If there was ever a time to face Real Salt Lake, this may be the right time. Jason Kreis comes back to Frisco for the first time in 2013 with a group that is beat up with injuries and decimated with international call-ups. Throw in the fact that Kreis and Salt Lake have never won in Dallas (or Texas for that matter) and it could be the perfect storm for Schellas Hyndman and FC Dallas.
Saying all of that it could also be the perfect time for RSL to catch Dallas napping. When the schedule came out I immediately thought this was a trap game for Dallas, especially in the event that Dallas won the Texas Derby (check!).
So let's break it down, as to what Dallas needs to bring to the table tomorrow evening and what RSL is coming to town with.
RSL is going to be without Javier Morales, Chris Wingert. Both are definitely out with injuries while Khari Stephenson and Rich Balchan are questionable. The big losses out of this is still Morales as it puts pressure on guys like Luis Gil and Sebastian Velasquez to produce out of the midfield.
Just like I mentioned above, RSL got hit hard by the international call-ups. Five players total, more than any MLS side during this FIFA window. Out of Jurgen Klinsmann's United States team there is keeper Nick Rimando, midfielder Kyle Beckerman and defender Tony Beltran. Three guys that have seen every minute so far in the early season for RSL.
In some ways that is five starters out for Kreis on Saturday.
Former LA Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders should get his first start in goal for Rimando. The defense shouldn't be hit too hard as Nat Borchers is expected to return to the lineup in the center of the defense with Kwame Watson-Siriboe. The defensive flanks should see Chris Schuler and Lovel Palmer.
In the midfield Kreis loves his diamond set up with Gil in the attacking role due to Morales' injury. Ned Grabavoy and Velasquez should be on the wings while taking over for Beckerman will be Yordany Alvarez.
Keys to game
- Pressure, pressure, pressure. I think the big thing will be to test Borchers during his return. See if quadriceps have fully healed. RSL has quality defenders but Schuler is more of a center back in my book so seeing how he does on the flanks would be a wise test as well. Go at them with speed and really see if they are up to the challenge.
- Spread them out. RSL loves their diamond shaped midfield. Even though at the moment they may not have the perfect set of players to run the midfield (sound familiar?), Kreis makes it work. The thing is the two wings sometimes get pinched in and it opens up the wings for more possession. They were lucky last week to own the possession game against Colorado but let's be fair, Colorado isn't that great here either. Force them wide, and play a smart possession game in the middle. Dallas looked great at times when they did this last week against Houston. The chances will be there if they don't try to force too much in the midfield.
- Physical play on their strikers. Findley is good, Plata is quick and Sandoval is a rookie. All have quality but all haven't shown that they can handle real physical defenders in the past either. That means guys like George John and Matt Hedges or even Michel and Andrew Jacobson to put some early physical play on these guys up front for RSL.
- Test Saunders early. I know Saunders has won a couple MLS Cups with the Galaxy but he had one heck of a defense in front of him there. The times that the Galaxy looked bad with him there were when their defense was busted up with injuries. Saunders is good but he does let in some stinkers too (remember that goal he gave up in last year's MLS Cup?). Test this guy early is what I say. Go from distance (looking at you Jackson Goncalves) or some play up front with Kenny Cooper. Either way, test this guy early and often.