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.
Rivalry Week is here in Major League Soccer as FC Dallas hosts the Houston Dynamo in the battle for El Capitan presented by Novo Nordisk. This will also be the only regular season meeting between the two Texas clubs in 2013.
Both clubs are stumbling into this match -- Dallas fell 3-1 at Chivas USA last weekend while the Dynamo are coming off a tough loss in the CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday to Santos Laguna, 3-0.
Houston has typically gotten the better of this rivalry since the club moved from San Jose to the Bayou City. Manager Dominic Kinnear’s bunch has gone 9-3-7 in all-time regular season matches against FC Dallas.
Last year at BBVA Compass Stadium the Dynamo made topped FC Dallas in a 2-1 win that saw Jair Benitez get sent off midway through the second half. Midfielder Adam Moffat secured the win with his goal in the 76th minute.
Dallas is winless against the Dynamo in their last three meetings with the last win coming on May 5, 2010 in Houston. That win marked the only time in the short history of the Texas Derby that Dallas won the El Capitan cannon outright.
Blas Perez vs Bobby Boswell – The Panama native could start his first game of the season against one of the most underrated defenders in MLS. Perez will offer up some size and physicality that Boswell has yet to see in league play this season.
Key Player for Houston
Brad Davis – The veteran midfielder is the guy that runs the show on the wings and in the attack for Houston. In the last five matches against FC Dallas, Davis has four assists. If Dallas is able to shut him down, it could go a long way in quieting the Dynamo attack.
Right now the Dynamo are missing two speedsters in their attack with Omar Cummings (knee) and Calen Carr (knee) both out of action right now. Carr injured his knee back at MLS Cup in Los Angeles. The rest of their lineup is pretty healthy and Kinnear should have his main group of starters fit for this match on Sunday.
Kinnear typically uses a 4-4-2 formation, very similar to what we have seen so far out of Schellas Hyndman this year with a central midfield duo that clogs the middle of the park to allow the wingers more freedom in the attack.
Goalkeeper: Tally Hall; RB: Kofi Sarkodie, CB: Jermaine Taylor, Bobby Boswell, LB: Corey Ashe; RM: Oscar Boniek Garcia; CM: Adam Moffat, Ricardo Clark; LM: Brad Davis; FW: Will Bruin, Giles Barnes
Keys to three points
This game will be won or lost in the midfield – not a shocking detail to those who have watched FC Dallas play so far this season. The midfield duo of Andrew Jacobson and Je-Vaughn Watson (or Bobby Warshaw) have to key in on guys like Davis and Oscar Boniek Garcia. If they can play physical against Davis and Boniek Garcia, it will force Houston to create chances elsewhere in their attack.
Against D.C. United and Santos Laguna, when Boniek Garcia has been pressured or double-teamed on the ball, it forced more out of Ricardo Clark or Adam Moffat in the center of the midfield to step up.
The big thing will certainly be finding a way to allow David Ferreira the space to create from the wings and give both Perez and Kenny Cooper the service that they need up front. Dallas hasn’t created many good chances so far this season, but when they have it has been Ferreira or Jackson doing the dirty work in the midfield.
Another key point will be getting Fabian Castillo into the game late. He should be coming off the bench in this one with the return of Perez. Castillo could be the homerun type player that Dallas has lacked in late game situations so far this season.
But being that this is a rivalry game, the biggest key has to be handling emotions.
Emotions will almost always get in the way during a rivalry game such as this one. We’ve seen it in the past out of Dallas that when their emotions aren’t in check - or as Hyndman likes to put it, they lack emotion intelligence - FC Dallas loses games. Keeping a level head and away from collecting cards will help Dallas secure their first win against the Dynamo in three seasons.