FRISCO, Texas – Last week, FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman thought Saturday’s trip to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park to face Colorado – which ended in a 1-1 draw – would shape up as one of the toughest road games for his side thus far. However, it didn’t exactly turn out that way.
That’s because Rapids forward Conor Casey missed the game with a mild concussion and his absence clearly changed the complexion of the entire match.
“No, it did not [meet my expectations as the toughest road match of 2010],” said Hyndman said after the game. “I think part of that reason was no Conor Casey on the field. Then, [Jeff] Larentowicz came on late, maybe with 15 minutes left in the game. I think if those two players would have been on the field, they would have brought us more problems.”
One player his club did have some problems, though, with was Scottish midfielder Jamie Smith.
“He was the one that caused us the most problems,” the FCD manager said. “Daniel [Hernandez] had a little bit of a problem dealing with Smith and [so did Mehdi] Ballouchy. That’s where we really felt like tactically we needed someone to stay home, and Eric [Alexander] did.”
Cunningham’s 25 solid minutes
Now that Milton Rodriguez has started every game at forward since making his MLS debut on July 17 against Real Salt Lake, it looks like Jeff Cunningham’s biggest chance to make an impact on FCD will be off the bench.
The veteran scorer and winner of the 2009 Budweiser Golden Boot as the league’s top scorer, Cunningham came on in the 65th minute on Saturday afternoon at Colorado for Rodríguez and Hyndman was pleased with his effort.
“Jeff got a couple of chances and created a couple of things out of nothing,” the FCD gaffer said. “I told him to go at these guys and take his shots. I told him to bring that energy and I thought he did.”
Cunningham’s best chance of ending a scoring drought that has now reached 10 games came in the 86th minute off a nice give-and-go from teammate David Ferreira, but his shot was saved by Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens.
Chávez still not fully fit
Earlier in the year, whenever he needed a spark off the bench, Hyndman called on Eric Avila. However, it looks like that role now falls to the feet of Honduran midfielder Marvin Chavez.
Chávez entered Saturday’s match about 10 minutes after the break for Atiba Harris and his considerable speed afforded FCD several scoring chances. Overall, Hyndman was pleased with Chávez’s performance but added that he’s a long way from being at the fitness level he’d like to see the young playmaker at.
“I thought Chávez brought some energy,” the FCD coach said. “He brought some quickness and some energy. His fitness level is not what we want it to be. That’s something he’s going to have to put a little bit more time into. I thought he brought what I wanted him to bring.”
Rough final frame
Fans might have noticed that by the 79th minute, Hyndman had exhausted his allotment of three subs, a move that was completely by design. Not only was the thin mountain air taking its toll on FCD’s first 11, but they also had to contend with hot weather. Playing in heat is nothing new for FCD, but contending with the heat and altitude simultaneously took an obvious toll on the starters.
Chávez went on for Atiba Harris in the 55th minute. Ten minutes later, Cunningham went on for Rodríguez. Finally, in the 79th, Bruno Guarda replaced Alexander. Not only were the moves designed energize the attack and go for a go-ahead goal, but the FCD manager also wanted fresher legs on the field.
“The second half was pretty challenging because guys were tired,” Hyndman said. “Guys were making mistakes technically as well as tactically. We used all three subs early so we could get some fresher legs on the field.”
But by the time Guarda hit the field, the FCD gaffer had already signaled a change in approach to his club.
“With about 12 minutes left, I think it was time to call the boys down, keep our defense back and preserve the one point,” Hyndman said.