FC Dallas heads back to Utah for the final meeting of 2016 with Real Salt Lake on Saturday night. Dallas (15-8-7) heads to the opposite side of the country after a 2-2 draw in New York City last weekend, where they were the first to lock up a spot in the 2016 postseason. RSL (12-8-10) suffered their first home loss of the season last week to the Houston Dynamo, 1-0, and will look to bounce back with hopes of a top two spot in the West on the line. FCD took the first meeting of the season, 2-0, in Frisco back in June, while Salt Lake took the most recent meeting, 1-0, at Rio Tinto last month.
JOCKEYING FOR POSITION
With a playoff spot officially locked up, Dallas will set their eyes on the first of several clinching scenarios over the next few weeks. A win this weekend would secure a Top 4 spot in the West and guarantee at least one home game in the playoffs. Two wins would secure a Top 2 seed and would put FCD through to the Conference Semifinal round, bypassing the mid-week Knockout Round games. Three wins in their final four would guarantee the No. 1 seed in the West, and would set them up nice in the Supporters’ Shield race.
RSL, on the other hand, are in need of a win this weekend if they want to hold out hope for a coveted Top 2 position. Winless in their last 3 matches, Salt Lake have fallen from the top end of the table, but with a 9-point cushion above the red line with 4 matches left, they shouldn’t be in danger of missing the postseason altogether. Regardless, it’s not ideal to head into the postseason on the slide.
KEY PLAYER FOR REAL SALT LAKE
Joao Plata – RSL’s leading point scorer, Plata has 9 goals and 11 assists in 26 games this year – team-high marks in both categories. In the August meeting between the two sides, the Ecuadorian put up half of his club’s 10 shots against Dallas.
Maxi Urruti vs. Jamison Olave – The Argentine striker is coming off his best week of the season with 2 goals in Tuesday’s Open Cup championship and another against NYCFC. Dallas’ archer has confidence on his side. And oh yeah, FCD is 11-0-2 in all competitions when he scores or assists on a goal in a game.
Mauro Rosales vs. Demar Phillips – Rosales was once Dallas’ super sub off the bench, but now has locked up a starting role in the right winger position. The trio of Argentinians (Rosales, Urruti, Diaz) and the Colombian (Barrios) up front have scored or assisted on 11 of Dallas’ 12 goals in their 4 starts as a unit.
PROJECTED LINEUP (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Nick Rimando; Defenders: Demar Phillips, Justen Glad, Jamison Olave, Tony Beltran; Midfielders: Luke Mulholland, Kyle Beckerman, John Stertzer; Forwards: Joao Plata, Yura Movsisyan, Juan Manuel Martinez.
KEYS TO THREE POINTS
Dallas will head to Rio Tinto with a bad taste in their mouths from August’s loss on a short mental lapse covering a quick set piece. With a full week of training after the emotional and physical roller coaster of 3 games and a championship in 8 days last week, a fully-rested and ready FCD side should be ready to open up their last month of the season on Saturday, and bring home three points from Utah.