OBETZ, Ohio – A foreign-born coach comes to the United States at an early age, enjoys a successful college coaching career and finally joins MLS.
He’s then charged with reviving a sputtering franchise and understandably struggles before putting more wins than losses on the ledger.
For the Crew, that man was German-born Sigi Schmid, who led Columbus to their first MLS Cup win in 2008 after missing the playoffs in his first two seasons.
For FC Dallas – who come calling on Saturday at Crew Stadium – that man is Schellas Hyndman, who has turned his club into one of the surprising powers of the league in 2010.
Born in China, Hyndman’s family moved to Springfield, Ohio – 50 miles west of Columbus – to start a path that eventually led him to a 26-year career (466-122-490 record) at Southern Methodist University. He didn’t have to travel far for his first pro job, joining up with FC Dallas in June 2008.
FC Dallas went 4-6-8 under Hyndman to finish 2008 and were 11-13-6 last year, just good enough to miss a playoff berth by a single point.
Hyndman’s team was winless in the first five games this season in a start similar to the Crew’s 0-2-5 mark in 2009. The Crew rebounded to win their second straight Supporters’ Shield and are now in the running for an unprecedented third.
[inline_node:315056]But perhaps one of their most unexpected challengers are Hyndman and FCD, who are riding a 7-0-4 streak into Saturday’s match.
“There’s no doubt about [Dallas'] success,” Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer said. “They’ve had a really good year. They’re playing together and they’re playing well.”
Hunt Sports Group chairman Clark Hunt, who played for Hyndman at SMU, is not surprised that FC Dallas and the Crew – both Hunt clubs – floundered early under new regimes before finding success.
“Patience is something I’ve learned from being in the sports business a long time,” he said. “It takes any coaching staff, I feel, three years to build a program. Sometimes it happens a little quicker, sometimes a little slower.
“I think it’s always a mistake to bring in a new coach or a new technical staff and pull the plug on them after a year-and-a-half or two years.”
FC Dallas are riding a wave of confidence and could break the Crew’s league record of nine straight games unbeaten on the road with a victory or tie.
The Crew are banged up and tired after a tough 1-0 loss to Santos Laguna in Mexico on Tuesday in a CONCACAF Champions League match.
Midfielder Emmanuel Ekpo (groin) is the latest casualty. He joins Robbie Rogers (knee) on the sideline while defender Gino Padula (knee) is questionable. Also, right back Frankie Hejduk serves a one-game suspension.
If it makes the Crew feel any better, Clark Hunt said he will follow a family tradition while watching the Hunt teams battle.
“My father [Lamar] made the suggestion many years ago that when two of our teams are playing in Major League Soccer, we always cheer for the home team,” he said. “We’ll be cheering for the Crew, but it’s an incredibly important game for both teams considering how tight the race is for the Supporters’ Shield.”