FC Dallas makes their first of two trips to Rio Tinto Stadium over the next five weeks on Saturday night in the second of three meetings with Real Salt Lake in 2016. Dallas (13-6-6) comes into the weekend off of a 2-2 draw against Sporting KC last weekend with goals from Tesho Akindele and Maxi Urruti to maintain a three-point lead in the Supporters’ Shield race. Salt Lake (10-8-7) is 4th in the West, 8 points back of FCD and will look to rebound from a 2-1 road defeat in Seattle on Sunday. FCD took the first meeting of the season, 2-0, on June 25th at Toyota Stadium.
Like Dallas, RSL has not dropped a result at home this season with a 6-0-5 record. FCD has points in 4 of their last 5 games in Salt Lake City (2-1-2), including a Western Conference regular season title-clinching victory in late October last year. Saturday is the start of an 8-day, three-city road trip for Dallas as they head to Nicaragua for their second CONCACAF Champions League match against Real Esteli FC next Wednesday before heading to Houston for the final leg of the Texas Derby on Aug. 27.
KEY PLAYER FOR REAL SALT LAKE
Joao Plata – The Ecuadorian is tied for his team’s lead in goals with 7 so far, but just as impressive are his 9 assists on the season – tied for 5th in the league just behind Mauro Diaz (10). Toronto’s Sebastian Giovinco is the only other player in MLS with 9 assists and more than 5 goals.
Matt Hedges vs. Yura Movsisyan –Making his first appearance in the second half last week after missing three matches, Movsisyan appears fully healthy in time for Saturday. He and Plata prove a dangerous combination for RSL and neither appeared in the June 25th meeting in Frisco.
Carlos Gruezo vs. Juan Manuel Martinez – Burrito lines up on the right of Movsisyan in a 4-3-3, but spends most of his time tucked underneath him in the middle. Martinez has been off the scoresheet in his last 7 starts – the longest drought of his young MLS career. Gruezo will try to keep that streak intact on Saturday.
PROJECTED LINEUP (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Nick Rimando; Defenders: Demar Phillips, Justen Glad, Jamison Olave, Tony Beltran; Midfielders: Javier Morales, Kyle Beckerman, Luke Mulholland; Forwards: Joao Plata, Yura Movsisyan, Juan Manuel Martinez.
KEYS TO THREE POINTS
Rio Tinto has proved a difficult place to play in 2016, but Dallas has found success in Utah in recent years. Coming off just their second full week between games since mid-June, FCD should be raring to go on Saturday. If the multi-threat offense can keep finding ways to score goal while Chris Seitz and the back line settle back into form – allowing two goals in a match for the first time in a month last week – then Dallas can take three points with them to Central America.