Watching a team practice can often be a bit tedious, but Thursday’s session on Field 1 outside of FC Dallas Stadium was a very spirited, entertaining affair for all those observing. The players were clearly into the session and focused on winning the moment, be it scoring in pk practice or winning one of the mini-games they played. Based on the session as a whole and the lineups during the full field scrimmage, I think it is probable we’ll see two changes versus Chivas USA tomorrow: Michel at left back and Bobby Warshaw for Je-Vaughn Watson at midfield. Eric Hassli will also be a very likely candidate to be a second half substitute.
After practice, I had the opportunity to talk to Michel, David Ferreira and Coach Schellas Hyndman:
- How did you feel coming into the game against Colorado so early as a sub?
I was of course waiting for a chance, but I didn’t expect it to come that early in the game because of injury. I was ready and waiting for the opportunity and I will continue to work hard and give my best to the team.
- What do you think your chances are of being in the starting lineup this week?
I am working hard and I think my chances are good. But of course that depends on the coach and whatever the coach thinks, I am ready whether it’s starting or on the bench. Whatever happens, I’m willing to do whatever is needed for the team.
- Compare what you’ve seen so far in practice and the one game to what it was like playing in the other leagues you’ve played in:
I think it’s a very physical game. From the places I’ve played before, it’s most like Belgium with a lot of physical contact and crosses into the box.
- Do you feel you are a better defender or free kick taker?
I bring something to the table on set pieces and I enjoy that a lot. I also like going forward and attacking, so what I really think I bring to the table is that capacity.
<Michel speaks fluent Portuguese and Spanish and while his English seems to be pretty solid, he did ask for a translator for our interview. He answered every question in Portuguese except for this one, which he emphatically answered in English>
- Do you think you might have something to offer playing in another position or is your preference left back?
I prefer left back. But if the coach need help at midfield, I can, no problem.
- Any predictions on the number of free kicks you can put into the net this season?
It’s difficult to throw out a number, but I train free kicks all the time and I hope to score many.
- Last week against Colorado, you started out in wide midfield position and then switched with Castillo at forward later in the match. How did you feel that went?
It was obviously a new position for me. It’s a position that the managers wanted me to play. In the second half, after he <Hyndman> saw that I didn’t have too much contact with the ball <in the first half>, that’s when he placed me more towards the front and then he placed Castillo on the left side.
- Where on the field do you feel you’re the most effective?
I’m definitely most effective in the position that I played last year, more in the center. You were obviously able to tell that when they made that change <in the last match> and I had more contact with the ball. More importantly, we’re out here to help the team and the decision rests with the coach and the team and where they want to position me.
- Last week the team didn’t possess the ball will against Colorado and completed far fewer passes than them. coach Hyndman in his post-game comments said he thought the Rapids won the midfield. Do you think the team was missing a more experienced holding mid like Juian de Guzman or Daniel Hernandez?
I don’t think that affected us that much. We’re obviously very conscious that Colorado had the possession in the first half. We didn’t have a a good match and we’re definitely aware of the situation. But what we were able to rescue was the delivery and the disposition to get the result we needed at the end. We hope that in this next game, we’ll be able to improve ourselves and continue to get wins.
- What challenges does Chivas USA present to you that are different from Colorado?
The difficulty that we see is that they do have really good midfielders. But if we’re in tune and reaching out to those places that they don’t have any coverage, it’s not going to be a problem in the field of play.
- This story by Big D Soccer looked at everyone on the team’s passing tendencies for the 2012 season. It basically shows which other players you link up with the most and for you, it was far and away the other Colombian players, Jair Benitez and Fabian Castillo. Do you think that’s just a coincidence or is there something to the country connection?
I don’t necessarily think it’s because we’re all Columbian, we just have a really good understanding of one another on the field. That’s why when we play a game, we have so much contact with the ball and we understand one another. But obviously the most important thing is that the connection that we have is beneficial to FC Dallas.
Coach Schellas Hyndman
- What are your thoughts on facing Chivas USA this week?
