Practice Observations: Pre-Revolution

A beautiful day to be out at Pizza Hut Park for practice – while sunny all morning, the temperature stayed fairly cool (for Texas) up until the last half hour or so. Despite the nice weather, the team ran a fairly low intensity session, mostly focused on quick accurate passing and shooting, rather than on any particular set pieces.

The entire team was out on field 1 for the duration of this practice session. While Ugo Ihemelu and George John joined the rest of the team for the warm-up drills, Kevin Hartman and Daniel Hernandez worked on the stationary bikes on the sidelines. Once the warm-up drills were completed, these four did rehab work with the trainers on the sidelines. More on the injury list later.

The main training session involved two different scrimmages, both with goalkeepers. MLS pool keeper Chris Sharpe won’t arrive in Dallas until tomorrow, so a local player stepped in to help out the team as Dario Sala’s opposite number.

The first scrimmage allowed each player only 3 seconds on the ball when in possession, forcing the team to focus on quick one- and two- touch passing and looking for space to receive the ball. For this drill, both teams appeared to be playing a 4-4-2, with a team of mostly starters in front of Sala. Jason Yeisley played alongside Milton Rodriguez, while Peri Marosevic played left mid, and Andrew Weideman and Jackson switched between playing right mid and center back for the “starters”, while Atiba Harris, Brek Shea and David Ferreira all played with the “reserves”. Zach Loyd, Kyle Davies, Marvin Chavez and Bryan Leyva all took turns being the man to sit out.

The second scrimmage appeared to be a chance for what looks to be Wednesday’s starting 11 to gel. While the starters reverted to their usual 4-1-3-1-1, the reserves played in the diamond 4-4-2 that many believe is favored by Hyndman.

Some notes and plays from the session:

- The best play of the session belonged to Rodriguez. During the first scrimmage, he brought down a long pass from Eric Alexander and jinked it past Loyd in one fluid movement. With the keeper closing down the shooting angle, he faked the shot before playing a beautiful backheel to the feet of Marosevic. Unfortunately, Peri scuffed the shot, but it’s pretty clear that Rodriguez has some moments of brilliance in him.

- Davies was playing some exceptional defense, including blocking a shot from Cunningham, then getting up quickly to throw himself in front of the rebound from (I think) Ulloa. His tackling and passing were also very tidy, and he’s clearly pushing to get back into the starting 11.

- Speaking of Cunningham, he and Luna were combining very well in the second scrimmage. Despite the starters controlling most of the possession, the reserves, and particularly Luna through Cunningham’s passes, made the most of their chances in front of goal. At one point, Luna picked up a loose ball that was bobbling on the edge of the box with his back to goal, spun on his planted foot and blasted the ball past Sala. FCD is lucky to have such a talented youngster on the roster, but I can only imagine what could have been if he’d been able to sign in the pre-season.

- Dario had a bandage wrapped around his knee for this session and looked a little stiff when walking. However, he seemed to be moving just fine when in goal.

- Avila, Cunningham, Moises Hernandez, Leyva, Loyd, Luna, Marosevic, Shea, Ulloa, Weideman and Yeisley all stayed out late to work on crossing, shooting and heading, with the local keeper in net. Hernandez and Weideman were providing some nice crosses, but I’m sorry to say I didn’t really see a whole lot from Bryan Leyva. Unlike Luna, he doesn’t seem to have quite taken the step up to the pro level yet.

And finally some quotes from Schellas Hyndman, who apparently took Saturday off to go to the Kiss concert:

On New England Revolution:

“They’re a team that’s had some bad breaks, they’ve had some injuries and don’t seem to have everything going in place. They had a tough game in Colorado and [Steve Nicol]’s a very good coach who asks a lot from his players. I think when you lose a game, you want to play the next game as quick as you can so you it’s an opportunity to put that game behind them.”

On the injury list:

“I don’t expect to see either of [Kevin Hartman and Daniel Hernandez] out here on Wednesday. Daniel has a pulled hamstring, he’s feeling a lot better, but with most hamstrings there’s a point of recovery and sometimes if you come back too soon, you’ll reinjure it and make it worse. Kevin with that knee strain, I also don’t expect to be back for Wednesday but we have a very capable experienced goalkeeper in Dario Sala who I thought played very well coming in the other night.

On Hernandez’s MRI, Friday:

“2-3 weeks, but sometimes those MRIs lie to you”

On George John:

“We’ll wait and see. Last year he missed 17 games on a hamstring injury and part of the reason he missed those games is because we kept trying to bring him back too soon, so we have to be careful we don’t ask him to do the same again.”

On Ugo Ihemelu:

“He’s getting closer. It’s killing him not being able to be out here, it’s killing me that he’s not out here, but it’s one of those things we have to handle very cautiously.”

On Dax McCarty:

“I was hoping to give him 20 minutes; he ended up playing 60 minutes and I thought he had a very good game considering we were down a man. [Starting Dax] may not be a conversation if Daniel Hernandez was there, but it could be in this situation”

On Eric Alexander:

“He was more of a flank midfielder in college than a central midfielder, but we see his qualities and what he brings [in the middle]. [Like Brek Shea], when you’re getting more opportunities to play, you start to play with more confidence, and I think that’s what’s happening with Eric, and with Zach Loyd.”

On the starting lineup changes:

“We’re not quite sure yet. We do know who’s replacing Kevin Hartman, but we don’t know about the other ones. We’re trying to fit in the changes that will be the least conflict to another player. The more we move one player to a position and another player to another position, the more we lose that team cohesion.”

On the backup goalkeeper situation:

“[Chris Sharpe] may be the best pool keeper the league has. Last time we had an injury, playing Colorado in Colorado, we brought Lambo back, as we still had a roster spot open. Now that the roster is frozen, we can’t bring Lambo back.”

On the status of the team:

“We’ve proven that we’re a good team that plays with a lot of intensity, a lot of passion and intelligence. We’re a team that’s hard to beat. We keep testing ourselves, losing our two centerbacks, losing our goalkeeper, losing our defensive midfielder and having to put other players in. Thank goodness our depth has been strong and people have really stepped up. There are still little mistakes being made that can lead to goals, but I think we’re in a good position. We’ve got six games left, three at home, three on the road. Tough teams on the road, Kansas City’s playing extremely well, and of course LA and Real Salt Lake. Then at home you’ve got New England, Chicago and Colorado. Kansas City and Chicago still believe they have a chance to make the playoffs, Colorado believes they can get themselves into a better position so we have to make sure we don’t slip up with the injuries we have. By the time we’re getting healthy, we’re going on the road against Salt Lake and LA.”

I wasn’t able to get the quote on record, but Brek Shea told Steve Hunt that he lost his head and was very disappointed in himself.

Line Up Prediction

As far as the lineup goes, this is about the clearest the picture has ever been when I’ve been out at a practice session. Given the second scrimmage lineup, the injuries, the substitutions against the Red Bulls and Schellas’ quotes, barring George John being ready to play, this is what you’ll see take the field Wednesday night:

On the pitch, the midfield behind Ferreira is likely going to appear to be a flatter 4 than when Hernandez is playing. Both Alexander and Dax were taking the opportunity to get forward and join the attack in the scrimmages – with the pace that Dax showed to get back and tackle Marquez on Thursday, there shouldn’t be too much worry about him leaving the back four exposed by getting forward, either.