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.
The final countdown is on. FC Dallas (9-12-10, 37 points) begins their final three games of the regular season with the first of two meetings with Chivas USA (7-17-7, 28 points) on Sunday.
The two clubs met earlier this season in Frisco, when they tied 0-0. Chivas keeper Dan Kennedy was the big hero on the day, making several key stops on FC Dallas, including a couple on Brek Shea.
Chivas is coming into this match on a seven game losing streak, including a 4-0 loss on Wednesday night to the Vancouver Whitecaps. The last Chivas win this season was all the way back in late July when the Goats beat the Portland Timbers 1-0. In that seven game stretch, Chivas has been shutout in six of those games with three of them being by a 4-0 score line.
Chivas has the worst offense in Major League Soccer this season, scoring just a meager 21 goals on the year. As of Wednesday night, Chivas has also given up 53 goals on the season, second worst in MLS behind Toronto FC.
Even with talented names such as Juan Agudelo, Juan Pablo Angel, Nick LaBrocca, and Shalrie Joseph in the lineup, Chivas USA still manages not score goals at an alarming rate this season.
The last goal scored by Chivas was September 8th against the Seattle Sounders in a 2-1 loss. LaBrocca scored that goal early in the match with assists going to Joseph and Miller Bolanos.
Head coach Robin Fraser has thrown out several different lineups lately to try and get his offense going again. On Wednesday, Agudelo and Alejandro Moreno got the start up front in Fraser’s 4-4-2 formation.
Neither were able to do a ton against the Whitecaps’ defense and only Agudelo was able to get any shots off.
Fraser has been using a diamond midfield with Laurent Cortois leading the top of the four-man midfield. Bolanos and Ben Zamenski manned the left and right wings respectively, with Peter Vagnas in the defensive midfield slot.
Dallas could see LaBrocca get the start in place of Cortois on Sunday. He was a little more successful on Wednesday at finding open passing lanes to set up Jose Correa and Agudelo up front late in the second half.
Kennedy the main constant in defense
If there is one person you know will show up in defense for Chivas USA it is Dan Kennedy. The net minder has had a tough go of things lately due to his leaky defense in front of him.
Lately Fraser has been using Danny Califf in the middle of the defense with John Valencia. However, on Wednesday it was Joseph replacing Califf in the middle of the defense. The change didn’t go over well as for the second straight game the defense gave up four goals.
Ante Jazic and James Riley have been a constant fixture at the two full back positions this season. Both provide good cover up the field but are usually pressed when facing speedy attackers. Dallas will want to get forward with speed and use overlapping runs from Jair Benitez and Zach Loyd to throw these two off on Sunday.
Keys to three points
Chivas is in a huge rut these days. As mentioned, they have won a game since July and their defense has been very leaky in that stretch.
Dallas will want to press Chivas through the wings and find ways to open up the game with David Ferreira in the middle of the field. The last time these two met, Chivas did not have to contend with Ferreira or Blas Perez up front. Dallas did an excellent job at getting Perez the ball last week in San Jose and will want to continue that in this game.
Defensively, Dallas just needs to remain calm and level to hold Chivas. Vancouver put a lot of pressure on their midfield Wednesday night and didn’t allow them to get a lot of easy chances on goal.
A win is what Dallas needs to stay alive in the playoff hunt. Vancouver provided the template to beat Chivas USA on Wednesday and Dallas certainly has the talent to accomplish the same feat on Sunday.