FC Dallas and the Colorado Rapids will square off for the first time in league play this season on Saturday night as the top two teams in MLS. Dallas (12-6-4) is coming off a pair of shutout victories in the last week, 2-0 over Chicago on Saturday night and 1-0 over Houston in a U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinal matchup on Wednesday. Colorado (10-2-7) hasn’t lost a game since early April – going unbeaten 14 straight league matches, including a 1-0 win over Sporting KC on Saturday at home.
THE TWO FENSES
A key component the Rapids’ success in 2016 has been their defense, with a league-best 13 goals allowed on the season – eight fewer than any other team. At home, Colorado has allowed just four goals this year. FCD, on the other hand, is tied for the league’s most potent offense scoring 34 goals in 22 games. Dallas has picked up 10 goals in their last five MLS matches.
KEY PLAYER FOR COLORADO
Axel Sjoberg – In a stout defensive team, Sjoberg might be the biggest road block for opposing offenses. Averaging 5.6 clearances and 2.8 interceptions per game, he has not missed a minute of a league match for the Rapids since April 16.
Mauro Diaz vs. Michael Azira – Mauro Diaz is playing at the top of his game of late with a goal and four assists in his last four league starts. Sitting second in the league with 9 assists on the year and third with over three key passes per game, the FCD offense runs through Diaz. You can bet the Rapids defense will be keying in on the Magic Little Unicorn.
Walker Zimmerman vs. Kevin Doyle –Two of the top aerial threats in MLS go head-to-head this weekend. Zimmerman leads the league in aerials won per game (3.9), but also leads FCD in clearances and is second in interceptions. Doyle, the Rapids’ leading scorer this season with four tallies, is third in the league in aerials won per game (3.1). He, too, has played every minute of every MLS game since April 16.
PROJECTED LINEUP (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Tim Howard; Defenders: Marc Burch, Axel Sjoberg, Jared Watts, Mekeil Williams; Midfielders: Michael Azira, Sam Cronin; Shkelzen Gashi, Dillon Powers, Marco Pappa; Forward: Kevin Doyle.
KEYS TO THREE POINTS
Saturday is almost guaranteed to be one of the best head-to-head matches of the season to this point for FC Dallas. When the two teams met in Open Cup play, Colorado sat some of their normal starters, but expect both teams to go for gold in Colorado. If Dallas can continue to keep Fabian Castillo, Mauro Diaz and Michael Barrios running full steam ahead, they stand the best chance thus far to break down the Rapids’ defense.