A couple weeks ago I wrote a little blurb about five things that were going well for FC Dallas. At the time I promised to take a look at the other side of the coin.
After the DC game, a win despite a poor overall performance, it seems as good a time as any to look at the dark side. While it's not really halfway anymore, I still wanted to follow up. Heck, it wasn't really halfway last time either.
So far so good on the season, there is a great deal going well. But that doesn't mean the team can't get better. Here are five trouble spots FCD will have to keep an eye on:
1. Not enough forward scoring. Is FCD scoring enough? Yes. They are third in goals for in the West and 4th overall ... same as their place in the standings.
Are they getting enough production from forwards? No, they are not. Jeff Cunningham has seven goals, but three of the first four were PKs and three more have come in the last two games. That means Cunningham had one goal from the run of play in the first 17 games. Milton Rodriguez has one goal in his five and he is the only other striker to score.
That's simply not good enough as it puts far to much pressure on the midfield to produce for FCD to win. The club is giving up less than a goal a game, so simply put, score anything over 1.0 goals a game and win most of the time. Granted, FCD is only playing with one striker, so midfielders are expected to score in this setup. But if we're talking about contending for a title, someone has to do the business up top.
Is Cunningham starting to heat up? Could be, that would help a lot. Is FCD going to go two strikers as a result of this problem? Possible, but that's a whole new problem.
2. Is David Ferreira to important. David Ferreira is one of the top candidates for MLS MVP this season in my opinion. He is THE key man for FCD. Vision, work rate, scoring, key passes, decisiveness, toughness, and leadership all contribute to him being the total package. Six goals and seven assists on the stat line point to his value.
But is he to important? What would happen if Ferreira were to get hurt? Who could possibly fill those shoes? A Ferreira injury would most likely kill any title ambitions for 2010. Sure, any great team that loses an MVP is going to be badly hurt, but Ferreira is so important it might totally derail everything with this side. Fans will be hoping we don't find out.
3. Daniel Hernandez's age and heath. MLS is a long, physical season and the heat in Dallas doesn't make it easier. Daniel Hernandez is a hard nosed, tough player. He hits hard, tackles hard, and plays hard. Can he hold up physically for the entire season or will we start to see him breakdown over the final third? Hernandez is a huge part of why FCD works. He's the caption and is in control of the team emotionally on and off the field. Don't undersell how important he is.
Now on the upside, Hernandez is a terrific pro. He's certainly used to the heat having played in Mexico and being from Dallas. He should know how to take care of himself over the season. Also Eric Alexander is looking like a real talent who can fill in a bit if needed. I for one would like to see Hernandez get some games off down the stretch. Just one or two here or there will help.
4. Dax McCarty's torso. Just about ever year at this time McCarty has a problem in the trunk/torso region. Hernia, groin strain, etc, etc. The bottom line, and I have felt this since Colin Clarke drafted him, is that McCarty has never gotten his core strength up where it needs to be. It doesn't help that McCarty keeps getting hurt in this area and has had a couple surgeries. If he can make it through the year without needing one, I'd love to see McCarty go through an intense off season core strength program.
McCarty, his passing, linking, defense, and possession are to important for this team. Coach Hyndman has tried three players in McCarty's spot without getting an answer: Eric Avila, Bruno Guarda, and Eric Alexander. Alexander for now appears to be getting the spot but there's little doubt McCarty will be in the line up as soon as he's healthy. McCarty, like Hernandez, needs to hold up over the long season. Again Alexander will be a guy who should take a game or two just to help keep McCarty fit and sharp.
5. A potential formation shift. I think most fans are by now aware that Schellas Hyndman loves him some diamond 4-4-2. He's been wanting to play that way since he got here. Strikers, however, don't grow on trees, and thus it's been a 4-1-4-1 all year. Frankly the difference's aren't massive and Hyndman talks of "tweaking" the lineup from what it is now to the 4. Add a striker, take off a mid, and play Ferreira deeper... although that's a massive over-simplification.
Changing formations in the middle of the season isn't easy. On the plus side, FCD has been rolling out a 4-4-2 late in games when they bring Cunningham on. They also have done it a couple times in scrimmages and in training, depending on who is available. A formation shift can wreck the dynamics of a side though, players dropped form the lineup can have poor reactions and guys coming in may not live up to the needs of the team. It can and does cause questions and problems. Does it always? No. Sometimes it can put a team over the top.
But why fix what isn't broken? Why risk the team shape and tactical focus falling to pieces? There are only 11 games left in the regular season, this final third of the season should be spent locking down the playoff spot and perfecting the tactics Changing is a risk, so the question becomes: will Hyndman risk it?