Alex Englen of The Daily Wiz and I traded three questions ahead of Sunday's game. Enjoy!
1) Sporting KC is 2-0 and still has yet to allow a goal. How have they won their games so far and where are the fans’ confidence levels in the team right now?
The belief in this team is absolutely sky high, and the fans have come to expect a lot from Sporting Kansas City even this early on in the season. They've won matches thus far in the campaign by simply going into every game with the mentality to win, every fixture they've entered they've played with confidence and swagger from the get-go.
2) It’s tough to find weaknesses on a team that has yet to allow a goal, but where would you say SKC’s weaknesses are that Dallas can exploit this weekend?
Almost everything they do offensively comes from the wings, in fact all 4 of their goals have come off crosses from the wide areas. If FC Dallas can find a way to shutdown Sporting KC's wings, and particularly the lethal combination of Sinovic and Convey on the left, they might just have a chance.
3) Graham Zusi had his breakout game at FC Dallas last year and hasn’t looked back since, what have been the keys to his rise to stardom in the league?
Graham Zusi's key to success has been due to his work ethic and his extreme consistency. Each game you'll see him fighting for every ball, every tackle and playing 45 yard field-switching balls on a dime. His free-kick abilities have also made him an essential part to this team, thus keeping him in the lineup.
His questions for me:
1) 1) Last season FC Dallas went out of the playoffs in the first round. How big was that for the team and is there still the belief that they can make it back to that stage and even further this year?
I don’t think it was too big of a deal. They were playing in Champions League for the first time while making the US Open Cup semifinals, all without David Ferreira and I think the games just caught up to them. The team was basically playing on dead legs for the last 6 weeks of the season. I think everyone is hungry to prove that last year was the fluke rather than reality.
2) Blas Perez has been great in his first two matches in MLS, netting 1 goal and 2 assists, which shows that he has had something to do with every one of Dallas' 3 goals this year. What is reasonable to expect out of him and the rest of the offense this season?
Blas Perez has been, hands down, the brightest story of the early 2012 season for FC Dallas. His play at forward has been fantastic and, as you said, he’s had a hand in all three goals. His success stems from his cerebral ability to pick off defensive passes and that he ALWAYS knows where he’s going with the ball before it comes. I think if Brek Shea and David Ferreira can stay on the field most of the season for Dallas, there’s no reason Perez can’t go double digit goals and +5 assists.
3) Arguably FC Dallas' best center back George John left for West Ham during the offseason on a 2 month loan deal that had the option of being made permanent, John failed to impress however and returned in early March. How have the fans reacted to this and are there any hard feelings between them?
I think most everyone has been happy to have him back and there’s certainly not any hard feelings. I don’t think anyone would want to deny a player a chance to go to the English Premier League, it’s every soccer player’s dream. It’s been kind of an awkward situation back as Dallas has signed Colombian center back Hernan Pertuz who has been very impressive in his short time in Dallas, basically not relinquishing his starting spot. George John will have to earn his starting CB role back, but you could see him there this weekend with Pertuz moving out left.
1) Bonus: What formation has FC Dallas been running and how will it match up to Sporting KC's 4-3-3 high-pressure system?
FC Dallas runs a 4-1-4-1 formation with a flat back four, Daniel Hernandez sitting in front of them, then a diamond midfield with Andrew Jacobson as the anchor and Ricardo Villar as the attacking mid(until Ferreira is back). It’s not really optimized to FC Dallas without Shea, Ferreira and Castillo, as they will be this weekend, but it’s what they go with.