When FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman put together his 18-man traveling roster for Saturday’s trip to San Jose, he left off seven starters with good design. One, versatile Brazilian Jackson Goncalves, wasn’t available after he had received his fifth yellow card in a win over Vancouver one week prior.
But the six other starters-midfielder Marvin Chavez, goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, captain Daniel Hernandez, defender Ugo Ihemelu, midfielder Andrew Jacobson and flank midfielder Brek Shea, were all left behind to rest up for the playoffs.
For Hernandez and Jacobson, who are both battling knee issues and will most likely need surgery after the season is over, the rest was very welcome. It was also welcome for Shea, who suffered a neck injury in last week’s 3-0 loss to Toronto FC as FCD crashed out of the CONCACAF Champions League in truly disconcerting fashion.
However, as FCD returned to the practice field on Monday morning as they commenced preparations for Wednesday night’s MLS Wild Card match with New York, health was no longer a concern, at least for the most part.
“We’ve got a couple of question marks but we’ll do another test tomorrow to see how some players are,” Hyndman said after a short training session on Tuesday morning on the Pizza Hut Park stadium field.
One of the players he’s referring to is Ricardo Villar, a midfielder who suffered a foot injury in the first half of the Toronto game. That injury prevented him from returning to the field for the final half of play.
As for who the second player could be, well that one could be open to speculation. But reading Hyndman’s comments between the lines, it quickly becomes apparent who that mystery man might be. The Dallas manager did single out one player who figures to benefit the most from not traveling to California over the weekend.
“I think probably the one that’s going to get the greatest benefit out of it is going to be Andrew Jacobson because against Toronto, he was really struggling in there at getting any explosion,” Hyndman said. “We get him a shot about every two weeks. We just got him a shot, so he feels a lot better now.”
Shea did have the aforementioned neck injury in last week’s loss to the Reds but he doesn’t appear to have any lingering effects from that issue. Chavez and Ihemelu have been healthy for much of the year.
And it’s a similar story with the 36-year-old Hartman, who has started nearly every game for FCD between the posts this year and is a candidate for 2011 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.
“I feel good. It’s been difficult since July 1. We played a game pretty much every three days. I think that with the amount of travel that we’ve done and with the experiences that we’ve had this year, I think there are a lot of lessons there,” Hartman said. “It’s up to us as a group to take those lessons mixed with the character that we hopefully have within this team, we’ll be prepared for tomorrow night and hopefully get a result.”
The veteran keeper has been playing this game long enough to appreciate a short break whenever it comes during the season, especially right before the playoffs. But he also realizes having Saturday’s game against the Earthquakes off came at a price.
“Certainly from a physical standpoint and a mental standpoint, it’s OK. When you’re at home watching that on TV, it’s not really something that you’re proud of and you’re excited about,” Hartman said. “We’re a group here. We cheer each other on and we share disappointment. It was a disappointing result in San Jose. It’s nice to be fresh from a physical perspective but there’s really this burning desire to find success.
So, that would leave Hernandez as the logical choice for the other player who could be a game-time decision come tomorrow. Hyndman said it best when he called the Tyler native a true warrior and No. 2 is so tough and tenacious that it takes almost an act of God to keep him off the field, but his knee has been a lingering issue for much of the season. But could it be bad enough to keep him off the pitch against New York? We’ll all find out tomorrow evening.
Should FCD advance past the Red Bulls and face Kansas City in the next round beginning on Saturday night in Frisco, the man in charge admits there could be some issues about his team’s ability to bounce back so quickly for a second game in three days.
“Yeah, I think right now we’re a team that I think can step up for a game. I don’t know how quickly we can recover for the next game,” Hyndman said.