Tuesday, February 19, 2008

FCD win preseason opener, 2-0 Hoops defeat University of Memphis with goals from Saragosa, Wagenfuhr

FRISCO, Texas -- FC Dallas opened preseason play on Saturday with a 2-0 win against the University of Memphis at Pizza Hut Park. The Hoops got goals from Marcelo Saragosa in the 10th minute and another from David Wagenfuhr in the 46th for the victory.
Despite heavy rains pelting the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex for much of the day, the match did start on time. For much of the first half, rain fell, which made play slow and sloppy. But the clouds lifted in the second half and the Hoops were able to get forward more and create more chances than they did in the opening half.

FCD head coach Steve Morrow went with a 3-5-2 formation to open the first game of the preseason. Ray Burse was in goal with Adrian Serioux at right back, Aaron Pitchkolan in the middle and Alex Yi on the left side. The midfield featured veteran Bobby Rhine on the right, newcomer Andre Rocha and Saragosa in the middle with Blake Wagner on the left.

Juan Toja played just in front of them as a withdrawn forward and up top was Ricardinho and Dominic Oduro, who assisted on Saragosa's tally.

"It was a useful workout," Morrow said. "The focus was on fitness, keeping good possession and starting to work on our style of play and shape a little bit. For the most part, there were a lot of good things that came out of the game."

Rocha, a Brazilian midfielder from FCD's South American partner Clube Atletico Paranaense, joined the team on Tuesday and looked solid in his debut for the Hoops.

"He and Marcelo (Saragosa) worked well together," Morrow said. "They're getting a little understanding going already along with (Juan) Toja in front of them. I think there were a lot of positives there today. He showed his qualities in his first game out there."

Saragosa's goal was set up after he and Oduro worked a give-and-go perfectly to hand FCD an early 1-0 edge. The Brazilian launched a great right-footed blast from about 23 yards out which went into the right side of the net.

It was Saragosa's first game with FCD since last August 11 when he played 81 minutes in a 3-2 win against Columbus at Pizza Hut Park. He had surgery to repair a torn right meniscus last September and has been itching to return to the field ever since.

"I'm very happy right now because I'm back," Saragosa said. "I enjoyed my first game with the group and to score a goal was very important. It's not every time that I score goals. So, when I do, I feel happy and comfortable. I just want to keep working hard and that's it."

At the break, Morrow went with a completely new starting 11. The biggest change was the entrance of Ecuadorian forward Roberto Mina into the game. Mina had missed the entire 2007 regular season after suffering a left knee injury in the preseason finale.

He didn't arrive in Dallas until 11:30 a.m. Saturday but once he did surface, Mina looked fit and ready to impress. Currently without a contract, he is angling for a new deal with FCD and could be joining the club on a trip to Mexico next week.

"I think he (Mina) looked fit. He's been working hard the last six weeks and credit to him for coming in. He got in early this morning and played 45 minutes," Morrow said. "He's keen to prove himself and his attitude is good. He surprised me with some of his movement and the things that he did out there today. He showed us a little bit of what we've been missing from him as well."

Just after the break, Mina made his presence felt when he chipped a ball into the box from the right side. Wagenfuhr hit a right-footed half volley from about five yards out to double the FCD lead.

FCD did play the final 18 minutes a man down after rookie midfielder Brek Shea was sent off in the 72nd minute for a hard tackle with both feet was delivered to a Memphis player.

Among those who didn't play for FCD were Arturo Alvarez, Kenny Cooper, new addition Duilio Davino, Dax McCarty, Drew Moor, Dario Sala and Abe Thompson. But the Hoops who did see action were largely pleased with their performance as a unit.

"It was great for us," Saragosa said. "It's our first game and the team is still trying to get their fitness and game speed going. It served a good purpose for that."

Morrow was largely impressed with how his team performed in the 3-5-2 system. "For the most part, it worked well," he said. "The boys are starting to get an understanding of that as well. I thought for the first game, it worked well."

Added Wagenfuhr: "For the first time (in that formation), I thought we were good," he said. "I think we have the players to play that formation. You can talk so much about formations but it all comes down to the people who play it."

The FCD boss also got a better read on some of the younger players on his roster who are fighting for a pair of available spots on the developmental roster.

"There are one or two spots up for grabs on the developmental roster and a few guys are fighting for those spots," Morrow said. "I guess we learned a little more about that today but we have a few weeks before the roster compliance date, so we have more time to look at them."

On Wednesday, FCD will face Mexican Primera Division side Tigres UANL in Monterrey. Morrow felt like Saturday's outing was a good dry run for that contest with their Mexican partner.

"These early games in preseason are a matter of working through some games and working on fitness," Morrow said. "We will continue to build through the Tigres game and maybe try to get some of those guys some more minutes than they got today. We will try to push everybody to 45 or 60 minutes. It will be a bit more of a test for us than today's game."

Monday, February 11, 2008

Saragosa back, ready to contribute

FRISCO, Texas -- There might not be an FC Dallas player who was more eager to start preseason than defensive midfielder Marcelo Saragosa.
The fourth-year Brazilian was limited to just 13 games a season ago, after suffering a sprained MCL in his right knee then undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus last September.

But following an offseason of hard work, Saragosa is back with the Hoops and once again, ready to contribute.

"I'm very happy to be back with my friends here on this team," Saragosa said. "I feel very good and with the same objective that we've always had, to start the season well and to win a championship."

When he was healthy last year, Saragosa was a solid contributor to the FCD lineup. He provided some much-needed toughness for the Hoops in the middle of the field and also had a career-high two assists. But in the end, his season was chararacterized by injuries, something Saragosa is ready to put behind him.

"It (last year) was very difficult," he said. "These are things that happen to you. All I can do is work hard to try and avoid injuries and want to get through the whole year healthy."

FCD head coach Steve Morrow is glad to have Saragosa back in the fold and expects big things from his Brazilian midfielder this year.

"I see him as an important part of the roster," Morrow said. "He's becoming a senior member of the team and a leader. He's got qualities that we admire both on and off the field. He's a hard-working, disciplined player who is also a good passer. He keeps it nice and simple and I hope we can keep him fit and healthy. We expect big things from him this year."

Saragosa initially came to the Hoops in July 2006 from a trade with the LA Galaxy, and made his FCD debut in a match against Mexican side Tigres UANL, scoring the second goal in a 2-0 win. He played in seven games, three of those starts for the Hoops in 2006.

After playing in a 4-4-2 formation for much of last season, Morrow is looking to go with a 3-5-2 scheme this season, a development that is fine with Saragosa.

"In Brazil, we played like that," he said. "We also did that with the Galaxy under Steve Sampson. In my position as a holding midfielder, I like it because it lets you play defense but also lets you get involved going forward."

The Brazilian admits that the signing of ex-Club America and Mexican national team defender Duilio Davino in the offseason by FCD definitely excites him.

"It's very good for us, especially with the experience he brings to this team," Saragosa said. "We need that type of experience. He's a good player and was captain for America. I'm happy to have someone like that playing alongside me."

However, Saragosa admits that he is even more eagerly anticipating the arrival of fellow Brazilian midfielder Carlos Rocha, whom FCD is close to signing from South American partner Clube Atletico Paranaense.

"It's good for us," Saragosa said about Rocha's imminent arrival. "I was able to meet him when I was at CAP. He's a good player and it's good to see the team is bringing another Brazilian on board."

Steve Hunt is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.