FRISCO, Texas – It’s not exactly Camp Cupcake, but the first month of preseason hasn’t seen any FC Dallas starters shift out of first gear yet either. Four low-intensity preseason games against college and Mexican sides have been the test for for head coach Schellas Hyndman's squad so far, but that’s all about to change with the upcoming Portland Preseason Tournament.
“I think a good part of the trip to Cancún was to get our formations and kind of get used to some of the players again,” Chris Seitz told MLSsoccer.com. “I think this next trip is really going to be our tester to see where we’re at. We’ve been working really, really hard so it will be fun to get out there and battle against some of the guys we’re familiar with.”
FCD took off for the Pacific Northwest on Friday morning, and over the next week they will play two teams they are very familiar with in San Jose and Portland, as well as AIK of Sweden.
“I think it’s huge from my experience,” said George John. “Getting those MLS games in preseason, you really experience what you’re going to be competing against during the season.”
While the trip to Cancún was intended as a mix of team-building and fitness, the 10-day trip to Portland is all business for FC Dallas as, upon their return, there will be just five days until the March 2 opener against Colorado.
“It’s extremely important, because the games we got in Mexico were more friendly games,” Schellas Hyndman told reporters on Wednesday. “Even though these are friendlies in Portland, they’re kind of putting their foot on you. They’re making an impression [to say], ‘We’re better than you,’ and it’s a mindset.”
Not only will the games be different, but the weather will be as well. Twitter was full of pictures sent out by players from the beach last week in Mexico, but the cold, rainy conditions of Portland will be nothing to write home about, something Hyndman set up by design.
“It’ll be a wonderful environment as they basically sell out those games and then it’s going to be different weather conditions,” said Hyndman. “It’s miserable, but I think it will give me a chance to see the players and how they’ll handle the difficulties.”
Next week’s trio of games will also be the final chance for the handful of non-roster players to earn a spot in Hyndman’s 30-man team. Brazilian defender Michel and Senegalese midfielder Mickaël Tavares as well as a handful of supplemental draft picks impressed Hyndman in Cancún, but the matches against their MLS counterparts will decide which of the group earn contracts.
“We need to evaluate players and some of these players on trial,” said Hyndman. “If they can’t play against the level we’re going to be looking at, then we need to think twice about it.”