By Kyle McCarthy
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – As FC Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman reflected on his side's perplexing start to the season prior to Saturday's 1-1 draw at New England, he pinpointed the two reasons why his often-impressive side secures draws instead of wins.
FCD gifts goals at the back and squanders chances in attack.
“The two most important times in the game are when you have the opportunity to score and you don't let in goals,” Hyndman said after FCD finished up a training session on Thursday. “Scoring goals and not getting scored on are the two most important things. Right now, we have not done either very well. The rest of the other 80 percent of the game, I think we've done quite well.”
Consider this weekend's draw with the Revolution as just another instance in the consistently frustrating pattern for winless FCD.
If there was ever an opportunity for FCD to snap out of its persistent rut of collecting fewer points than deserved on the balance of play, this match presented it. Between the home side's continued difficulties in possession with Shalrie Joseph away on a leave of absence and the two red cards doled out to New England's Kheli Dube and Joseph Niouky in the second half, FCD controlled the game and placed the Revolution under considerable pressure from the run of play. Chances inevitably followed as the visitors generated more gilt-edged opportunities in 90 minutes than more than a few teams will string together in the course of two or three games.
All of the chances – 11 shots on goal, two chances by Jeff Cunningham and Brek Shea stopped by the goalframe late in the second half and a host of important saves from Revolution goalkeeper Preston Burpo – and all of the possession yielded Atiba Harris' 66th minute header as the only reward and a draw as the latest source of consternation.
Even as FCD suffered through another night without the killer touch in the final third, it may have gathered all three points if Dario Sala hadn't validated a pre-match observation made by FCD captain Daniel Hernandez.
“The bottom line is that we're not finishing the opportunities that we're having up front and the goals we're giving up are pretty much costing us games,” Hernandez said on Thursday. “We're giving up silly goals, mental mistakes in small areas in the back. We've played good for 88 minutes and then we'll give up two minutes of the game and it kills us.”
In a match where the Revolution struggled to find its attacking rhythm, Sala gave away the opening goal with a stunning blunder. Only Sala can explain why he tried to guide a long hoof over the end line instead of playing quickly to Ugo Ihemelu or slamming his foot through the ball to clear the danger. Instead of accomplishing either of those tasks, the Argentine goalkeeper attempted to let the ball roll from the edge of the penalty area and watched in horror as Dube avoided an attempted foul to win the ball before it trickled out-of-bounds and squared for Zack Schilawski to hand the Revs a lead they certainly didn't deserve.
“I think he had the intent of letting it ride out and then he recognized that the play was a little bit quicker and the turf was holding the ball up,” Hyndman told the Dallas Morning News as he tried to excuse Sala's choice after the game. “He tried to do a push, but you have to give [Dube] credit for getting around him.”
All of the letdowns in front of goal and in the defensive third have kept FCD from reaping the rewards its midfield play deserves. Few teams in MLS keep the ball better than the Hoops do with their five midfielders and they showed it once again at Gillette Stadium. Wingers Harris and Shea (deployed on the left side in only his second start of the season) tormented the Revs for most of the evening, while David Ferreira and Dax McCarty expertly pulled the strings in the middle. As a group, FCD displays a measure of composure on the ball that far exceeds most other MLS sides.
Hyndman and his players will have to show some of that calmness as they continue to work through their finishing problems and their defensive concerns. The eventual solution may include a partner for Cunningham up top to share the goalscoring burden and a more conservative approach for the often-rampaging fullbacks to ensure firmer defensive footing. Then again, it's tough to deviate from an approach that works from the run of play even if it doesn't aggregate the corresponding amount of points.
Striking the balance between entertainment and achievement could take some work, but Hernandez believes FCD needs to find a way to obtain its first victory by any means necessary in order to dismiss the recurring problems that are keeping the side from reaching its potential.
“We like to keep things positive and say that we're playing great soccer and we're probably one of the better teams in the league [in terms of playing soccer],” Hernandez said on Thursday. “At this point, we need to figure out how to win, whether it's playing good soccer or bad soccer. At this point, it doesn't really matter to me. We just need to figure out a way to win three points.”
Week Six – Questions, Thoughts and Answers
Star Man – Edson Buddle, Los Angeles forward
Two goals (numbers eight and nine), one assist (on the only goal he hasn't scored for his team this season) in a 3-1 dismantling of Philadelphia at the Home Depot Center. In this magical season for the U.S. World Cup hopeful, Buddle's haul represents just another day at the office.
The Weekend XI
1. When D.C. United coach Curt Onalfo assessed the matchups prior to Saturday's 2-0 loss to New York at RFK Stadium, he probably didn't rate the tussle between Dane Richards and Rodney Wallace among his highest concerns. Wallace, after all, should be one of the few left backs who can run with the Jamaican international. It didn't work out that way on Saturday afternoon as Richards gave Wallace the runaround for most of the day and contributed to both Red Bulls strikes. Richards' surge and cross down the right side set the table for Salou Ibrahim to bundle home the opener. As a follow-up, Richards tempted Wallace into conceding a needless foul at midfield to prompt Joel Lindpere's curling service for Juan Pablo Angel's header.
