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.
After a busy three games in eight days stretch that saw FC Dallas (8-11-8, 32 points) go three-for-three against conference rivals, Schellas Hyndman’s squad now heads west to finish out the month of August against the LA Galaxy (11-11-4, 37 points) in a Sunday evening match (6 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Network).
Dallas and LA squared off just a month ago in Frisco. That game saw a second half Mike Magee goal to give the Galaxy the 1-0 win. FC Dallas has not lost since that July 28th meeting while LA has gone 1-1-1 since that game.
LA is coming off a 1-1 draw last Wednesday to the Columbus Crew in league play. The Galaxy also had to deal with a CONCACAF Champions League game on Thursday against El Salvador side Metapan, which they won 5-2.
Few changes in the attack
LA should see only a few changes in the lineup from the last meeting with Dallas. The only difference could be if Bruce Arena elects to play it safe with his lineup and rest some starters, as the game with Dallas will be sandwiched between two Champions League group games for the Galaxy.
However, given the current state of the MLS playoff race for both sides, Arena may push forward with his top lineup provided everyone is healthy enough to go on Sunday.
If that is the case, Landon Donovan will return to play up front with fellow Designated Player Robbie Keane. Donovan has been sidelined since his play with the U.S. National team last week – he picked up a hamstring injury in the 1-0 win for the U.S. against Mexico.
Donovan and Keane still lead the Galaxy in the scoring department. Keane has 11 goals on the season with Donovan contributing nine of his own.
In the previous meeting Keane was partnered with Magee and the two connected on the game’s lone goal. Magee is also serviceable from the wings as well.
David Beckham should return to the Galaxy lineup after missing the Columbus game last Wednesday. The London native has six goals and nine assists on the season for LA and would be expected to play a big part of the Galaxy offense.
Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas were big reasons why the Galaxy left Columbus with a point last week. The Brazilian combo was instrumental in slowing down the Crew in the middle and getting the attack going.
Arena also has several options off his bench for his attack in youngsters Jose Villarreal, Michael Stephens and Hector Jimenez.
The band is back together again
The last couple of games Bruce Arena has been able to use his top choices in the back for his defense. The quartet of Sean Franklin, Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLeGarza and Todd Dunivant are finally healthy at the same time and are able to contribute minutes together as a group.
Those four will play in front of keeper Josh Saunders, who is beginning to look like the keeper that helped guide this club to a MLS Cup title in 2011.
Arena has been able to use those four in his starting back line for the last two games and the group has picked up right where they left off in last season. So far they have one shutout to their name and are looking for more.
The big question will be if they can hold up with the heavy load in the schedule. More than likely Arena will have to do a patchwork defense to include David Junior Lopes or rookie Tommy Meyer in the middle of the defense. Bryan Gaul is also a serviceable option at full back with Franklin pushed forward into the midfield.
In the previous meeting with Dallas both Gaul and Lopes were a part of the shutout and played a big part in shutting down Scott Sealy, Jackson and David Ferreira.
Keys to three points
This one is huge for Dallas. At this point in the season it is nearly a win or go home kind of game. Dallas has won their last two goal games thanks largely to Fabian Castillo and Ferreira. Those two have to combine once again and involve Brek Shea into the attack as well.
Expect LA to key in on Ferreira, just as they did a month ago in Frisco. Sarvas and Juninho did an excellent job at shutting down the Colombian playmaker. Dallas will need a big game out of Andrew Jacobson to help alleviate the pressure on Ferreira in the middle of the park.
The Dallas defense will once again have to come up with a big effort – just as they did a week ago in Salt Lake.
Dallas will need to bring the energy to this game that they have brought in their last three as well. One of the biggest reasons why LA won in their previous meeting was due to how flat FC Dallas played for 90 minutes.
The higher the energy, the better chances at coming home with three points and a playoff spot just two points away.