FC Dallas returns home this weekend as they host Western Conference rivals and league point leaders Real Salt Lake.
Jason Kreis’ club is coming into this match as one of the league’s hottest teams – going 7-1-2 in league play since the beginning of May – four of those wins have come in their last five games.
Their latest result was a 2-2 draw at home against the Philadelphia Union on July 3. RSL was down to 10 men for nearly half an hour in the draw. Lovel Palmer was sent off in the 59th minute, but late goals from Luis Gil and Javier Morales saved RSL’s unbeaten streak and pushed it to seven games.
Real Salt Lake is 0-9-2 all-time at FC Dallas Stadium. Back in March, FC Dallas downed RSL 2-0 thanks to second half goals from Fabian Castillo and Jackson.
Gold Cup call-ups
Kreis will be hit the hardest of any MLS coach during the Gold Cup. In all, four players will be missing, all starters. Three of them are with the U.S. Men’s National Team, including ‘keeper Nick Rimando, midfielder Kyle Beckerman and defender Tony Beltran.
The other call-up is forward Alvaro Saborio, who is representing Costa Rica.
Injuries are still a big concern for depth reasons in Utah. Defenders Rich Balchan, Chris Schuler and Kwame Watson-Siriboe are all out with long-term injuries.
Rookie midfielder John Stertzer is also out with shoulder surgery.
Carlos Salcedo vs Kenny Cooper – The Homegrown rookie defender has been solid for RSL this season. He has already logged some big minutes, starting five games this season. He will be going up against a veteran in Cooper, a match up that could help Cooper break out of his current regular season goalless streak of seven games.
Javier Morales vs Andrew Jacobson/Michel – The Argentine playmaker is the key cog in the RSL attack. Both Jacobson and Michel will need to close down the space that Morales gets with the ball and find a way to keep his distribution to the wings and up front in check.
Key Player for Salt Lake
Javier Morales – Currently, Morales leads RSL with four goals and six assists. RSL is 8-2-3 this season when Morales starts the game for them. He was big in the 2-2 draw against Philadelphia last week, earning a goal and an assist.
Kreis typically uses a diamond 4-4-2 midfield. With all of the international call-ups, suspensions and injuries, Kreis has to make some big changes to his lineup.
Goalkeeper: Josh Saunders; RB: Kenny Mansally, CB: Nat Borchers, Carlos Salcedo, LB: Chris Wingert; RM: Ned Grabavoy; DM: Yordany Alvarez; AM: Javier Morales; LM: Luis Gil; FW: Robbie Findley, Joao Plata
Keys to three points
Salt Lake is a possession-oriented club in their approach to the game, but the possession always tends to lead to chances as well. RSL leads the league in shots on goal with 107, 12 more than the next club in the category (LA).
RSL also has done well at spreading out their attack with 11 different goal-scorers this year. Morales and three others have four goals apiece, which means their attack can come from anywhere.
Dallas will want to pressure up front and find ways to control the possession game like they did back in their last meeting. Shutting down Morales and what he brings to the attack will be key, but eliminating second chances for guys like Joao Plata and Robbie Findley up top will go a long way in this one as well.
RSL’s 4-4-2 formation can tend to open spaces on the wings as Gil and Grabavoy sometimes suck into the middle more than they should. Dallas will want to take advantage of the width of the field to create their chances.
RSL is a hot team, but with the international call-ups to key players, injuries and suspension to Palmer, they are beatable for Dallas. As long as the club plays to their strengths on set pieces, quality possession and good wing play, the three points will be theirs for the taking.