Match Preview: FC Dallas vs. Real Salt Lake

Western Conference powers collide at Toyota Stadium

FC DALLAS vs REAL SALT LAKE
TOYOTA STADIUM, Frisco, Texas
Aug. 22, 2014 (WEEK 24, MLS Game #222)
8 p.m. CT (NBCSN, free stream at NBCSports.com)

A massive clash atop the Western Conference kicks off the weekend’s MLS fixtures as FC Dallas play host to Real Salt Lake on Friday evening at Toyota Stadium before an NBC Sports Network audience. FC Dallas come into the match riding a nine-game undefeated streak after their 5-0 rout of the San Jose Earthquakes last weekend. FCD trails Real by just three points in the division, who lead the West and are tied atop the MLS overall table after knocking off previous leader Seattle Sounders FC 2-1 at home last weekend, running their undefeated skein to six matches.

REFEREE: Ismail Elfath. AR1 (bench): Eric Boria; AR2 (opposite): James Conlee; 4th: Armando Villarreal
MLS Career: 34 games; FC/gm: 25.4; Y/gm: 3.1; R: 9; pens: 11

SUSPENDED: none
WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: DAL: Matt Hedges, Michel … RSL: Olmes Garcia, Javier Morales
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: DAL: Fabian Castillo, Blas Perez, Je-Vaughn Watson, Victor Ulloa, Adam Moffat … RSL: Nat Borchers, Alvaro Saborio, Chris Schuler, Luke Mulholland, Kyle Beckerman
DISABLED LIST: DAL: Hendry Thomas (season-ending injury)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (27 meetings): FC Dallas 13 wins, 38 goals … Real 9 wins, 35 goals … Ties 5
AT SALT LAKE (12 meetings): FC Dallas 9 wins, 21 goals … Real 1 win, 9 goals … Ties 2
FUTURE MATCH: 9/6: Real Salt Lake vs. FC Dallas, 8 p.m. MT

2014 (MLS):
5/24: RSL 0, DAL 0

  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. They played to a scoreless draw May 24 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
  • After 21 matches in the state of Texas, against both Houston and Dallas, going 0-18-3, Real won 3-0 last July 13 at Toyota Stadium, their first win ever in the Lone Star State. RSL is now 1-9-2 at FC Dallas all-time in league games between the clubs; FCD has also won a game in the MLS Cup Playoffs (in 2010) and a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal (in 2011).
  • FC Dallas has come away with points on each of their last three games vs. Real at Rio Tinto Stadium.
  • Coaches record: Oscar Pareja vs. RSL: P7 W2 L2 T3 … Jeff Cassar vs. DAL: P1 W0 L0 T1

LAST MEETING (MLS)

  • The closest either team came to scoring was in the 55th minute when RSL defender Nat Borchers nearly put in a header in, only to see it cleared off the line.
  • RSL goalkeeper Jeff Attinella was called upon to make three saves to extend his club's long undefeated run, while FC Dallas goalkeeper Chris Seitz made just one save.
  • REAL SALT LAKE (4-3-1-2): Jeff Attinella - Tony Beltran, Chris Schuler, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert - Luke Mulholland (Luis Gil 82), Cole Grossman, Ned Grabavoy - Javier Morales - Joao Plata (Olmes Garcia 42), Devon Sandoval (Robbie Findley 65).
  • FC DALLAS (4-2-3-1): Chris Seitz - Zach Loyd, Walker Zimmerman, Matt Hedges, Moises Hernandez (Jair Benitez 90) - Adam Moffat, Victor Ulloa - Je-Vaughn Watson, Tesho Akindele (Andres Escobar 82), Fabian Castillo (Stephen Keel 90) - Blas Perez.

FC DALLAS
FC Dallas stretched their undefeated streak to nine matches, rolling to a 5-0 victory against the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday evening at Buck Shaw Stadium. FC Dallas sit in third place in the Western Conference with 39 points from 24 games.

