On Wednesday night, FC Dallas head coach returned to a place he knows very well, SMU’s Westcott Field, as FCD faced the Mustangs in a preseason match. Dallas got goals from Andrew Wiedeman, Blas Perez, trialist Jeison Quinonez and Bryan Leyva in the 4-0 win, a result their gaffer was largely pleased with.
“I thought the first half was one of our better performances as far as quick play, combination play and people understanding the structure and coming along with it,” Hyndman said. “I was glad to see the progress.”
The first half featured a lineup that could very much resemble the first 11 that FCD could employ in their March 11 season opener with the New York Red Bulls. One interesting twist was that Dallas came out in a 4-4-2 with Blas Perez and Fabian Castillo paired up top.
“I think Fabian’s a player that likes a little bit more of that freedom. I think we always have a little bit of difficulty when we restrict him because he is so fast, you can’t just leave him alone. I think this would be an important year for him to continue to develop,” Hyndman said. “Whether we go with the two of those guys up front together or if we go with a 4-1-4-1 will evidently be determined by the time the season starts. Where is David? We didn’t have Villar today, which is a player that really settles things down for us and I thought today we did well without those two.”
Perez finished with a goal and an assist, delivering the pass that Wiedeman knocked into the back of the net just six minutes in to give FCD an early 1-0 advantage. And not surprisingly, the Panamanian-born striker earned high marks from Hyndman for his solid half of work against the Ponies.
“Yeah, I thought he was a little bit unlucky. He missed one goal to the left of it and came back with a header, he missed to the left of it again,” Hyndman said. “Then, he ends up scoring on probably the more difficult goal but yeah, he’s that striker that we hoped he would be. And with time and him getting sharper, I think he’ll be that player. I thought the guy that really kind of lit it up tonight was Brek. I think we’ve all been kind of concerned about his heavy legs and his mental state. Tonight it looked like he was really ready to play.”
Another big story of tonight’s game was that it marked the first preseason action of captain Daniel Hernandez, who had yet to play because he hadn’t been cleared for game action. But Hernandez went to the doctor on Monday and was fully cleared, so he made his preseason debut against his alma mater on Wednesday night.
“It was good to see Daniel back there because what he does is he’s a player that finds the ball,” Hyndman said. “People will trust him. They give him the ball. He finds the whole and of course, he has a strong leg to change the point of attack and get the ball forward. This is a very fast field and because it is so fast, they’re used to it but for us, I thought it was a really quick adjustment for us, how quickly they were moving the ball. But I thought Daniel did well.”
FCD has another preseason tilt on Saturday morning against the University of Tulsa and the man in charge admits that in his best Hannibal Smith impression, he loves it when a roster comes together.
“Yeah, I think we’re three maybe four players away from settling on our roster. We’ve got quite a few trialists. We’ve got more trialists coming in, so we’ll continue to look at players and see if we can find that right group of guys together,” Hyndman said.
One other bright spot of note is that Dallas’ first homegrown player, Bryan Leyva, looks like he has made great strides in his fitness and delivered a solid goal in the 65th minute, the final tally of the evening.
“Yeah, I think Bryan did very well. The thing with Bryan is he’s got to develop his body a little bit better,” Hyndman said. “He’s got a very low center of gravity and he’s quick, but he’s unable to carry that pace for a long period of time. And so, when he’s unable to carry that pace, he just kind of disappears and we need him around the ball more.”
Several Observations from the Scrimmage
-The pairing of Ihemelu and Pertuz in the back is an interesting one: It looks like George John will be rejoining FCD after his loan to West Ham United is over next month, but have to admit the pairing of Ugo Ihemelu and newcomer Hernan Pertuz looks pretty solid. Of course, they don’t quite have the chemistry that Ihemelu and John did, but it’s good to know that if Big George gets injured or is out of the lineup, Pertuz appears to be a more than capable replacement in the back.
-Right mid remains a question mark: Who starts on the right flank will all depend on what formation Hyndman decides to start the season with. If the gaffer goes with a 4-4-2, which would likely pair Castillo and Perez together up top, then it will likely either be Ricardo Villar, Andrew Wiedeman or possibly even newcomer Carlos Rodriguez on the right side. But conventional wisdom says Hyndman will roll out in the 4-1-4-1, which means Castillo is on the right side. Wiedeman has played well this preseason, so well to be considered the backup at that spot, but is he ready for a starting role? That still remains to be seen.
-Where was Carlos Rodriguez? One notable absence from Wednesday’s scrimmage was Panamanian newcomer Carlos Rodriguez, who didn’t see a single minute. It’ll be interesting to see where he fits with this team going forward, whether he’s best suited as a fullback of midfielder since he says he can play both roles, preferably on the left side. Villar also missed the SMU game due to injury and former Mustang Bruno Guarda also didn’t see any time against his former school.
-Hartman Nearly Ready for Battle: Another big positive from Wednesday’s scrimmage was the fact that Kevin Hartman started and played 65 minutes between the posts for FCD. Chris Seitz came in and performed well for the final 25 minutes as Dallas kept the clean sheet against SMU, but it looks like Hartman is ready to roll for the season as the starter, but one has to wonder if Seitz will push him for minutes this season?
-Cruz Gone, More to Follow: According to Hyndman, Daniel Cruz has officially left the team, which is not surprising considering he had missed all of preseason with a knee issue. And after the SMU game, the gaffer let on that more roster cuts would be made before the club heads to Orlando later in the month, and that the next round would likely start on Thursday. Stay tuned for details.