Chivas is going through an overhaul with a new coach and a new direction. They didn’t have a good result against Columbus in their first game. There are probably a lot of reasons for that, but I think they’ll be a much better, more focused team when they face us. I thought they at moments did extremely well against Columbus…<and> had a couple of great chances where they could have taken the lead and might have made it a different game. So we’re looking forward to a good game against a team that’s going to try to play good soccer.
- What unique challenges do they represent tactically?
Tactically they are going to have a lot of players that are going to be moving off the ball. they don’t have a lot of size, but what they do have is a lot of quickness and a lot of soccer intelligence. Their whole philosophy coming into the season was to make it more of a Mexican team culturally. The coach is very familiar with what he wants, now the players and coaches may have to make adjustments as this is a new league.
- Speaking of Chivas’ personnel move towards more Hispanic players, what are your thoughts on that as a strategy?
I think it’s all related to the team back home in Mexico <Chivas del Guadalajara>. For Chivas USA, they have a factory of players they can bring up on loan. So it will be interesting to see how their team changes from one game to another depending on what their needs might be. You can start to see the success we <MLS> are having against teams from Mexico in CONCACAF Champions League. At one point in time they were very dominating and now it’s getting to where the gap is closing. So I think what you’re going to find is this Chivas USA team, they have a philosophy, a direction they’re going and they’ll probably make some adjustments as they move forward.
- Last week Colorado dominated possession and in your postgame comments you said you felt they won the midfield. What changes are you going to make to try and correct that this week?
I think that was a little bit of a strange game. First of all, we had Je-Vaughn Watson and AJ <Andrew Jacobson> play together for the first time and we just didn’t control the ball the way we need to. David <Ferreira> wasn’t getting enough touches on the ball and he’s really our playmaker and the guy who sets the rhythm. The game was fast, it was on a wet field, and I thought Colorado played tactical very strong and direct. So when they won the ball, they went forward immediately. So what that did was put us on our heels to defend and when we got tired we found easy ways of giving it away. I think you were a little fooled on the possession because they didn’t really go anywhere with it.
What we’re going to try to do is what we worked on all week: simplicity, moving the ball, keeping the ball and then we start progressing it towards goals.
- How is Jair Benitez’s health and how do you feel Michel performed after replacing him last week?
We weren’t sure how bad it was <the rib injury>, but he felt like he could not perform to our expectations, so he took himself out of the game. I thought Michel went in and did a good job for his first game of MLS-style soccer. It was one of the harder players in the league to match up with in Atiba Harris.
- Do you think this team is missing a leader at the holding midfield position like De Julian Guzman or Daniel Hernandez?
I think that’s something that will hopefully come. There is no De Guzman, there is no Hernandez and we are also playing with one new player <Watson> there and we’re taking David out of the center. When you put all of those things together, it’s kind of hard to lead a team from the left midfield. Tactically, we were trying to do a few things but the game itself is the best teacher. And what we learned from the game is that we need to make a few adjustments to address that this week.
- Can you speak to a couple of the interesting positional battles from practice today with Eric Hassli/Kenny Cooper at forward and Raul Fernandez/ Chris Seitz at keeper?
I think it’s still ongoing. In regards to Eric, this is his first week of training with us. He’s been with the team since we were in Cancun, but he hasn’t been able to train because of lower back pain and then he also had to get his fitness. Monday was the first day he went through a full training with me and I asked him how he was doing and he said it was the best he’s felt. And it looked like it. Wednesday he had his best practice and today he had another good practice. I think there is a battle going on with him and Cooper, but what we hope to do is have them both on the field at the same time.
As far as goalkeepers, that’s a battle that started the day that Raul arrived. Chris has been tremendous in preseason, he’s had a very strong focus in his preparation for the season. He’s lost some body weight, his body fat % is the best that it’s been, so he’s done everything he possibly can to be that #1 keeper.
One of the best things that can happen to any sports team is to have internal competition and right now we have those two positions where they’re fighting it out and at fullback with Michel and Jair and at center midfield with Je-Vaughn, AJ and Bobby Warshaw. I think that’s something that’s healthy and what I have to be able to do is manage it and make it constructive.