FC Dallas heads on the road for the first time this afternoon, taking on an unbeaten Sporting Kansas City at Livestrong Sporting Park. The final game of the MLS weekend, this marquee matchup between two of the league's serious title contenders takes place at 6PM and will be broadcast on Fox Sports Southwest with Mark Followill and Brian Dunseth while the spanish language side will be on Galavision. I know there will be watching parties at Allen Wickers in Plano and Mad Tavern in North Dallas, I'll be at the Tavern for this one.
Depleted Squad No Brek Shea, David Ferreira, Fabian Castillo or Carlos Rodriguez for this one which means you're likely going to see Bryan Leyva and Jair Benitez on the wings with Ricardo Villar at attacking midfield while the rest of the lineup will be the first choice guys. SKC should have everyone available except for Teal Bunbury who is with the national team.
Going for three straight FC Dallas will be going for three straight wins in Kansas City having won there in 2010 and 2011. FCD is 8-10-5 all time in Kansas City and 1-0-0 at LSP.
First place on the line It's obviously very early in the season, but FC Dallas could tie Vancouver at the top of the Western Conference standings if they win and Colorado fails to win at New York in the early game this afternoon. Sporting KC is one of three teams along with Colorado and Seattle, with a perfect record in the league.'
Mighty Mouse Blas Perez, with a goal and two assists, has had a hand in every FC Dallas goal this season and will be counted on with the absences that we've mentioned. He's been in fantastic form this season and his matchup against Aurelin Colin will be one to watch all night long.
Keys to the game, links, referee(shudder) and prediction after the jump
Keys to the game
Nothing to lose I don't think many out there are expecting FC Dallas to get much from this game so players like Bryan Leyva and Ricardo Villar can go out there with a nothing to lose mentality. While preventing Portland from getting three points off you last week was essential in the Western Conference, tonight's game won't have too much impact on a rival getting some points on you so there's really nothing to lose and no pressure.
Shut down the wings If Graham Zusi comes down the middle of the park and beats you, I'm ok with that. What FC Dallas needs to focus on is closing down Bobby Convey and Kei Kamara, forcing them to receive the ball with their back to goal from 35-40 yards out rather than running at the defenses.
No silly fouls or corners Sporting was tied for the most goals from set pieces of any team in MLS last season, meaning Dallas needs to be very conscious of the fouls and corners they're conceding in the final third. Guys like Kamara, Colin & Sapong are dynamite in the air on set pieces so limiting those will be very much in Dallas favor and limit the danger of the Sporting attack.
Jacobson's turn The fact is that Andrew Jacobson has not been great so far in the early part of the season. He's been alright defensively, but we haven't seen one of those defense-splitting passes so far in 2012 that saw him lead FC Dallas in assists in 2011. He needs to show up today and have a big impact on the game.
Youngster Leyva could get another start for Dallas (MLSSoccer.com)
Hot-Footed Perez happily adjusting to life with FC Dallas (MLSSoccer.com)
FC Dallas ready to challenge Sporting KC (MLSSoccer.com)
Injuries, international commitments have FC Dallas thin in midfield (Dallas Morning News)
Sporting KC defense stepping it up (KC Star)
Pre-Match Ramble: The Season starts now (KC Star)
REFEREE: Abbey Okulaja. SAR (bench): Frank Anderson; JAR (opposite): Peter Balciunas; 4th: Yader Reyes
MLS Career: 112 games; FC/gm: 26.8; Y/gm: 3.2; R: 19; pens: 25
This is going to be a really tough one for FC Dallas. If they can get to halftime at 0-0, I think they'll be doing very well for themselves and have a shot at a 1-0 win. However, if Sporting Kansas City scores early, the thing could be very difficult. I'm worried about how Bryan Leyva and Jair Benitez will deal with the SKC attack down the wings, and I think the Eastern Conference side has a little too much for this one.
Sporting KC 2 FC Dallas 0