Just a week and a half left of the season and Dallas takes their second to last road trip as they head to the Windy City taking on Brimstone Cup rivals Chicago Fire. This is a matchup of two teams headed in very different directions with Chicago having taken 10 points from their last 4 games while FC Dallas has a run of 4 straight shutout losses going. For FC Dallas, the playoffs are clinched tonight with a win.
What affect will the break have? Fatigue was one of the biggest reasons/excuses given by Schellas Hyndman for the poor play of the last month, but that can't be used tonight. Dallas comes into this game having not played in 10 days and with a 4 day rest period without practice last weekend. Expect Dallas to have fresh legs for this one that could really provide a boost in the play of guys like Marvin Chavez and Ricardo Villar.
Captainless Daniel Hernandez will miss tonight's match due to yellow card accumulation meaning it's likely going to be Andrew Jacobson at defensive mid with the win-less duo of Ricardo Villar and Daniel Cruz in the middle. There is an outside chance that Bobby Warshaw could be given a start at defensive mid which would be a better decision, in my opinion.
Playoffs beckon A win tonight would lock FCD into a playoff spot and all but assure them of at least the #4 seed with two games to play. Tonight is about more than just qualifying for the playoffs, but it would be a nice monkey to get off the back of the players with two games left.
Maicon Santos Schellas mentioned last week how this was the first time they've really been able to work in-depth with Maicon Santos on how they want him to play the forward position. He's been much maligned the last month but watch him closely tonight as I believe he will have a good game.
Keys to the game
Son of the wind Tonight is Marvin Chavez game to dominate. Without Shea on the other wing, Dallas desperately needs Chavez pace on the right(or potentially left) side to stretch the Chicago defense with relatively slow defenders. Dan Gargan was absolutely dominated by Seattle's left side of attack in the US Open Cup final so look for Dallas to attack that side.
Don't panic If you're scoreless at halftime, don't panic. Chicago has allowed 27 of their 40 goals in the second half so there is no reason to start pressing.
Don't overcommitt on defense Dominic Oduro may not play tonight, but if he does the matchup of him against Jair Benitez worries me. The Colombian left back is prone to let one or two balls from the defense slip by him per game and I'm afraid Oduro will streak right past him on one of those. Defending deeply against a quick Chicago attack may be the best option tonight.
REFEREE: Michael Kennedy. SAR (bench): Corey Rockwell; JAR (opposite): Peter Balciunas; 4th: Chris Penso MLS Career: 13 games; FC/gm: 24.0; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 5; pens: 9
It's almost impossible to get a read on Dallas heading into this game. Schellas said after practice on Monday that the team looks very fresh, but you just don't know what to expect coming off the long layoff. I'm going with the safe route and saying Dallas breaks their scoreless streak but can't quite get past Chicago. The 1-1 draw retains the Brimstone Cup for another year.