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.
FC Dallas (3-9-7, 16 points) hits the road for a match with Western Conference rivals, the Colorado Rapids (7-10-1, 22 points).
The Rapids are coming off a 2-1 loss on the road to the Seattle Sounders. Oscar Pareja’s club has lost four out of their last five games with the lone win coming two weeks ago against the Portland Timbers at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
The Rapids are currently 5-3-1 this season at home.
Rapids in the attack
Colorado is lead in the attack by midfielder Jaime Castrillon and striker Omar Cummings. Castrillon has five goals on the season while Cummings comes in behind with him four.
Both players have proven to show that when they are on the same page together, they can be a tough combination to handle.
Cummings scored the Rapids’ lone goal last week in Seattle.
Cummings has been partnered up top this season with rookie Tony Cascio and US international forward Conor Casey.
Casey has seen limited minutes this season since returning from a knee injury. So far he has one goal to his name this season but overall hasn’t been the impact forward that he once was back in 2010.
In the midfield, the Rapids are veteran led by winger Brian Mullan and Martin Rivero.
Mullan will likely lineup on the right wing while Castrillon will see his time on the left wing. Each provide solid distribution from the wide areas and are a threat to score as well.
Rivero has come into the midfield in place of the injured Pablo Mastroeni this season. He currently leads the club in six assists.
Colorado also has options off the bench in the attack. Kamani Hill has three goals this season and newcomer Edu is another choice.
Defense banged up but still pressing on
Injuries have taken its toll on the Rapids defense this season. Mastroeni has been out with concussion issues for the majority of the season and Marvell Wynne and Anthony Wallace have both missed time with various injuries.
Wynne recently returned to the lineup and has been partnered in the middle of the defense with former FC Dallas defender Drew Moor.
Kosuke Kimura was recently traded to the Portland Timbers which meant the right back spot is fully on the back of Hunter Freeman.
Newcomer Luis Zapata has filed in on the left fullback spot for the injured Wallace this season. He and fellow Colombian Castrillon have worked well on the left side together.
Defensive midfielder Jeff Larentowicz is typically seated just above the back four for the rapids. He is one of the more consistent players in all of Major League Soccer. Expect him to be a part of the offense and defense in this game.
Goalkeeper Matt Pickens has started every game this season for Pareja. He has 70 saves on the season and five shutouts.
Keys to three points
Colorado still shifts between a 4-3-3 lineup and a 4-4-2. It all comes down to who is on the field for when they use a certain formation.
In the previous game it seemed like the 4-3-3 used was more of a 4-3-2-1 kind of formation with Casey sitting above Mullan and Jamie Smith. Castrillon, Rivero and Larentowicz sat in the middle of the field above the defense.
Pareja likes a fluid attack and a lot of movement on and off the ball. Dallas will want to key in on players like Rivero and Castrillon to limit their touches and passing lanes. The last few games, Dallas has done a good enough job defensively to limit teams in front of their own net.
Offensively, Dallas needs to find creative ways to get Brek Shea involved early and also use the speed of Fabian Castillo and Jackson on the wings to get more out of the service from guys like David Ferreira and Andrew Jacobson in the middle of the field.
To end a long skid like the 13-game winless run Dallas is currently on, Schellas Hyndman needs to open up the attack and go all in for the three points.