Among the many rewards of starting the way FC Dallas has in 2013: the luxury of options.
Just 11 rounds into a 34-game season, Schellas Hyndman’s team has about half the points needed for a playoff spot. Clearly, the Red Stripes have bigger ambition – but that’s another story.
The point is, by gobbling up the points so early, as FC Dallas has, they have a cushion. And that creates the luxury of looking at matches without the burden of panic or desperation. More to the point here, it means having some additional options when it comes to personnel.
Last night in North Texas, Hyndman knew he could probably have pressed playmaker David Ferreira into action. At the very least, he could have put the team’s top creator, who is recovering from a hamstring strain, on the bench.
But he knew the temptation to go to Ferreira in certain situations – like the one that developed last night, for instance, as Dallas pressed United for the go-ahead goal that finally did come – might be too much to overcome. A long, hot Texas summer is ahead. And there are Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup matches to consider; that’s a tournament named after a man for which Hyndman has tremendous regard, the patriarch of the family that still owns the club, so FC Dallas likes to take it seriously.
Prudence (and that swell cushion) dictated that Ferreira not dress for Saturday’s match against down-and-out United.
This was more of prevention. … Instead of putting him out there, and possible hurting him, because this is a game that I probably would have went to him, I think we we’re protecting him. And, again, it goes back to the depth of the team.
Central midfielder Andrew Jacobson and center back George John, who has been nothing short of outstanding all year, were in similar situations.
If things looked a little differently, Hyndman may have pressed any or all of them into service. As it is, the gap between first-place Dallas and second-place Real Salt Lake currently stands at seven points. A “comfortable” seven points, in fact.
So young London Woodbery was at center back in place of John, sitting alongside Matt Hedges, who remains quite young.
And then backup Je-Vaughn Watson could be entrusted to Jacobson’s spot, alongside Brazilian holding mid Michel.
Again, these choices might look a lot different if FC Dallas had not built such a cushion. But it’s nice to have the luxury of options.