Match Preview: FC Dallas at Real Salt Lake

Reigning champs seek to rescue series at Rio Tinto


Photo Credit: 
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Basics

Salt Lake
(No. 2 seed in Western Conference) vs. FC Dallas
(No. 3 seed in West) at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.

FC Dallas boast an all-time 12-6-1 advantage over their West
opponents, and lead the aggregate Western Conference semifinal series
2-1 after Jeff Cunningham and Eric Avila helped overcome an early Fabian Espindola
strike. FC Dallas have lost all three previous encounters at Rio Tinto

TV Info

9 p.m. CT, Fox Soccer Channel

Game Intro

Both teams enter this match in a do-or-die situation. For Real Salt
Lake, they must overcome the one goal FC Dallas advantage in order to
advance. Meanwhile, FC Dallas will be looking to maintain their
advantage with at least a draw in this match.

Both clubs are known for their attacking styles and a consistently
high level of play throughout the season. In each of their three
meetings this season, the home team won. RSL
will be looking to maintain that trend while Dallas will look to break

The winner of the series will either travel to the Los Angeles
or host the Seattle Sounders in the Western
Conference championship game.

WATCH: FCD at RSL Match Preview

Real Salt Lake

RSL will be without playmaker Javier Morales, who was
ejected in the first leg after picking up two yellow cards. Andy Williams will likely be tasked with
replacing Morales' creativity. Meanwhile, Will Johnson should get the start after playing
a reserve role in the previous match.

The status of team leading scorer Alvaro Saborio is in
question as he nurses a lingering knee injury aggravated in the first

As they chase the game, Real Salt Lake will need to handle the
mounting pressure they'll likely face as the game progresses. However,
head coach Jason Kreis is confident that his players can use the deficit
to their advantage.

“I think that our team is at their absolute best when their backs are
firmly against the wall," he said, "and now that’s exactly where we

FC Dallas

Dallas got the result they wanted in the opener, grabbing the 2-1
goal advantage as they head into Rio Tinto Stadium. This gives them the
luxury of either continuing to play attacking soccer, as they did in
Frisco, or playing it safe with a defensive mindset.

All signs point to to the former as head coach Schellas Hyndman said
he would like to see his side "replicate its game" in Utah.

“The way we played in the second half [in Frisco], we’d like to do
that again,” he said.

They will attempt to do so without Atiba Harris, who picked up a red card in the
first leg of this series. Harris made a strong impact on the game at
Pizza Hut Park, helping the team pressure the RSL back four.

Heroes and Villains

RSL midfield vs. FCD midfield: Real Salt
Lake are widely regarded to have the top midfield in the league. Though
their counterparts may have received slightly less recognition, they're
similar in quality. One could argue that last week’s game was decided
largely in the midfield, and it's likely that will be the case on
Saturday. Real Salt Lake will miss their playmaker Morales, but they
have demonstrated the ability to dominate possession regardless of who
lines up. Whichever team wins the battle in the middle could find itself
moving on to the next round.

Stat that makes you go, “Hmm ..."

In 11 matches, neither of these teams have managed even a point on
each other’s current home turf, although Dallas did have three wins in
Utah before the opening of Rio Tinto Stadium.