As FC Dallas head into the final three weeks of preseason, head coach Schellas Hyndman is poised to name a 2010 captain fairly soon. Last year, FCD started the year with Pablo Ricchetti wearing the armband but after the veteran fell out of favor and was dropped from the first team, goalkeeper Dario Sala took over the captaincy and finished the year wearing the band for his club.
Sala is one of the four candidates the FCD coach named Thursday but he also admitted it will be a difficult decision.
"I could do it today, tomorrow or next week. I think we have some very good candidates," Hyndman said. "I think we have four pure candidates. One is Dario Sala because he took over last year and you saw how good the team did with them. I think another good candidate is Daniel Hernandez because he's coming in with a lot of experience. He and I think the same, the players like him because he has got very good maturity. I think another one is Ugo Ihemelu, another player who is very successful in the league. He has good character, is a wonderful human being and the team always comes first for him. I think another good candidate is Heath Pearce, who has had a very good preseason."
Of the four, Hernandez and Ihemelu have known Hyndman the longest as both played for him as collegians at Southern Methodist University before coming to MLS.
"Daniel (Hernandez) and I go back many years with our relationship at SMU. He's played many years in MLS," the FCD coach said. "He's one of the players that always stayed in contact with me. Every Christmas, he was at my house giving me a gift. So there was always a true relationship there. As you can imagine, he was one of my favorites coming out of SMU. Coaches aren't supposed to have favorites but I think what he brings, he brings that relationship from the coach to the players. He can be that mediator, that in-between."
He has similar sentiment for Ihemelu.
"Ugo is one of the neatest people I've ever been around. There is a strong history with me at SMU," Hyndman said. "He is a very caring human being. He's a fierce competitor on the field but he's a very caring human being. And he has time. If you have a problem, he'll ask you to go have lunch to talk about it. He's always there for you. He's not doing it for him."
The FCD coach had wanted to given Hernandez, Ihemelu or Pearce the captaincy last year, but considering they were each added late in the year, he decided instead to go with Sala, FCD's longest-tenured player.
"We brought so many people in midseason and it was hard to go to one of those guys and tell them to forget about the games we had already played and say now I want them to be a leader," Hyndman said. "They didn't even know the guys' names. How could they be a leader? It's too difficult. I didn't want to give those players responsibility and the guys didn't know them. So it was very easy to tell Dario to take responsibility because he already knew the players, knew what the issues were and how he could make it better."
Hernandez will be FCD's starting holding midfielder when they open the 2010 regular season against Houston on March 27. He could do so wearing the armband, something he would consider a big honor.
"It's always a great honor being captain of any team. I don't think that's really an issue for me," he said. "I'm going to keep doing my job, trying to lead the players on and off the field and keep doing what I've been doing. I think all four of us lead in our own way. Whoever ends up with the armband, it's a great deal of respect to whichever of us were to get it. All around the team, I think everybody has a great deal of respect for each other. The attitude has been a big plus this year."
Ihemelu was Colorado's captain during his stay with the Rapids and he also served as Hyndman's captain at SMU during his junior and senior campaigns.
"Yeah, it would mean a whole lot because it shows the coaches put a lot of faith in me to help lead the team," he said. "Those other guys are great leaders too. Daniel (Hernandez), he demands a lot from the players. He's really taken charge. I'm learning a lot from him about how to be a good leader. If the opportunity arises, I look forward to taking it."