FRISCO, Texas -- FC Dallas hopes to continue its good form this weekend as they host Western Conference rivals Real Salt Lake.
Former Dallas Burn striker Jason Kreis leads his RSL squad into Frisco, a place where his club has never won. In fact, RSL is winless in the entire state of Texas (including matches with the Houston Dynamo) in all competitions going 0-18-3.
Kreis and RSL went through a big change in the offseason. For a few weeks they wheeled and dealt veteran players like Will Johnson, Jamison Olave and Fabian Espindola. The moves helped free up roster space and add extra room in their salary cap as well.
By all accounts the moves have been acceptable so far for Kreis and company. Salt Lake won their season opener at San Jose thanks to two goals by Alvaro Saborio, but stumbled in their second game, a 1-0 loss at D.C. United.
During last week’s Rivalry Week, they kicked off the first leg of the Rocky Mountain Cup against the Colorado Rapids to the tune of a 1-1 draw. Saborio scored the club’s only goal in the late stages of the second half.
Salt Lake controlled the game against Colorado, holding a 70-30 possession edge and creating a number of quality chances.
Kreis will be looking for that kind of play on Saturday in Frisco, though he’ll have to do it with a few changes in his lineup.
For Pride and Country
Out of the 19 MLS clubs, no one club was hit harder by the FIFA date than Real Salt Lake. Five players called up, including four starters. Jurgen Klinsmann called up ‘keeper Nick Rimando, midfielder Kyle Beckerman and defender Tony Beltran for the USMNT’s games against Costa Rica and Mexico. Alvaro Saborio was also called into the Costa Rica camp and defender Kenny Mansally was called up by Gambia.
International call-ups are a bigger deal, but Real Salt Lake is still dealing with injuries to two other key players. Javier Morales has been sidelined with a knee injury all season while defender Chris Wingert is still battling knee soreness.
Nat Borchers vs Kenny Cooper – This is a big one for Cooper, he will be going up against a defender in Borchers that is coming off a quad injury and hasn’t seen much playing time this season. Testing him out early will be key to see how well he has recovered here.
Key Player for Salt Lake
Yordany Alvarez – The young midfielder is set to replace Beckerman in the lineup on Saturday. He is more than capable of filling the position but he has to show that he can be the gritty midfielder that Beckerman is on the pitch.
Kries typically uses a diamond 4-4-2 midfield. With all of the international call-ups and injuries, Kreis has to make some big changes to his lineup.
Goalkeeper: Josh Saunders; RB: Lovel Palmer, CB: Nat Borchers, Kwame Watson-Siriboe, LB: Chris Schuler; RM: Sebastian Velasquez; DM: Yordany Alvarez; AM: Luis Gil; LM: Ned Grabavoy; FW: Robbie Findley, Joao Plata
Keys to three points
Salt Lake loves to possess the ball and they are good at doing so. But a lot of their possession comes from their defense and Beckerman. They tend to work the ball out of the back a lot in hopes of creating chances for Saborio and others up front.
The thing is, without their leading scorer (Saborio) up front for this one, someone else will have to step up.
That plays into Schellas Hyndman’s hands for this one. FC Dallas will want to neutralize Salt Lake’s possession and play the game on the wings. Dallas did well against Houston when playing wide to Jackson and David Ferreira on the left side. If they can focus on working Borchers in the defense - really test him out - that could go a long way into keeping the unbeaten run at home alive against RSL.
With the loss of Blas Perez (international call-up to Panama), Cooper will have to be the guy up front that drives the attack for Dallas on Saturday. He, Ferreira and Jackson need to be on the same page and find ways to pressure the back four of Salt Lake.
This is a game that Dallas can easily win if they play to their strengthens. RSL is a good team but is still in a transition mode here and the big losses in the call-up and injury departments do not help them either. With history on their side, the points are there for the taking.