2. One sliver of light in the otherwise dark world United inhabits right now in the aftermath of a club-record fifth consecutive loss to start the season: Clyde Simms submitted an active and accomplished shift in central midfield upon his return from a left hamstring strain.
3. The main point of contention in the 1-1 draw between New England and FC Dallas occurred when Kheli Dube collected a red card for showing his studs to Ugo Ihemelu in a midfield clash after 56 minutes. New England coach Steve Nicol subsequently expressed his frustration with the call and its subsequent impact on a match that ended with 10 yellow cards and two dismissals. The referee, Jeff Gontarek, addressed Dube's red card after the match: “We saw studs exposed, knee locked, directly into the other player's leg. Serious foul play.”
4. The final tally for Revolution midfielder Joseph Niouky against FCD: four fouls committed, two fouls suffered, one yellow card earned, one yellow card procured for another player by a poor pass inside his own half and one red card for a two-footed challenge from behind after giving the ball away inside his defensive third.
5. Chicago may have picked up a point after a 1-1 draw against Chivas USA at Toyota Park, but the night could prove costly over the next couple of weeks after two regular starters picked up knocks. Collins John dropped out of the side shortly before kickoff after he tweaked a left hamstring, while Justin Mapp left the match after just 22 minutes with a lower right leg injury. Fire coach Carlos de los Cobos better wrap Patrick Nyarko – again active and involved as he provided the square pass for Baggio Husidic's second goal in as many games – in cotton to ensure his side's most potent attacking threat doesn't follow his teammates to the sidelines.
6. Houston coach Dominic Kinnear had it right when he noted the Dynamo benefited from a fortunate red card on its way to a 3-0 win over Kansas City. Davy Arnaud may have deserved a lecture of some sort or perhaps even a booking for his 34th minute challenge on Pat Onstad, but the Wizards midfielder certainly didn't merit a red card for his lunge – without studs exposed, mind you – to vie for a 50-50 ball with the veteran Dynamo goalkeeper. Protecting goalkeepers makes sense, but it shouldn't be done at the expense of common sense. Nothing about Arnaud's attempt the win the ball smacked of a dismissal.
7. Classy gesture by Dynamo fans to hold up #20 placards in the 21st minute in support of injured midfielder Geoff Cameron. If Saturday night's match against Kansas City is any indication, the Dynamo can still thrive without Cameron patrolling central midfield.
8. Toronto FC coach Preki pragmatically approached the Reds' 2-1 defeat at Real Salt Lake by leaving Julian de Guzman and Dwayne De Rosario on the bench for the opening whistle after the duo started matches on Sunday (a 2-0 win over Sounders FC) and Wednesday (a 2-0 win over Montreal in the Canadian Championship). Truth be told, the Reds didn't boast much of a chance of bucking their road misery at altitude with a third match in seven days, but there will naturally be questions about whether leaving those key players on the bench contributed to a 2-0 halftime deficit. Preki admitted after the match that he would have plumped for a different group and a different approach instead of the overly defensive deportment TFC offered before making three substitutions (including de Guzman and De Rosario) at halftime. “Overall, I think the experiment I had with the group and a lot of trust I had in some of these guys didn't work today,” Preki told GolTV Canada after the match. “Hopefully, we'll learn from this and next game, we come to play from the first minute.”
9. “Sometimes finishing is like hitting,” San Jose forward Chris Wondolowski told the San Jose Mercury News after his third goal in three games – a left-footed laser into the roof of the net – handed the Earthquakes a 1-0 win over Colorado at Buck Shaw Stadium. “The goal looks like it's 20 by 20, and sometimes it looks like it is barely open.”
10. How tightly wound is Philadelphia at this point? Generally tidy midfielder Stefani Miglioranzi jumped into a two-footed challenge on Juninho on the stroke of halftime with the Union already down 3-0. Miglioranzi received the first red card of his 68-game MLS career and collected the Union's third first-half red card in five matches.
11. “It’s close,” Seattle goalkeeper Kasey Keller told the (Tacoma) News-Tribune after Sounders FC drew 1-1 with Columbus at Qwest Field. “I keep feeling that it’s going to happen and it’s getting better and better. But better and better without the victories doesn’t really mean a whole lot. At some stage it’s all about winning games or picking up points that we should pick up. And today we should have picked up three points, and we didn’t.”
BONUS: Former New York, San Jose and D.C. United midfielder Joe Vide is currently battling Hodgkin's Lymphoma and a group of his friends have set up a website – Friends of Joe Vide – to solicit donations to help Vide pay for upcoming chemotherapy treatments.
Kyle McCarthy writes the Monday MLS Breakdown and frequently writes opinion pieces during the week for Goal.com. He also covers the New England Revolution for the Boston Herald and MLSsoccer.com. Contact him with your questions or comments at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter by clicking here.
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