fairness, he did OK."
Just after halftime against TFC, Hyndman brought on McCarty, who had been in camp with the U.S. national team for the last few weeks.
"I thought Dax did great. He's a great connector of the ball," he said. "He wanted to play. He was very sharp and playing with pretty good intensity. He fits in with what we wanted to do. We were unable to get (Jeff) Cunningham out. He had a strained groin, probably at 90 percent. And then, we didn't want to get Heath Pearce out because he had gone 90 minutes the night before. This was really an opportunity for us to continue to look at some of our trialists."
In the game against Houston, David Ferreira put FCD into the lead in the 13th minute. But Lovel Palmer pulled the Dynamo level just three minutes later, then Cam Weaver scored the game-winner eight minutes into the second half.
One player who has especially active for the FCD attack is the speedy Chavez, who looks like a lock to start the year at right midfield.
"Marvin continues to impress. He's a good player," Hyndman said. "He's got a ton of energy. He's fearless, quick and he takes a lot of fouls. He had one great breakaway chance (against Toronto) where he tried to go over Stefan Frei and he just got a hand on it to put it out. I think Chavez is a good player for us."
Another player whom the FCD coach specifically mentioned was Eric Alexander, a former Indiana midfielder and third-round pick in last month's MLS SuperDraft.
"He did well. He's a player that has good vision, is a good distributor of the ball and is capable of knocking some pretty good diagonal balls into the point of attack," Hyndman said. "He'll continue to understand the physical play of the league and get a little more physical himself. It's a difficult position to play, that holding midfielder, the squeezing midfielder. I think he did fine considering how short of a time he's been in the league."