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.
The longest road trip of the season kicks off Wednesday night for FC Dallas (6-11-8, 26 points) as they head to BC Place to face the Vancouver Whitecaps (10-7-7, 37 points).
Martin Rennie’s club is coming off a big statement win last weekend as they downed Real Salt Lake 2-1 with goals coming from Camilo and Dane Richards.
FC Dallas hopes to improve on their dismal road record this season – so far they’ve lost 10 of their 11 games away from FC Dallas Stadium this season including a 1-0 loss to the Whitecaps back in April.
Injuries, suspensions and call-ups force big changes
Rennie could be facing one of his toughest tasks as a manager of a Major League Soccer club – dealing with large amounts of injuries, suspensions and international call-ups to his starting lineup.
Captain and defender Jay DeMerit will be sitting this one out due to a concussion that he picked up last Saturday against RSL. Newly signed Andy O’Brien will likely replace DeMerit in the back.
Midfielder Gershon Koffie will be sitting this one out due to yellow card accumulation. He picked up his latest yellow card on Saturday against RSL in the second half. Brazilian newcomer Tiago Ulisses could be Koffie’s replacement in the midfield.
Rennie has five players called up for international duty as well – with three of them being likely starters. Dane Richards and Darren Mattocks were called up for Jamaica’s game with El Salvador in Washington, D.C. The loss of two speedy players in the attack will be a tough thing to overcome.
Russell Teibert earned his first call-up to the Canadian national team as they are set to take on Trinidad and Tobago.
Defender Carlyle Mitchell and striker Etienne Barbara were also called up Trinidad and Tobago and Malta, respectively.
Filling out the rest of the line up
Since the last meeting in April, Rennie has made several chances to his roster. Bringing in Richards for striker Sebastien Le Toux was one that made headlines. So was trading Designated Player Eric Hassli to rivals Toronto FC.
Rennie had to do some of those moves to make up for new DPs coming into the roster like midfielder Barry Robson and striker Kenny Miller. Both will be expected to start on Wednesday. Robson has shown well in his first eight games with the Whitecaps by scoring two goals.
Miller will be paired up top with Camilio in the Whitecap’s 4-4-2 set up. Robson will set behind the strikers in the midfield with potentially Ulisses and former FC Dallas midfielder Atiba Harris on the wings. Brian Sylvestre could also see some time in the midfield.
Defensively there won’t be a ton of changes for the Whitecaps other than DeMerit. O’Brien will be in the middle of the defense with Martin Bonjour. Alain Rochat and Lee Young-Pyo will man the full back spots with Joe Cannon returning to his post between the sticks after serving a suspension last week.
Keys to gaining three points
Rennie likes to use a traditional 4-4-2 setup – though at times it looks more like a 4-2-3-1 with Mattocks or Miller playing the lone striker role. But without the speed of Mattocks and Richards, Rennie may be forced to use a more traditional approach with his formation on Wednesday.
With both teams missing key players (Dallas will be without Julian de Guzman, Brek Shea, and Carlos Rodriguez due to international call-ups), Dallas will want to do their best to run the offense through David Ferreira as early as possible.
Wing play will be key in this one as Vancouver has backs that do well at getting forward into the attack – much like what Zach Loyd and Jair Benitez do for Dallas. Winning the battle on the wings will give Dallas a good chance at winning this game.
Lastly, Dallas will need to key in on stopping Camilo in the attack. He scored the lone goal in the previous meeting between these two sides and has been hot as of late – scoring one goal and adding three assists in his last four matches.