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…And what a chance it was. Ten of Salt Lake’s finest downed (well, tied) FC Dallas with a 1-1 result last Saturday night a Rio Tinto. For FCD, the game offered a glimmer of hope to a downtrodden side. It also offered Schellas Hyndman a chance to save his job, which looks to be hanging by only a few mustard leather threads at this point.
Salt Lake coming into the match knew they needed a win to keep their Supporters Shield hopes alive, and did so with great vigor. Out of the gates Jason Kreis’ side dominated possession and flew at Dallas. In fact, if it wasn’t for Kenny Mansally’s reckless tackle, flipping Jackson head over heels in the 17th minute, Dallas would have continued to look second rate. Fortunately the sending off turned the tide, but only briefly, for an FCD side that was timid from the start despite the odds they faced. Jackson’s shot that clanged off Rimando’s goal in the 9th minute was the only bright moment to a dull first fifteen minutes.
Adjustments were made on the field an FCD pressed higher, knowing that RSL meant to sit back and weather the storm. Four attempts in even succession filled out the final thirty minutes of the first half, and it looked inevitable that Dallas would land a goal soon thereafter.
Yet the first fifteen minutes of the second half were dominated by 10-man Salt Lake. Luis Gil and Ned Grabavoy were quick to tally efforts at Chris Seitz’s net early in the second half, their efforts serving as evidence towards RSL’s growing confidence, and eventually Saborio’s goal in the 59th minute. Jason Kreis couldn’t have hoped for more and bet the house on parking many busses in front of the Salt Lake goal from then on out.
But Dallas was wasteful and unproductive in the final third. Despite the man advantage they were unable to generate more than three shots after Saborio’s strike. This is the same lethargy on the pitch and lack of inspiration that reared its head in Frisco against Columbus the week before. Chances created were at a minimum, corners earned as well, and if it wasn’t for Kenny Cooper’s goal in the 71st minute there would have been little life left on the field. The resulting 1-1 draw was fair simply because it was the most accurate portrayal of Dallas’ efforts: little ambition in attack, little urgency, scant cohesion, and a flat defense that was caught yet again on the counter.
The loss in Salt Lake attracts a harder glance at some growing issues. For one, the uninspired performances of the past two matches – two critical, playoff-hope-saving matches – that could save Hyndman’s job signal a divide amongst the team, or at least between the manager and team.
The second issue stings a little bit, mainly because it involves the beloved David Ferreira. He has never been the same player since his injury in Vancouver two years ago, his pace and effectiveness grinding slowly to a halt. But he is still the captain and an important veteran to Dallas, but wasn’t even selected in Salt Lake. Moreover, there are still few efforts from the coaching staff to put him and Diaz into the same midfield, despite the need for creativity, penetration on the pass, and better play in the final third. It’s understandable that they are similar players and could step on each other’s toes from time to time. Conversely, Portland seems to do just fine with similar players in the form of Darlington Nagbe and Diego Valeri, playing well within the same areas of the pitch.
It’s evidence to the fact that Hyndman seems to be running out of ideas. There were few, if any, tactical changes after Dallas dominated the first half and looked to be certain for a goal. Furthermore, his experimentation with lineups late into the season was to accommodate Erick and Diaz, but have fallen short of their intended targets.
The only forward producing is Blas Perez, who has been on ample amounts of international duty and was also supposed to be playing with a second forward up top this season. Kenny Cooper’s goal against RSL was only his fourth of the year, plummeting from his 18 in New York last year, and even less than his 8 in Portland two seasons ago (which was regarded as somewhat disastrous). Subsequently, FCD’s inability to effectively attack in recent weeks has put more of the onus back on George John’s defense, allowing more and more pressure to be heaped upon it.
It’s fantasy at this point to believe Dallas will scrape the wherewithal to win out the next three games. A grasp on their own destiny was let go weeks ago. If Colorado or LA gain three points from the next three games an undefeated Dallas over the same span will not even matter. The highs of March, April, and May carried the team to playoff contention, but just playoff contention. FCD was top of the league, remember? Schellas Hyndman surely does, and those first three months buoyed fans and the team alike. But to suddenly fall so rapidly, with the same squad, with a lack of injuries, and better squad depth than Dallas has ever seen, the loss at RSL seems like an augury of the inevitable for Hyndman.