Know Your Enemy: Colorado Rapids

Pareja's Rapids boast many options in attack

Rapids XI

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Every point matters now for FC Dallas and this weekend is a pivotal match for Schellas Hyndman's men as the club will visit the Mile High City for the final time in the regular season on Saturday to take on the Colorado Rapids.

The two sides have met twice already this season with Dallas owning the edge in the season series. Dallas began the season with a 1-0 win over the Rapids thanks to a first half goal from Jackson.

The two clubs met back in June in Colorado to the tune of a 2-2 draw. Former FC Dallas forward Atiba Harris scored two goals for the Rapids while Dallas got two of their own from Blas Perez.

Colorado is 4th in the Western Conference and just two points ahead of Dallas in the current standings. Oscar Pareja’s club is 2-1-2 in their last five games. Between the end of June and the end of August, the Rapids enjoyed a nine-game unbeaten run that saw them win games against league heavyweights LA, New York and Montreal.

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Injury Watch

Pareja has had plenty of injury issues to deal with this season but over the course of the last few weeks, players like Matt Pickens have returned to action and Diego Calderon is working his way back into shape.

The only long-term injuries the Rapids have left are Davy Armstrong (ACL surgery) and Kory Kindle (sports hernia).  

MATCH PREVIEW: FCD at Rapids

Key Matchups

Drew Moor vs Blas Perez – The former FC Dallas defender will have to contend with Perez again this weekend. The last time the two squared off, Perez got the better end of the deal, scoring two goals.

Atiba Harris vs Kellyn Acosta – Dallas fans saw it last week with Vancouver using their speed and skill in the second half to target the young Dallas Homegrown defender. Harris is another familiar face for FC Dallas and he will likely be tasked with using his speed and ability to take it to Acosta.

Key Player for Colorado

Edson Buddle – The veteran forward has been big for the Rapids as of late, including scoring the game-winner last weekend in LA. While some would view his 2013 campaign a down year, Buddle still has the ability to frustrate defenses and score at any point on the field.

Projected Lineup

Pareja has been shifting his formation around and lately has found success with a 4-2-3-1 formation, something Schellas Hyndman typically uses in Frisco.  Pareja also has plenty of options up front to choose from with leading scorer Deshorn Brown and Designated Player Gabriel Torres likely to be on the bench to start in this one.

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Goalkeeper: Clint Irwin; RB: Marvell Wynne; CB: Shane O’Neill, Drew Moor; LB: Chris Klute; CM: Dillon Powers, Hendry Thomas; RM: Atiba Harris, AM: Vicente Sanchez; LM: Martin Rivero; FW: Edson Buddle.

Keys to three points

Colorado is a team that has impressed everyone around the league as of late. Pareja has been able to mix in young guys like rookies Brown and Powers with the veteran players that have returned from injuries.

The Rapids are a team that can frustrate Dallas with their ball movement and tempo. They pressure the ball from the front and put an emphasis on defending up the field. Dallas will need to take care of the ball in their defensive end and not give away any silly passes from the back into the midfield.

The Rapids will give up their share of set pieces; something Dallas can take advantage of on their offensive end. As usual, Dallas will have the height advantage on these set pieces.

Dallas will need to fight early to get a goal; the Rapids are 9-1-6 this season when they score the first goal of the game. Of their 29 goals allowed this season, 14 of them have come in the first half with six scored in the first 15 minutes of the match.

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Dallas saw success against the Rapids in the open field in their previous two meetings, particularly when they spread out the attack along the wings. Colorado plays a little narrower in their midfield, which leaves space for speed on the wings with Jackson, Je-Vaughn Watson and Fabian Castillo to expose.

This is a game that Dallas needs a result to stay in the thick of the playoff race. A win would certainly help matters along while a draw would keep them within a shorter distance of the fifth and final spot. As long as they play their game for the full 90, a win is certainly possible.