LAST MATCH

  • FCD opened the scoring in the 30th minute. Fabian Castillo outraced Jason Hernandez to the ball, then shrugged off the Quakes defender’s attempts to wrestle him down outside of the box. Three dribbles later, Castillo gently lifted a left-footed shot over San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch.
  • The lead was doubled in the 43rd minute when Tesho Akindele spun away from his defender and fired a left-footed shot from 20 yards that barely snuck past the left arm of a diving Busch before kissing off the far post and in.
  • The Quakes drew a penalty kick deep into first-half stoppage time when Matias Perez Garcia went going down after a tug from Victor Ulloa and referee Jair Marrufo pointed to the spot. But Chris Wondolowski blazed his effort well over the crossbar.
  • FCD took advantage to make the score 3-0 in the 58th minute when Castillo dribbled past one defender, shot around another and forced a save from Busch, but Akindele was there to pounce on the loose rebound.
  • The lead was made 4-0 in the 74th minute when Castillo scythed once against through the San Jose defense, stopping on a dime to fire right-footed to the far post past Busch from inside the box. Akindele completed the rout in the 86th minute, hammering home the rebound from Blas Perez’s unmarked header off a Michel corner.
  • FCD head coach Oscar Pareja made three changes to the team that knocked off the Colorado Rapids 3-1 at Toyota Stadium. Jair Benitez and Ryan Hollingshead came into the team, in place of Walker Zimmerman and Mauro Diaz.
  • FC DALLAS (4-2-3-1): Raul Fernandez - Je-Vaughn Watson, Zach Loyd (Kellyn Acosta 77), Matt Hedges, Jair Benitez - Victor Ulloa, Michel - Ryan Hollingshead (Blas Perez 69), Fabian Castillo (Peter Luccin 77) - Andres Escobar, Tesho Akindele.

TEAM NEWS

  • At nine games, the FC Dallas undefeated run matches the second-longest in club history, which they had achieved twice previously, including March 17-May 11 of last year. The club record is 19 games without defeat, set during the 2010 campaign.
  • “This group has shown a lot of character. I don’t know if people realize how much adversity this group has gone through this year - I've never seen anything like it in my life. They stand up and keep pushing, and today was a statement where they proved that they’re strong kids,” said FCD head coach Oscar Pareja.
  • In all competitions, FC Dallas have not lost in 13 games since the start of June. They were eliminated in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals in a penalty shootout following a 1-1 draw over 120 minutes.
  • “During this unbeaten streak, we’ve only given up a handful of goals. It’s something we’re really focusing on. At the beginning of the year, we were leaky, and we definitely wanted to change that, and it’s showing,” said defender Matt Hedges.
  • Tesho Akindele became the seventh rookie in Major League Soccer history – and the second this season – to score a hat trick when he netted the triple vs. San Jose. It’s the first time in league history two rookies have hit for hat tricks in the same season (Chicago’s Harry Shipp did it May 10 vs. New York).
  • Fabian Castillo netted a pair of goals in a game for the first time in his MLS career. Castillo now has eight goals for the season, a single-season high in his four MLS campaigns.
  • “He has a better understanding of what his responsibilities are without the ball. When you have a player that becomes a team player, success will follow. He has grown immensely at being a team player. Now he’s sacrificing, working harder and making the right tactical movements,” said Pareja. “Everything is coming together for him.”
  • Castillo also has a goal and/or assist in six consecutive league games when he’s played, dating back to May 31, with five goals and three assists in that time. Castillo has a goal and/or an assist in his last 10 games in all competitions, scoring four goals and adding three assists in FCD’s run to the U.S. Open Cup semifinals.
  • “I have more confidence in myself,” Castillo said. “The coach gives me more confidence to play. Every year one gets better, get practices in. I think I’m just practicing hard and getting better every year. I think I used to be a very predictable player and now I know how to move a lot better and how to change things up.”
  • Ryan Hollingshead made his first MLS and FCD start, playing 69 minutes in a central midfield role. He had made three appearances as a substitute in league play, totaling 20 minutes.
  • Jair Benitez made his first start since June 29, having missed five matches with a left knee sprain. With Benitez in the lineup, Zach Loyd moved into central defense.
  • “He’s been huge. In the last three games, he’s played three different positions: center back, left back and right back. He’s brilliant at all of those positions, and he’s easy to play with and communicate with. It’s great for a team to have a guy that can do that day in and day out,” said Hedges.

REAL SALT LAKE
Real Salt Lake extended their undefeated run to six games, defeating Seattle Sounders FC 2-1 on Saturday afternoon at Rio Tinto Stadium. RSL are in a tie for first place in the Western Conference and the MLS overall table with 42 points from 24 matches.

