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 (5-11-7, 22 points) has a hectic month of August that sees them away from home for four out of five games.
The first up is a Sunday clash (6 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Network) at one of the league’s toughest venues, JELD-WEN Field against the Portland Timbers (5-12-4, 19 points).
Portland is coming off their fifth straight loss last weekend at the hands of Chivas USA. Over the five game losing streak, the Timbers have been shut out three times, including a 5-0 beating at FC Dallas Stadium two weeks ago.
Dallas saw four different scorers in that game as Jackson Goncalves, Andrew Jacobson, Scott Sealy and Ruben Luna all found the back of the net.
Timbers in the attack
Dallas shouldn’t expect a ton of change from the game two weeks ago in Frisco. Manager Gavin Wilkinson will likely use a similar bunch that played in the 5-0 loss and the one from the 1-0 loss to Chivas last week.
Portland has the second-worst offense in MLS in terms of goals scored with 19 – only Chivas has scored less goals this season.
Dallas should see Scottish striker and Designated Player Kris Boyd up top from the start in this game on Sunday. Boyd came off the bench in Frisco two weeks ago and only played about 30 minutes.
Boyd leads the Timbers this season with seven goals but has not scored in his last three games.
Sitting below Boyd in the middle of the attack will be sophomore forward Darlington Nagbe. The former college standout has three goals to his name this season and will be called to do more on Sunday.
Wilkinson also has former Seattle Sounder Mike Fucito to go to in the attack. Dallas fans will recall Fucito’s early shot two weeks ago that hit off Daniel Hernandez and the post before coming out. Wilkinson and the rest of the Timbers called that miss a game-changer for them as Dallas went on to score five goals after that miss.
Danny Mwanga is also a viable option off the bench. So far the former number one overall SuperDraft pick hasn’t been able to do a whole lot with his new club since the trade from Philadelphia a few weeks ago.
On the wings will be Franck Songo’o and Kalif Alhassan. Expect Alhassan to have a larger role in this game as two weeks ago he was largely ineffective.
Wilkinson has a couple options off the bench for his attack as well – former FC Dallas midfielder Eric Alexander is their leader in assists this season with four and newcomer Brent Richards could be a big player on the right wing or off the bench.
Diego Chara and Jack Jewsbury will sit just above the defense. Chara is a quality two-way midfielder but Jewsbury is always the guy that can lead this squad to a victory at home with his set piece service.
Fullbacks Kosuke Kimura and Steven Smith are still getting acclimated in Portland. Both have struggled with speedy midfielders and when full backs do overlapping runs like Jair Benitez and Zach Loyd do, they struggled to pick up on who they need to mark.
Centrally Wilkinson has Mamadou “Futty” Danso and Colombian Hanyer Mosquera. Both have played solid minutes lately in the center of the Portland back four. David Horst is also a viable option off the bench and could start in place of Danso like he did a week ago against Chivas USA.
Troy Perkins will continue to be the man between the pipes in goal for Portland. He currently has three shutouts on the season.
Keys to three points
Dallas cannot expect this game to be as easy on Sunday as it was two weeks ago in Frisco. Expect the Timbers to come out looking for revenge for the big loss. They will ride their loud and vocal crowd as much as possible from the opening kick.
In order for Dallas to leave the Pacific Northwest with three points, they’ll need to keep things simple against the Timbers like they did two weeks ago. Spread out the Timbers attack from the start and make them chase the game.
A big goal early will eliminate the crowd so the first 15 to 20 minutes will be huge for Dallas. If David Ferreira can be involved early on in this one, Dallas should have no problem putting pressure on the Timbers back four.
Defensively, Dallas will need to be smart one again and not allow any set pieces in their own defensive third.
Playing smart soccer for 90 minutes is what Schellas Hyndman needs out of his club and if they give that to him, they will return home victorious.