Red-hot FC Dallas, unbeaten in nine games, has a chance to pull within three points of first place with a Sunday evening game against bottom of the table Sporting Kansas City tonight at Pizza Hut Park. SKC comes into this match on the heels of an emotional 0-0 draw against Chicago Fire on Thursday night in the opening of their brand new palace, Livestrong Sporting Park.
Keys to the game
Professionalism If I could sum up this game today in one word, it would be professionalism. FC Dallas is healthy, rested and at home while Kansas City is banged up, tired and heading to The Oven. If FCD comes out and puts in a professional performance, they will run out winners. Yes, it's going to be hot. Yes, there's probably going to be less than 5,000 people there, but there is zero excuse for not winning this game.
Decimated KC Kansas City will be missing an amazing six contributors due to yellow cards and international appearances and could be without Omar Bravo and Ryan Smith who are listed as questionable. This means it's vitally important for Dallas to focus on Teal Bunbury and Davy Arnaud as they seem to be the two guys on KC that can do damage to Dallas.
Keep reading for more keys, referee and prediction
Early Start Any time you have an overwhelming mismatch like this on paper, you want to see an early start. As I saw yesterday in the Academy game, players simply aren't going to be able to give a top output for 90 minutes, the body just can't handle it in this heat. A halftime lead would be huge for Dallas as the game will certainly slow down in the second half.
Leadership I talked about professionalism already, but I wanted to make a special note to indicate how important Schellas Hyndman and Daniel Hernandez are in a game like this. You don't need any help to get up for the Galaxy or Dynamo, but this is the ultimate trap game. It's up to Schellas and the Captain to ensure that everyone treats this game just like a Saturday night packed house game.
Golden Opportunity The results around the league are going Dallas' way right now. A win for Dallas today would be absolutely massive as it would put a whopping six points between FCD and third place in the league while pulling the Toros within three points of Los Angeles for first place in the league with a game in hand.
There's almost no one writing about this game.
Charles Gooch of the Kansas City Star has a similar preview from a Kansas City standpoint and has a prediction of his own.
Dallas 1, Sporting 1. I can see another hard-fought draw. It's a point, it might not seem like a big deal, but KC can't drop points on the road anymore. Simple as that.
Phil Stephens of Dallas Soccer News previews the match and says that Schellas has developed a culture of winning for games like this.
Such obvious-looking mismatches are ripe for upsets, but Dallas Head Coach Schellas Hyndman is well into developing his culture of winning that sustained last year’s sustained run without a loss. In his record against KC, Hyndman has three wins, one loss and two draws. Coach of Sporting, Peter Vermes, has one win and two losses against Dallas.
Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star says it's back to harsh reality for SKC. This quote doesn't sound like a coach that expects much...
“Having a turnaround this quickly after Thursday night and going on the road again … I mean, what can I say?” Vermes said. “It’s supposed to be 99 degrees in Dallas, which will be interesting. We expended a lot of energy against Chicago, and a lot of it was nervous energy leading up to it. It takes a lot out of you.
REFEREE: Kevin Stott. SAR (bench): Anthony Vasoli; JAR (opposite): Brian Poeschel; 4th: Matthew Foerster MLS Career: 201 games; FC/gm: 25.8; Y/gm: 3.4; R: 53; pens: 41
There are no sure things in MLS. If there's one thing about American players, even the reserves, is that they're going to run their butts off in every game. I expect an initial push from Kansas City tonight, but the facts are that any team playing a road game on two days rest against a home team that's had the week off is going to struggle. Dallas is better than Kansas City at almost every position, on more rest and healthier than their counterparts. Castillo, Shea and Chavez run the SKC backline ragged and Dallas rolls.
FC Dallas 2 Sporting KC 0
Note: Drew is on vacation and I am being forced to "work" at the Mavericks AAC watching party tonight so it's up to ya'll to provide some game commentary as I'll be watching on tape delay later tonight. Go FCD and go Mavs!