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How You Doin'? FC Dallas

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Brian Wachholz of Big D Soccer stops by to answer some questions prior to Saturday's match in Dallas

Toyota Stadium, home of FC Dallas, site of Saturday's match - no bouncy castles in site
Toyota Stadium, home of FC Dallas, site of Saturday's match - no bouncy castles in site
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Continuing Waking the Red's build into the fifth game of the season, I exchanged some questions with Brian Wachholz of SB Nation's FC Dallas site, Big D Soccer, to shed some light on a variety of aspects about this weekend's opponent: diving into their youth structure, depth concerns, and the improving stadium atmosphere, as well as throwing out a barb or two to kick start the banter in anticipation of Saturday's match.

Question the First

Dallas, along with a few others, has been the model club for developing young talent. The area is renown for its youth clubs, hosts the internationally-heralded Dallas Cup, and has regularly been the host for MLS' Generation Adidas Cup, while FC Dallas have graduated many candidates to the first team via the homegrown program. Why is that and concurrently, why have so few managed to truly break into the squad?

The answer lies within the philosophies of the 2 most current FC Dallas head coaches - Schellas Hyndman and Oscar Pareja. Hyndman was head coach from 2008 to 2013, and during that time, Pareja was Director of the FCD Development Academy. Despite being a very successful college coach before joining FCD, Hyndman rarely even gave youth players a chance on the field. While Pareja was winning Academy championships and accolades for youth development, those same players that had been signed to pro contracts languished on the bench or deep in the reserves. I can't tell you why exactly - it boggles the mind. Oftentimes when there were injuries, Hyndman opted to play a veteran out of position rather than play a rookie or homegrown player.

This method flipped the instant Pareja was pulled back from Colorado and promoted to head coach of FC Dallas. Pareja has faith in all of his players and says that they will play when needed, or they will be let go. Each player is expected to pull his weight, whether they are a salty veteran or fresh-faced teenager straight out of the academy. Last year, Pareja's first in charge, FCD led the league in minutes played by homegrown players. Pareja had the advantage over any other coaching candidate since he is very familiar with these kids from his time as academy director. But it's one thing to say it and another to do it. We know the talent is there, and it took Pareja to show it. The best example I can leave you with is Victor Ulloa. Ulloa was a highly touted high school player in North Texas before signing with FCD in 2010. Under Hyndman, Ulloa played 9 minutes of MLS action in 3 seasons and was released. Pareja invited Victor back for preseason training, Ulloa earned a contract. In less than 1 year and a half, Ulloa has accumulated almost 3,000 minutes for Dallas as a regular starter. Was Ulloa a worse player during Hyndman's reign? I don't think so.


Question the Second
Oscar Pareja has built himself a very nice squad, full of vibrant attacking pieces – Mauro Diaz, Fabian Castillo, Tesho Akindele, and Ryan Hollingshead, to name a few. They are very fun to watch. But MLS is not that sort of league, at least not all the time, and winning requires a certain amount of grit and muscle, especially in the middle of the pitch. Pareja made the decision to decline the options on players like Hendry Thomas, Adam Moffat, and Jair Benitez, all experienced, MLS-tested players, while also not reinforcing at the back following the loss of George John. Are there concerns amongst the fans and pundits alike that Dallas is a side that is lacking in physicality and depth in those crucial central regions of the midfield and defence?

Yes absolutely. This exact issue has been the source of a lot of hand-wringing and complaining amongst the fanbase. Last week's blowout loss to Colorado serves to highlight the lack of quality defensive depth right now. Without Matt Hedges, FCD dropped 4 goals to a team that hadn't scored in 6 months or won a game in almost a year. Fernando Clavijo is the technical director and has stated that if the right player is identified, he will be signed - but we don't even have the sniff of a rumor of an imminent signing.

I know that the uncertainty about roster size and cap size led ownership to hesitate during the offseason. It's definitely biting FCD now. The Hunt Sports Group is a conservative bunch - they don't take many risks. It seems like Ulloa is all alone in midfield sometimes. HSG will take their time to properly vet and qualify some reinforcements for this team, but it's not something that will happen quickly. If they do take a chance on a player sooner, it will be low cost/low risk (and consequently low reward). FCD faithful have a few more months of worrying, I'm afraid.


Question the Third
Dallas appear to have turned a corner when it comes to support. The stadium is still not always packed, but the atmosphere, especially compared to the lazy bouncy-castle days of recent past, looks an all-together more raucous environment. How have they laid the groundwork for that turnaround or was it the fans themselves who put in the effort?

A little bit of column A and a little bit of column B. FCD hit a home run when they unveiled the Budweiser Beer Garden a few seasons ago. Before that, the north stage area went largely unused on game days. Now, however, it is a Budweiser-branded, general admission area full of some of the most vocal fans. The fans themselves did some of the heavy lifting in jumping on the idea and putting in the work to establish a new supporters group. The Dallas Beer Guardians evolved over a year or two and have turned into one of the largest SGs for FC Dallas. The group has helped to establish a larger following in their generous tailgates starting hours before every game, open to anyone. They've caught some flak recently from others with a different view of how opponents should be treated because when KC came to visit, DBG opened up the tailgate to all traveling fans, hosting a "Frenemies" tailgate for everyone to enjoy. I focus on DBG because I have limited space here, but El Matador, Red Shamrock, DFE, and others all contribute to the cause as well.

The Inferno was the original supporters group for FCD and hung tough through some hard times, but this newer batch of SGs have been successful in expanding the reach and increasing their numbers.


Double-Barbed Question
Dallas has a history of picking up TFC's droppings, whether Julian de Guzman, Eric Hassli, or most recently Kyle Bekker, what is the deal with that? Surely TFC's poor-planning is not the sort of thing that should be encouraged. And would you perhaps be interested in a slightly-used Michael Bradley and/or Jozy Altidore?

The Hunt Sports Group loves a good bargain. As stated before, the FCD ownership group runs a tried and true method to their sports business, taking only calculated risks, never risking more than they are willing to lose. It goes to show that the TFC failures make good thrift store finds. I think part of the reasoning is that these players have MLS experience, so that is a plus over a foreign import. De Guzman worked out well for FCD; his performances on the field helped salvage a hard season. But when it came time to pony up for his entire salary, FCD politely declined. As a USMNT fan, I would be happy to take a Bradley or Altidore off of your hands, but I can't promise the millions to pay them.


Many thanks to Brian for spending some time with Waking the Red – he can be found on Twitter @Wachhz. And be sure to check out all the latest Dallas news over at Big D Soccer.

My answers to Brian's questions can be found here