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.
This is it, the final match of the 2012 season.
The long and at times frustrating season is coming to a close for FC Dallas (9-13-11, 38 points).
For the finale, Dallas hosts a club that they struggled to beat two weeks ago - Chivas USA (7-18-8, 29 points). On the season, the two teams have drawn both of their games with one another.
Chivas has not won a game since late July, making them winless in their last 13 games. The Goats have also been held to just two goals in their last nine games.
FC Dallas will want to finish the season on a positive note in front of their home crowd against one of the league’s worst teams.
Chivas will be near full strength for this match as they only have three players listed on the injury report this week. Forward and team leading scorer Juan Pablo Angel is doubtful with an ankle sprain while defender Ante Jazic is listed as questionable with a MCL sprain. Goalkeeper Dan Kennedy is listed as probable with a knee injury.
Head coach Robin Fraser has been able to use more players in recent weeks, as his club has been getting healthier towards the end of the season. His offense is still the worst in the league while his defense has been giving up almost the most goals in the league (Toronto has given up more).
Fraser once again used a 4-2-3-1 type of formation in their 2-0 loss to Colorado last week. Alejandro Moreno was the lone striker in the formation while Fraser mixed things up a bit by placing Jorge Villafana and Juan Agudelo on the two wings in the midfield with Nick LaBrocca slotted in-between them.
Peter Vagenas and Ben Zemanski control the shape of the midfield, last week against the Rapids both failed to get a good flow to their game and Colorado capitalized on that by dominating the possession and chances.
Dallas will want to spread out their attack by using some speed on the wings with Fabian Castillo and Ricardo Villar (or Jackson if he is fit to go on Sunday). Villanfana and Agudelo are quality players but neither track back enough on defense and if Dallas can push numbers forward in the attack it will cause Chivas to be thin in their defensive third.
Speaking of their defense, Dallas should see a similar back four that they saw two weeks ago in Los Angeles. Jazic and James Riley will be at their usual full back posts while John Valencia and Shalrie Joseph will be in the middle of the defense.
Kennedy should be in goal once again for Chivas but if his knee keeps him out look for Chivas to once again start Tim Mella.
Keys to three points
With the playoffs out of reach for FC Dallas this game is about one thing – pride. Players will want to go into the off-season on a high note and for some guys this game will be about proving their worth going into the winter break.
The old expression that first impressions last a lifetime won’t apply here, as it will be the final impression that will last the next few months for Schellas Hyndman and his staff.
Ending on a high note is what this game is about and that means big performances from all over the pitch. David Ferreira will want to add to his Comeback Player of the Year case while Blas Perez will want to prove to the league that he was the best Newcomer of 2012 in MLS. This will also be one final game for Matt Hedges to add to his rookie campaign for MLS Rookie of the Year.
Again, final impressions are big. Dallas has to take control of this game from the opening whistle and find a way to send their fans home happy into the off-season.