Last year the two clubs played a gritty 1-1 draw in Frisco.
The Union are currently on a fairly hot streak, winning their last two matches by outscoring their opponents 6-0.
FC Dallas Notes:
Foul watch. Despite missing 225 minutes (2.5 games) due to injury, David Ferreira still tops MLS in fouls suffered (47). FC Dallas has lost just six out of the 32 games played (14‐6‐12) since Ferreira returned from injury on July 4, 2012. That total includes a 9‐1‐6 record at home. FCD currently ranks first in MLS in fouls suffered (234).
First half defense. FC Dallas is tied with the LA Galaxy with just four goals allowed in the first‐half of matches in 2013. New England ranks third in the league with five first‐half goals allowed.
Lending a helping hand. Ferreira is currently tied with five others players for third in MLS with five assists. Three of Ferreira's assists have been game‐winners, which ranks second in MLS with three other players.
The Union are 4-2-1 in their last seven matches with the last one over their rivals New York. The last month and a half for John Hackworth's club has been good. The defense is improving with Jeff Parke and Amobi Okugo's partnership improving. The offense is obviously doing something right with Conor Casey finding the back of the net and Jack McInerney leading the league in scoring.
But the games that they have lost have been blowouts. A 4-1 loss to LA at home and a 5-3 loss on the road to Montreal. The more you look at those two games, the more you can see how Dallas can beat this club on Saturday (but more on that in a minute).
The Union are a fairly direct club to look at on the field. A simple 4-4-2 formation with two holding central midfielders shows that they get most of their production out of the wings. Sebastien Le Toux and Daniel Cruz help set up the attack as they sit wide and slightly behind Casey and McInerney in the attack. Both do tend to float in the middle which can lead the wings wide open.
Philadelphia has scored the bulk of their 25 goals this season in the first half too - with 13 of them coming in the first half. More importantly with 10 of those goals coming in the first 30 minutes. On the flip side they've given up 15 goals in the last 30 minutes of the match this season as well.
Defensively this club has improved like I mentioned before. In the past their defense was all about the big guys but now they are more athletic.
Keys to three points:
Play direct. I mentioned this earlier about the Montreal and LA losses for the Union. Both of those clubs play the long ball and direct style of play that mirrors what Dallas does well too. Given how Blas Perez has been as of late, it makes perfect sense to go long to him as much as possible. While the Union are more athletic in the back these days, they are terrible at dealing with crosses in the back. Zac MacMath tends to always find a way to bobble a cross or miss it entirely. Parke is a good leader in the back but he sometimes gets left on an island when his fullbacks move forward.
Get Cooper involved. Another easy point for the attack is finding Cooper more space and time on the ball. Last season while Cooper was in New York, he scored five goals in three games against the Union. Yeah, Union fans are terrified of this guy going into this game for good reason. Cooper didn't see a ton of minutes in the USOC match on Wednesday, so he will be fresh to start this one.
Speed on the wings. Another item that the Union has struggled to deal with is with teams that have speed on the flanks. While Cruz and Le Toux do well on the wings, they do sometimes go in the middle more than they should leaving Brian Carroll and Keon Daniels to go wide and do some defending. Not to mention the fullbacks sometimes float forward more than they should and that leaves the wings open. The overlapping runs that Dallas loves to make on the wings with Zach Loyd and Jair Benitez too will be key in this one. So just like I've said time and time again, go wide and see good things. When Dallas does this along with the switching their attack from side to side, good things happen.
Eliminating McInerney's chances. One thing Union fans will tell you is that McInerney wants to use this match as a spring board for success in the Gold Cup with the US national team. He leads the league with 10 goals on the year and that is largely due to how well he places himself in the penalty box. If Dallas finds a way to keep his chances at bay, they'll stand a good chance to win this game.
The lack of George John and Zach Loyd for this one makes things interesting for Schellas Hyndman. At least Matt Hedges is back and healthy enough to go for this one and Michel is rested up too. That being said, this won't be an easy one as Philadelphia is on good form at the moment. I think if Dallas can play their game and direct approach on offense, they will do well in this one. But they have to be mindful of McInerney and what he brings up front. There is a ton of fight in this Dallas team and if the last few games and proven anything, it is that they are never truly out of any game. Philadelphia gives up a ton of goals late, so I see the Union going up early only to leave one late for Dallas. Given the injuries and recent string of games, I'll take a draw in this one.
Dallas 1, Philadelphia 1