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 (3-3-2, 11 points) hits the road for their third match in eight days. Schellas Hyndman’s crew will head to the Home Depot Center to face the reigning MLS Cup champions, the Los Angeles Galaxy (3-3-0, 9 points).
Manager Bruce Arena seems to finally have his team playing at the level most expected this club to at the start of the season.
LA got off to a rough start to the season, going 1-3-0 in their first four games but are currently winners of their last two – including a 2-1 road win in Colorado last weekend.
The Galaxy are arguably the league’s most talented team. With names like David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, Juninho, and Edson Buddle it is hard to disagree with those who believe that.
One thing Arena has done well with this big list of stars has been finding ways to make sure all the big stars are playing as one group.
So far this season Keane has three goals to his name – leading the Galaxy in that department.
His strike partner, Buddle, has one goal so far this season. Buddle and Keane work well off one another as each contribute a high work rate.
Behind them in the midfield are Beckham in the middle with Donovan on the right wing. Typically Donovan floats up into the attack more from his wide position – the same can be said about left-winger Mike Magee.
Juninho adds a different element to the midfield for the Galaxy. His work rate and skills on the ball have always been tough to match. He also shows a good ability to take a chance on goal from distance, making sure opposing defenders are honest against him.
Each of the big stars on the Galaxy help spread the wealth when it comes to setting up one another in front of goal. Beckham, Keane and Donovan each have two assists on the season, with Buddle picking up one of his own.
Defensively, the Galaxy are missing a key element in center back Omar Gonzalez, who is out for the majority of the season with a knee injury.
Without Gonzalez in the middle of the defense, Arena has had to turn to a center back by-committee kind of approach to find a partner for A.J. DeLaGarza. Lately, Arena has landed on former Chivas USA defender David Junior Lopes to fill in. Lopes and DeLaGarza have already begun forming a nice partnership in the back together.
Left back Todd Dunivant has been one of the more consistent players in MLS over the last few years. He does well at inserting himself into the attack and finding spots to contribute with an assist.
Opposite of him is Sean Franklin, a young defender that has earn himself high praise as one of the most athletic right backs in MLS. He uses his pace to get in behind opposing defenders and does well at helping create scoring chances.
Starting in goal is keeper Josh Saunders, who showed well in games last season when then starter Donovan Ricketts was hurt. He is a big keeper that commands his box very well.
Keys to three points
Typically Arena plays a normal 4-4-2 formation but it does have tendencies to shift into a 4-3-3 with Donovan pushing forward.
From top to bottom, the Galaxy are still one of the best clubs in the league. Dallas cannot focus too much in one particular star, as there is always a tendency for someone else to step up.
Dallas will need to work the wide areas in this game and use pace down the middle part of the field. While the Galaxy are very good defensively, they do tend to not handle teams with speed very well.
With Beckham’s service from the midfield and on set pieces, Dallas will have to remain smart in the defensive third of the field and not give up any silly fouls.
In a sense this is a gut check game for Dallas, who are looking for their first road points of the season. A win or a tie will keep Dallas firmly in the thick of things in the Western Conference, while a loss could see them tumble down the standings.