LAST MATCH

  • Real took the lead in the 53rd minute. From a free kick on the right flank near the touchline, Luke Mulholland whipped in the service to the back post where 5-foot-2 forward Joao Plata got behind a defender and headed the ball in past Sounders FC goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
  • The lead was doubled just four minutes later. Luis Gil passed the ball to a streaking Mulholland cutting into the Seattle box, and he poked the ball inside the left post just ahead of Sounders FC midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, who had originally appeared to put the ball into his own goal.
  • Sounders FC pulled a goal back in the 72nd minute when RSL defenders Chris Schuler and Chris Wingert miscommunicated on a clearance and the ball fell to Seattle's Clint Dempsey. RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando saved Dempsey's point-blank shot, and Andy Rose hit the post on the first rebound before Barrett cleaned up the chance to pull the deficit back to 2-1.
  • RSL head coach Jeff Cassar made three changes to the team that rolled to a 3-0 win against D.C. United at Rio Tinto Stadium. Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert came back in at fullback in place of Carlos Salcedo and Abdoulie Mansally, and Luis Gil started in midfield for Javier Morales.
  • REAL SALT LAKE (4-3-1-2): Nick Rimando - Tony Beltran, Chris Schuler, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert (Carlos Salcedo 89) - Luke Mulholland, Kyle Beckerman, Ned Grabavoy - Luis Gil - Olmes Garcia (Robbie Findley 60), Joao Plata (Cole Grossman 80).

TEAM NEWS

  • Real Salt Lake won their third consecutive match, matching their longest winning streak of the season, also winning three games in a row May 3-17.
  • “These game really are six-pointers the rest of the way. You can really start putting some distance from other teams,” said RSL head coach Jeff Cassar. “Right now, we are six points ahead of Dallas – that’s an important game. It’s a massive game. There are less and less available games to play. I think guys are starting to smell it, and feel it. Right now, it’s about getting our bodies right and making sure we’ve recovered as best as we can – it’s going to be a hot game in Dallas – and making sure we refreshed and focused on a very dangerous team.”
  • Joao Plata scored his 11th goal of the season against Seattle. Plata had seven goals combined in three seasons before this year; he has four goals in the last six matches.
  • “It’s not about one individual, for sure, but Joao is playing at an extremely high level every game. He’s being consistent,” said Plata. “Obviously, I love balls going in the back of the net, but I appreciate his work on the defensive side as well. Whether it’s helping out a defensive midfielder or chasing an outside back, he’s playing at an extremely high level right now.”
  • The 5-foot-2 Plata also scored his second consecutive goal from a header, also netting with a header vs. D.C. United on Aug. 9.
  • “I couldn’t believe it was him again. He can score goals from any way and he has shown that this year. Left foot, right foot, and now with his head,” said Kyle Beckerman. “He’s a special player. We’ve been leaning on him for goals this year and we’re going to continue to lean on him. I think he’s got a couple more in him, with his head or with his feet, it doesn’t matter. He’ll find a way to get it in.”
  • Real Salt Lake conceded their first goal following back-to-back shutouts, their scoreless streak put to an end after 285 minutes, the sixth-longest streak in the league this season.
  • “I think it’s just commitment to both sides of the ball. We obviously want to get back to getting shutouts, after we had a stretch when we didn’t have a few,” said Cassar. “That game against Colorado really helped out, because we could just buckle down and just play defense.  From that, we’re building offensively. Right now, it’s clicking.”
  • Luke Mulholland netted a goal and an assist in the same game for a second time, also having done it May 11 vs. Houston. Mulholland has two goals and three assists in the last five matches.
  • “You just put in the man-hours watching someone play, you know the system that you play, and you factor in character – Luke [Mulholland] has it all,” said Cassar. “He’s got that fight in him, spirit, he’s a perfect two-way midfielder.  Even though he played pretty much attacking midfielder for [the Tampa Bay Rowdies], he had all the characteristics to be a two-way midfielder. You never know, but it’s a credit to him – it’s a credit to his teammates for welcoming him to the team – and he’s really adapted amazingly.”
  • With Javier Morales out with a foot injury which forced him from the field at the three-quarter mark of the D.C. United match, Luis Gil stepped into the attacking midfield role.
  • “It was a really solid performance. He played 90 minutes on Tuesday, turned around and played 90 again, and it shows that he’s being able to contribute for the entire game,” Cassar said. “I thought [Seattle] did a good job of closing him off with [Osvaldo] Alonso and Gonzalo [Pineda], but he kept moving and kept plugging.  It was a beautiful ball from him on the goal, and he’s really starting to turn up his game.”