Know Your Enemy: Vancouver Whitecaps FC
FC Dallas hits the road for their final league match in the month of July as they look to extend their unbeaten run in MLS to six games. Up next is a trip to the Pacific Northwest as they visit the Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday afternoon in the first meeting between the Western Conference rivals this season.
Vancouver is currently two points back of FC Dallas in the standings with a 6-4-9 record. The Caps are coming off a 1-1 draw last weekend in Salt Lake. In the month of July, the Caps are 1-1-2.
While FC Dallas has been hot in recent weeks, their road play this season hasn’t been nearly as good. Since winning in Houston back in April, the club has been winless in their last seven road games going 0-4-3, though they do have two LHUSOC road wins in that span.
FC Dallas swept the season series with Vancouver in 2013, going 2-0-1 in the three meetings.
Vancouver manager Carl Robinson only has a couple injury concerns to worry about going into this weekend’s game. Both midfielder Bryce Anderson and forward Caleb Clarke are out with quad injuries.
Andres Escobar vs Steve Beitashour - Escobar has been red-hot lately for FC Dallas including the game-winner last weekend against New England. This weekend he’ll go up against a World Cup veteran in Beitashour. Escobar needs to find ways to go one-on-one with Beitashour to win this matchup as he has shown to be able to take nearly anyone on in this league with good results.
Darren Mattocks vs Matt Hedges - This is going to be a battle about speed and containing it. Hedges has shown well this season against speedy players but Mattocks may be a different kind of animal to deal with. If Hedges allows him to get open space around the penalty box, he will make FCD pay for it.
Key Player for Vancouver
Pedro Morales - The 29-year old has been a big boost to the Whitecaps attack this season by scoring six goals and adding in eight assists. FC Dallas will need to find ways to bottle him on in the midfield and limit his passing lanes forward to guys like Mattocks and Ketuka Manneh.
Robinson has stuck with a fairly basic 4-4-2 this season.
GK: David Ousted, RB: Steven Beitashour; CB: Carlyle Mitchell, Johnny Leverón, ; LB: Jordan Harvey, RM: Gershon Koffie, CM: Matias Laba, Sebastián Fernández;LM: Pedro Morales; FW: Ketuka Manneh, Darren Mattocks
Keys to three points
FC Dallas has struggled in recent visits to Vancouver. Between the travel and playing on artificial turf, the trip to the Northwest is never an easy one. Lets not forget that several starters saw minutes in the midweek against Aston Villa in the summer friendly with the English Premier side.
This game is rather simple however for FC Dallas to continue their unbeaten run in league play. As long as they contain the speed up front of Vancouver, limit the passing lanes in the midfield, push the envelope in the attack and remain discipline in the back, they’ll stand a good chance at returning to North Texas with three points.
The defensive work in this game will be key for Dallas though. Limiting what Morales is able to do on the wings and in the midfield is big. But containing and slowing down that speed up front is just as important. FCD cannot afford to let Mattocks or Manneh slip in behind the defense.
This game will be physical too. Vancouver has shown in recent games that they like to battle for 50-50 balls and force teams to lose their cool. Dallas has to limit those mental errors on defense and not get caught up in the physical game that Vancouver will be looking to play.
In the attack, it will all come down to keeping Escobar hot and finding ways to work in Mauro Diaz either off the bench or as a starter. The 4-4-2 has worked well in recent weeks for Oscar Pareja, so it may be worth using Diaz as a super-sub late in the game again.