Apologies for the lack of updates this week, but I've been fighting a sickness all week that's left me unable to do much besides sneeze. It's finally subsiding in time for what is a huge sports day for me tomorrow as my Sooners take on Texas and FC Dallas has a huge home game against Chicago.
It's another game at home where FC Dallas are certainly big favorites and it's another game where FC Dallas needs 3 points to keep pace in the fight for home field advantage in the first round and a possible Supporter's Shield.
Chicago comes to Frisco on a high after their best result of the season, a 3-0 win on Wednesday night away to San Jose. The Fire are a team with a lot of big names on offense but not many goals to show for it. Prior to their three goal outburst in San Jose, Chicago had failed to score a goal in its previous four games.
In watching Chicago this season, I've seen a team that looks to have a lot of talent, but just isn't very mentally strong. Not unlike Dallas teams of the past, Chicago is prone to red cards and late goals(20 of the 32 goals Chicago has allowed have come in the last 15 minutes of each half). Time after time this season, Chicago has played a very good 90 minutes only to lose to late goals. Against San Jose, the Fire finally put together a complete performance and showed everyone what they're capable of demolishing a very good San Jose team at home, but the question remains as to whether they can string two good performances together. Ten points behind the Earthquakes for the final playoff spot, Chicago likely needs to win their five remaining games to have any change of making the playoffs. The Fire have three wins and one draw in 15 games at Dallas.
FCD is a team flying high after one of their best performances of the season, a 3-1 victory at a cold, rainy Community America Ballpark against Kansas City in a game where Dallas was missing five starters. It could be a record breaking night at Pizza Hut Park in more ways than one. Dallas can tie the all-time MLS unbeaten record of 18 games with a result while Jeff Cunningham sits at 131 goals, just one shy of the MLS record held by Jaime Moreno. After a string of six straight home wins in which Dallas allowed just one goal, they've struggled a bit at home in September drawing New York and New England while allowing four goals in the two games.
Dallas will be boosted by the possible return of two starters as Brek Shea will surely be in the starting lineup as he comes back from a two game suspension while George John will at least feature on the bench and could also start for Dallas. While Shea will certainly return to the lineup for Chavez, it will be interesting to see whether Jackson is moved back to center back or remains in his role at defensive mid with Dax McCarty returning in place of Eric Alexander.
Keys to the game and lots of links after the jump
Keys to the Game
-Be patient. It's simple, but Dallas has to know that Chicago is going to come out of the gates on a high after their huge win on Wednesday and brimming with confidence. However, this is also a team that will be playing their second game in four nights and gives up a lot of late goals.
-Get Ferreira into the game. This one is a bit obvious, but Ferreira is a man on fire at the moment. The Chicago center midfield is technically proficient but not terribly strong so El Torito should have plenty of opportunities to use his muscle.
-Stay mentally strong and compact on defense. Players like Ljungberg make their living on trying to get in the heads of opposing players and Brian McBride will punish any little mistake, so Dallas must remain focused and compact. 4 goals given up in the last two home games is unacceptable and if Dallas wants to win tomorrow they must limit Chicago offensively.
Lots of great stuff from Steve Hunt again, the first of his articles mentioning that Dallas can return to the playoffs for the first time since 2007 with a win
Just two players from that ’07 team remain, and both goalkeeper Dario Sala and midfielder Dax McCarty recall that night in Ohio fondly.
"Since I came here [in 2005], the team was going to the playoffs [every year]," Sala said. "For me, it was a normal experience, but we didn’t know we were going to have a dry spell of two years where we missed it. Now, I get an appreciation for what it is."
Brek Shea returns to the lineup tomorrow with a bunch of confidence from his surprise USMNT callup
He got the unexpected news on Thursday morning during FC Dallas training.
"Two weeks ago I’m thinking the end of the world when I get sent off and I’m watching my team play a man down against one of the better teams in the league," Shea told MLSsoccer.com. "And then I get this call. Soccer is very up and down. This definitely feels good."
David Ferreira needs three assists in the last four games to tie a franchise record....Give this guy a blank check in the offseason and get him signed for two more years.
"It’s important, but it’s not something that I’m thinking about. I’m just concentrating on getting good results and, if consequently, I get some assists and points in the games [that would be great]," Ferreira said through an interpreter. "That’s what I’m doing right now, just playing."
Sam Stejskal says Chicago was fantastic in their win over San Jose
The match was perhaps the best game the Fire have played all season. The team was stout defensively, good in the attack and lethal in front of goal.
Unfortunately for Chicago, the win doesn’t do a whole lot for their dim playoff chances. The Fire sit in 11th place, 10 points behind the Seattle Sounders for the eighth and final playoff spot with just five games to go.
Jeff Cunningham vs. the Fire — With his 10th goal of the season in the win over Kansas City, FC Dallas forward Jeff Cunningham now has 131 goals in his career and is just one shy of tying Jaime Moreno for the all-time lead in MLS history. In 31 games against the Men in Red through his storied career, which includes 26 starts, Cunningham has 19 goals and nine assists. He has scored more goals against the Fire than any other side.
The right players are playing well for FC Dallas right now and there's quality depth they can bring off the bench whether Dallas is winning or losing. This is the easiest game of the season left for Dallas and they should withstand early pressure from Chicago to win it in the second half. Watch for Marvin Chavez and Jeff Cunningham to change the game late
FC Dallas 3 Chicago Fire 1