FRISCO - Over the last month, no team has allowed fewer goals than FC Dallas. No team has scored more goals than D.C. United. Neither has lost a game in that span.
Saturday’s afternoon matchup in the nation’s capital will be a heavyweight bout between two clubs with opposing strengths. And one with everything on the line.
“We actually began well this season,” defender Reto Ziegler said this week ahead of his first trip to D.C. “The middle of the season was not perfect, but now we found the defense again. We are strong and we know at that level if we can keep the zero, we usually win.”
Over the last four matches, the league’s best defense early on in the season has returned to form and posted three clean sheets with just a single goal against. Part of their success has come with consistency at the back, overcoming minor injuries to Matt Hedges and Ziegler, while integrating Marquinhos Pedroso and seeing the return of Jesse Gonzalez, who made five key stops in last week’s 2-0 win over Orlando.
“When you have a team that can do the right things defensively then you can be very optimistic of their result knowing that we’re strong also with going forward,” head coach Oscar Pareja said. “It’s good to see them getting the clean sheets and getting the zero is important.”
This week, the back half of Dallas’ lineup will face maybe its biggest test of the year. Not only does D.C. the confidence of a team nearly completing the worst-in-conference-to-playoff-team transformation, but they’re playing their best soccer in years.
Couple that with the international absences of Reggie Cannon, who has started every single match for FCD this season, and Carlos Gruezo, who has quietly been the rock in the Dallas central midfield, and the plot thickens to the weekend’s best vs. best storyline.
“I think it speaks a lot to our squad, especially with guys coming in off the bench or guys coming into the rotation that haven't been there for a while,” Ryan Hollingshead said this week, having started last week’s match on the left side and could see time in place of Cannon this week on the right. “It shows the depth that this team has, as a defense that’s our goal every game is to get that clean sheet so we’ve been consistently doing that which is everything we’re asked to do.”
FC Dallas and D.C. United kickoff at 3:55PM CT with coverage on Univision and streaming live in English on Twitter