Guest columnist Drew Epperley is the founder and editor of WVHooligan.com. His blog covers everything MLS and U.S. Soccer. You can follow him on Twitter @WVHooligan.
FC Dallas (3-3-1, 10 points) returns home on Wednesday to host a conference rival as Real Salt Lake (5-3-0, 15 points) comes to town (7:30 pm CT on Fox Sports Southwest Plus).
Former FC Dallas striker Jason Kreis brings his squad to FC Dallas Stadium in search of their first ever win in Frisco.
Real Salt Lake are coming off two straight road losses – with one coming this past weekend in San Jose – as the Earthquakes downed a nine-man Salt Lake squad 3-1.
Jason Kreis will be without two key elements to his starting eleven. Forward Fabian Espindola and defender Jamison Olave are suspended for this contest after both saw red in the loss at San Jose.
Kreis will have to turn to third-year defender Chris Schuler to replace Olave. Schuler is no stranger to seeing the starting eleven in his short career as he has already started four games this season.
Up front, with Espindola out, Kreis will likely turn to Pablo Jr. or rookie striker Emiliano Bonfigli. Kreis also has Cody Arnoux as well in reserve but he has been out recently with an abductor strain.
Missing these two players will be tough for Real Salt Lake, as both bring a fiery passion to the field. Kreis does have one of the deeper benches in Major League Soccer, so this will be a good test for them.
Usual suspects all around
One thing Real Salt Lake has been over the last few years under Kreis is consistent with play on the field. Most of that is due to the main group of players that have started for Kreis over the last few seasons.
Defensively Kreis has had the fortune of having starting keeper Nick Rimando in goal. The veteran keeper has been arguably one of the top keepers in MLS over the last four seasons. Since 2009, he has 39 shutouts and 271 saves.
In front of Rimando will be Schuler and Nat Borchers. The veteran Borchers has become of the league’s best center backs over the last three seasons.
At right back will be Tony Beltran, a craft defender that does well at getting forward. The 24-year old adds quality pace to the wing for Salt Lake.
On the opposite sideline will be Chris Wingert, another veteran in MLS. He is smart in defense and doesn’t commit a lot of fouls.
The midfield may be the strongest part of this club. Lead by Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales, these two provide a one-two punch in the center of the midfield like no other.
Beckerman is already off to a strong start this season with two goals, both crafty shots that show his range and creativity.
Morales is one of the top attacking midfielders in MLS. Sidelined for most of the 2011 season, he is healthy again this year and is already tearing up defenses a goal and an assist on the season.
On the wings will be Canadian international Will Johnson and newcomer Jonny Steele. Kreis could also insert rookie Sebastian Velasquez or veteran Ned Grabavoy into the midfield as well.
Up front will be Designated Player Alvaro Saborio. The Costa Rican striker already has two goals and an assist to his name in 2012. Expect him to give the FC Dallas defense a tough 90 minutes.
Keys to the three points
Both teams are coming off tough road losses over the weekend and will be looking to rebound. Real Salt Lake has never lost three straight regular season games under Kreis either.
Kries likes to employ a 4-4-2 setup with a diamond midfield. Dallas will need to find some consistency in the midfield and not allow Morales and Beckerman to dictate the play of the game in this one. Keeping those two at bay and finding a solid possession game will open up the offense for Dallas.
Defensively, Dallas will need to remain smart and eliminate costly turnovers in the back.
Schellas Hyndman will also want to get plenty of pressure from his wing players and find ways to get his forwards involved in the attack as often as they can.