Schellas Hyndman seemed pretty pleased with his team’s performance Friday as FC Dallas wrapped up the first week of two-a-days in the 2013 preseason.
The team held a meet-and-greet for fans Friday night, and held practice inside the stadium, so maybe it was the thrill of getting to show off in front of a crowd for the first time this year that had the team rollicking through their best day of training this preseason.
Of course, the fashionably late arrival of Brek Shea could have something to do with it, as well. After all the recent drama, Coach Hyndman was clearly pleased to see his star winger out on the field Friday night. “It was really good to see Brek out there,” Hyndman said. “It was his first real training where he was able to get out there and explode. I thought the explosion was very good.”
Shea apparently had no trouble catching up to and corralling a long ball early in the session. He took the deep lob near the sideline with a nice touch and cut in towards goalkeeper Richard Sanchez, who stood his ground. Shea dribbled a few yards closer and snapped a curling left footer that sailed a couple of feet wide of the far post, much to the disappointment of the eager crowd.
Shea seemed pretty disappointed in himself later in the session, after he powered a cross too far beyond the box. He instantly knew it was a misfire, shrieking and then holding his hands over his head in self-disgust for several seconds. It may take him few more days to catch up to his teammates, but even still, it was a good showing overall Friday.
Another player who seemed jazzed to play in front of a crowd (albeit a much smaller one) was left back Jair Benitez. On the receiving end of a long, switch-field bomb from the opposite corner during a Friday morning intrasquad scrimmage, Benitez showed off his technical skillz with the best razzle-dazzle move of the week. He had to retreat a few steps to get to the long pass, but rather than take the time to run to the spot, turn, collect, and distribute, he did all that in one deft maneuver. Facing his own endline, Benitez trapped the 40-plus-yard ball as it landed underneath his heel and deflected it behind himself -- back upfield -- to the feet of his teammate. A gathering of onlookers along the sideline a few feet away erupted in cheers and shouts of, “Jair! Jair!”
Spectacular as that move was, it was probably not the highlight of the day for Benitez. When a penalty was awarded later during the scrimmage, Coach Hyndman called out for Benitez to take the kick. Benitez stepped up and calmly deposited a left-footer into the right side netting, then turned and accepted the hugs and congratulations from his teammates. It’s difficult to imagine Benitez, and most of the other players, didn’t have this on their minds at that moment. Will it totally exorcise the demons from that disappointing day? Maybe, but it was clearly the type of cameraderie-building moment that preseason is all about. I also would not be surprised if Benitez never takes another penalty, whether in an actual game or even in practice, ever again.
Hyndman also had praise for several other players Friday night. “I thought all our goalies were really very good. There was a lot of action in front of the goal,” he said. “I thought Bradlee [Baladez], one of our young players was doing a good job as well.”
But Hyndman saved his best praise for one of FC Dallas’s young veterans, the other designated player from Colombia, Fabian Castillo. “One player that we’ve all really been pleased with is Fabian Castillo -- how focused he is, how much he’s in shape,” Hyndman said.
Perhaps that’s because Castillo’s elite-level speed stands out even more this early in preseason. At this stage, when everyone, himself included, is just trying to work their way back into decent form, he’s still super fast.
After a short session held Saturday, the team has Sunday off and will resume two-a-day training sessions on Monday.