FRISCO, Texas – It’s inevitable for a team to go through an arduous season without falling victim to injuries and other tribulations. After playing 47 games from March 19 until October 22, the wear and tear clearly took a toll on FC Dallas towards the end of their campaign.
Players’ physical and mental fatigue led to knocks and suspensions that kept head coach Schellas Hyndman from consistently fielding his first XI, often rotating players in the midfield and on defense more out of need than for tactical reasons, and that in turn led to the team’s late slump.
“Last year we played a total of 34 games, including the [MLS Cup] final,” Hyndman noted after practice on Tuesday. “That’s a hell of a season. I think we just finished our [47th] game. When you look at those additional games with the same roster, you take David Ferreira out of the mix and players are asked to play with injuries … then you look at suspensions, players traveling and the extra games and all those things, [it adds up].”
Starting center back Ugo Ihemelu echoed his coach’s comments, also pointing out that the defense has been one of the areas mostly affected by the constant rotation of personnel.
“It’s tough," he said. "You lose form whenever you have a change in the lineup. There’s an understanding you have to gain, especially in the back. You have to have as little gray area as you can in the defense because if you’re not on the same page, that’s when mistakes happen, that’s when goals happen.”
Luckily for FCD, it looks like most if not all of the first XI will take the field against the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday night (9 pm ET; FOX Soccer, TSN2, live chat on MLSsoccer.com) in a wild card matchup at Pizza Hut Park.
“We’ve had a lot of games this year, but that’s just part of the league, part of making Champions League and going far in the Open Cup,” defender George John told MLSsoccer.com after practice on Tuesday. “It’s part of being a professional, learning how to play with the guys next to you. Although it’s been a struggle for us, I think we’re all ready to play [Wednesday] and we’re going to have our best squad out there.”
After resting most of their starters this past weekend Ihemelu, goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, right back Zach Loyd, wingers Brek Shea and Marvin Chávez, and central midfielders Daniel Hernandez and Andrew Jacobson are likely to start.
In the most recent injury report, utility man Jackson and midfielder Ricard Villar are listed as questionable, and midfielder Daniel Cruz is down as probable. Still, it's likely at least one of them will see the pitch.
For whoever can't go against New York, nods are surely to fall to either Designated Player Fabián Castillo or Maicon Santos.
While having as much of a full-strength squad on the pitch as possible against the Red Bulls will obviously be crucial, Hartman said that whoever ends up taking the field has to step it up. If they do, then there's no reason why they can't win this game.
“The fact now that we’re going to have everybody out there, all the guys we believe we can count on, is going to be huge for us,” the two-time MLS Cup winner explained. “[But] we really need to stop making excuses and just get on with the business. [Wednesday], we’re going to play against a very, very good New York team and I think if we’re operating on all cylinders and we play with confidence and up to our ability, then we’ll find success.”