KNOW YOUR ENEMY: Real Salt Lake | 3.3.18

FRISCO - FC Dallas will turn the page after a CONCACAF Champions League exit on Wednesday night and set their sights on the next task at hand - Saturday’s MLS Regular Season opener against Real Salt Lake (7PM - TXA21).

Diverging Paths

The two sides were polar opposites in 2017. FCD started off the season as one of the hottest teams in MLS and led the Western Conference in late July before a two-month winless spell saw them fall out of the playoffs (competing with RSL among others for the last playoff spot on Decision Day). Salt Lake, on the other hand, fired head coach Jeff Cassar after three weeks and won just four of their first 16 matches on the year before finishing the year as one of the hottest teams in the league, taking at least a point in 12 of their last 15.

Both have made key additions in the offseason in areas of concern and Saturday will be the first test of the true identity of each going into 2018.

Key Match-Ups

Michael Barrios vs. Demar Phillips - Dallas’ assist leader from a year ago will look to exploit the left side of RSL’s back line and the 34-year-old Phillips to create chances. The fourth-year player started just 11 matches in 2017, but appears to have won back the starting role heading into the new campaign. Barrios will look to continue his strong form in 2017 as FCD tries to spark the offense through the wings.

Matt Hedges vs. Alfredo Ortuno - Ortuno is likely Salt Lake’s go-to guy up top, signed in the offseason with Targeted Allocation Money after 17 goals in 40 appearances last season in the Spanish second division. Hedges remains the lone back line regular from a year ago in Dallas and the captain will look to anchor a re-bolstered and re-worked defensive shape.

Projected XI

Nick Rimando; Demar Phillips, Justen Glad, Marcelo Silva, Aaron Herrera;  Luke Mulholland, Kyle Beckerman; Joao Plata, Albert Rusnák, Jefferson Savarino; Alfredo Ortuno.

Keys to Three Points

The biggest factor for FCD this weekend will be a short memory coming off Wednesday’s match and getting mentally prepared for their MLS campaign. Dallas has been well-versed and one of the best at flipping the page on short rest over the last few seasons and it’ll be an early test in 2018. If they can conquer the mental aspect and continue to build chemistry on the field creating chances through the wings, they will be able to take their seventh-straight home opener victory, extending what is already the longest current streak in the league.