SOCCER AMERICA: What do you think American soccer needs?
SCHELLAS HYNDMAN: I do feel we need to identify what we are about. I don’t think we have an identify of how the American soccer player should play or how we want him to play. We need to think about what the strengths of the American players are and how we envision ourselves to become a world power. What style should we play?
What style should we play?
I would love for us to find a style and stick with it and I have no intention to say what style.
How about a more Latin style? Or at least take more from the Latin style than we have been?
If it’s combination of a Latin style and a German style, for example, I think it can work as long as you ingrain that into your players.
How would you describe the style of the FC Dallas team you coached to the 2010 MLS Cup final, which played attractive soccer with a Latin flavor and, I think, was unlucky not to lift the title? That was the season when you were MLS Coach of the Year, you beat the LA Galaxy with David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Co., 3-0, in the Western Conference final.
That style was trying to identify who your playmaker was. Who’s going to be your key player? David Ferreira, who was the MVP of the league, was given the opportunity to instill his abilities onto the team’s success.
We had players who were also in their roles like Daniel Hernandez, who said, “David, you do what you need to do and I’ll take care of the defense and control the center of midfield.” We had other the players around him, whether it was Marvin Chavez, Jeff Cunningham — George John in the back. We didn’t have all the players we wanted but we developed a style of play.
2010 MLS Coach of the Year Schellas Hyndman
MLS championship teams have had a history of Latin-type playmakers. Dating back to the Marco Etcheverry days of the D.C. United or Columbus with Guillermo Barros Schelotto. More recently, Seattle Sounders (Nicolas Lodeiro), Portland (Diego Valeri) …
At some point, my own organization was coming to me and saying the No. 10 players are overrated. And I’m going, “What!?” In other words, the game was becoming much more athletic, more powerful.
But look at Argentine soccer. Their attackers aren’t big guys, but they’re crafty and quick. Teams that don’t have playmakers get their goals on set pieces or by a powerful physical presence. I think every team needs to have a playmaker.
Who did you like in MLS this season?
Atlanta United, what they’ve done in their first season, I was truly impressed with the quality of soccer they played. And their key attackers, they’re 5-foot-7, 5-8, 5-9. … I’m excited to see what they can do next year.
Toronto FC, when you think about how many years they got it wrong and no one could understand because they invested a heck of lot. Then Bill Manning [club president] came from Real Salt Lake … They hired coach Greg Vanney. They finished runner-up last season. … Sebastian Giovinco [5-foot-4] is in my opinion the best player in the league.
MLS progress in general?
I think it’s fantastic. It’s getting bigger and better. I think through the leadership of Don Garber and his staff it’s really seemed to have gotten things right. They had a plan and stuck to it. They introduced policies that were unique and productive.
For example, signing young Designated Players. That alone has brought some of the better younger players into our league. MLS is younger and better. … The expansion draft means a team coming in doesn’t have to start from the bottom. Working with [Professional Referee Organization] to improve the officiating.
What do miss coaching in the pros compared to college?
The excitement. The importance of every game. I miss the high-level players.
What don’t you miss?
The constant traveling. Not being around for key family events due to road games. My daughter in her senior year of high school told me it would be nice if I could be present at her high school graduation, pointing out that I hadn’t attended any of her other high school events. We had a two-game road trip, Colorado and the Galaxy. Fortunately, I was able to come home for her graduation right after the Colorado game and fly out right after her graduation for the LA game. That was a precious moment that I savor.
What did you miss about the college game when you were at FC Dallas?
I missed being with my colleagues who’d I’d been with for 31 years. Other coaches I’d been with throughout the country, trying to find ways to make our college game better. I served on a lot of different committees to improve the college game. I really missed the college environment. The energy.
One of the things in college coaching is you get a chance to work with a player for four years. From his freshman year when he’s got big dreams and he’s all excited for the first time away from home and his college education — and sometimes it’s not easy for him. Four years later you’re looking at that young man you’ve had an influence on, hopefully in positive way, who’s going out in the community. I’m excited to be back for those reasons.
What’s different about college soccer since you returned?
Universities are so much more supportive. The support I’m getting here at Grand Canyon University is kind of mind-blowing compared to being at SMU for 24 years. We were a very strong team at SMU but we had lower attendance. I had to go out and raise money to put in a new field and those type of things.
At Grand Canyon, we have President named Brian Mueller. When I arrived, he spent two and a half hours talking to me. I think in the 31 previous years of college coaching I had less than an hour with all the presidents altogether.
What else is different about the college game?
When I left in 2007 I thought the college players were quite good and the coaches did a good job developing players. What I’m noticing now is that the colleges finding success are getting a lot more international players.
That’s a reaction to the better players going to MLS or going abroad. When you take that level of player, which is a very high level, out of the college game, the next level is forced to step up and replicate that standard.
Having been a leader among college coaches for decades — an era in which there was limited success in getting the NCAA to agree to changes that might be better for player development — how do you feel about the current quest to convince the NCAA to expand the season over two semesters?
I started collegiate soccer in 1976. I think we’ve come a long long way since then on what it means for the colleges to have a soccer team. And the NCAA office is more receptive to listening to ideas on how it can improve one of its sports. I think [Maryland coach] Sasho Cirovski and his committee are doing great work and we’re closer than ever. We just need to get everybody on board. Spreading out the season would increase class time and would be better for the student-athlete. ... In the current format, you pick up a hamstring injury and you could miss half the season.
Now that you’ve been coaching in Phoenix for three years, what you think about its prospects for an MLS franchise?
It’s a very ambitious city. It’s a big city. They’re hungry for a professional team. There’s a lot of good youth soccer. There’s great enthusiasm here. I think the money’s here.
What went wrong with the U.S. national team?
I was fortunate to go to 1994 World Cup because I had friends on the team and I watched that team up-close. There was something, there was some kind of passion. Some type of get-the-job-done urgency. Something intangible. ... I watched Bruce Arena when he coached the USA to the quarterfinals at the 2002 World Cup. The team got so close to reaching the semifinals. That team also had that intangible.
Maybe this time, because Bruce Arena took over in the middle of qualification, he wasn’t able to nurture whatever that intangible is.
Christian Pulisic [19 years old] already looks like he could be the best to ever play for the U.S. national team. We have some really good young players coming up. Will they step up?