Once again, Chivas USA will be facing a team with a dynamic attack, but fortunately for the Goats this time around they'll have 11 players to work with.
FC Dallas came out this season with guns blazing, recording a 3-2 win over the Montreal Impact at home, but came a bit back down to earth after a relatively poor performance against a makeshift Sporting Kansas City side. Even with a drop in production, FCD still managed to show it's a team with plenty of heart, as they fought their way to an 90th minute equalizer and left Kansas City with a 1-1 result.
Saturday's encounter will also be the first opportunity for Wilmer Cabrera to face his old colleague Oscar Pareja. This game will surely be a chess match of two coaches who know each other's styles very well.
FC Dallas Scouting Report
Quick, Dynamic Mids: Mauro Diaz is the engine behind everything FCD does and is masterful at getting everyone around him involved with his great vision and accurate passing. Fabian Castillo uses his speed and dribbling skills to get past defenders on the left and can create problems once he cuts inside, where he can either find his shot or draw fouls from unathletic back lines. Its a skill that suits FCD well since they're a team that has been incredibly efficient on their set pieces.
Set Pieces: Only one of FC Dallas' four goals this season have come from open play, while the other three have come from set pieces (one via penalty, two via free kicks). Having dangerous free kick specialists like Diaz and Michel service balls into the box means trouble for teams that resort to fouls so close to goal. Despite this strength, the issue for FCD is that they haven't been able to draw enough fouls in the attacking third to take advantage of this strength. They've only had five free kick situations on the young season, but fortunately for them, two of those have resulted in goals. So while they're not coming in bunches, FCD is still proving they're efficient. They've also only drawn four corners in two games (two apiece) and, while not considered a set-piece, they only have 13 crosses on the season (only Real Salt Lake has fewer, with 12).
Open-Play Shooting/Attacking: It's already known that FCD's attack on paper looks to be a force to be reckoned with and should have no difficulty creating chances on a weekly basis. Talent with good coaching always seems to win out. It appeared as if Pareja's attack-oriented style was on its way to good things after the Montreal game, but SKC somewhat showed that there's still some work left to be done. They currently are worst in the league with 9.5 shot attempts per game and have been out shot 33-19 in two games this season. That being said, the season's still very young and it appears FCD's chemistry still hasn't been refined. It'll be an interesting to see if CUSA, who somehow has allowed the fewest amount of shots per game with 7.5, can keep Dallas' offense at bay.
The back line can be a bit shaky: Aside from not being able to pump out a significant amount of shots, FCD have also allowed 16.5 shots per game, which currently ranks among the worst in MLS. Granted, with veterans George John and Zach Loyd both out with injuries, they're not at full strength and have relied on a makeshift backline for the start of the season. Left back Jair Benitez is considered a defensive liability due to his age, but he finds ways to add to the attack. Kellyn Acosta has done an admirable job filling in for Loyd on the right, but at 18 is still young and has momentary lapses in judgment. With John out, Pareja has shuffled between Moises Hernandez, a natural left back, and Stephen Keel as the CB pairing to Matt Hedges. I think the biggest difference maker, aside from Hedges, is the availability of DM Hendry Thomas. The guy is a gamer and does a fantastic job of slowing down opposing attacks, but he went down with an injury in game 1. Should he play, expect a revamped FCD defense.
Keys to the Game
1. Avoid fouls around the box. - FCD has relied on the set-piece for some time now. This is nothing new. Chivas will have to be smart in order to be the third team in three games to allow a set-piece goal against FCD.
2. Focus on limiting Mauro Diaz's influence on the game - There's no question that Diaz makes everything go 'round for FCD. If he's allowed the space to run rampant, he'll make you pay. In FCD's first game against Montreal, Diaz completed 43 of 49 passes and the team thrived. In game 2 against Kansas City, Diaz was effectively shut down and wasn't given the space to have an influence in the game, connecting only 25 of 29 passes. FCD was unable to initiate anything on the attack, Castillo was forced to dribble his way to 22 turnovers, and the team lost the possession battle 35 percent to 64 percent. The onus of stopping Diaz will be on Oswaldo Minda and Dani Fragoso, who'll most likely be starting in the place of Agustin Pelletieri.
3. Slow the game down – Despite, FCD's speed, they tend to play at a slower pace, spending more time on their own half of the field, waiting for opportunities to open themselves up. If you give them time, they'll develop a flow and gradually build the confidence and chemistry we saw from them in their encounter with Montreal. If Chivas wants to have any shot at a result, Minda will have to go into overdrive and continue his streak at successfully stopping balls a la Hendry Thomas.
4. Don't give up, Don't let up – Both teams have shown their resolve in the first two weeks of the season. Chivas USA won their home opener in the final minute after giving up a two goal lead. In game 2, they battled for nearly 80 minutes with only 10 men and toughed out a 1-1 result. FCD has had similar fortunes. After giving up an early goal to Montreal, they responded with 3 of their own. They followed that up by scoring a 90th minute equalizer at SKC. Both teams have shown they have heart and as a result, no lead can ever be considered safe. Saturday night should be a battle.
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