Since FC Dallas qualified for MLS Cup about 8 months ago, Dallas fans have had the day they would begin Champions League play circled on the calendar and tonight the long wait for international soccer is over. Dallas travels down to the Estadio Cuscatlan to face El Salvadorian Champions Alianza FC.
Update: Peri Marosevic and Milton Rodriguez have been waived, see post below!
What will we see from Alianza?
Schellas Hyndman has said he doesn't know a whole lot about these guys other than Zelaya who was just sold. This article suggests Henry Hernandez, their starting keeper and fringe ES national teamer, will not play tonight meaning you're looking at either Yimmy Cuellar or Douglas Batres in goal.
The article also mentions that it could be a 3-5-2 or 4-4-2 tonight from Alianza and their starting lineup prediction is:
Douglas Batres, Mauricio Quintanilla, Jonathan Barrios, Marcelo Messiah, Edwin Martinez, Hector Salazar Herbert Sosa, Elman Rivas, Cristian Castillo, Rudis Corrales and Leonardo Da Silva.
Da Silva is presumably the replacement for Rodolfo Zelaya in attacking midfield and he just joined them from Vista Hermosa of the El Salvadorian league. The two attacking names to look out for on that list are Rudis Corrales and Cristian Castillo.
Corrales is somewhat of a legend in El Salvador having scored 17 times for the national team and is one of 7 players to score 100 goals in the Salvadorian league. He spent most of his career with rivals Aguila but moved to Alianza in the previous term. He's a tiny little pest of a forward that could give the FCD backline fits.
Castillo is a name that should be fairly familiar to MLS diehards as he spent the 2010 season with DC United. He certainly looked to be a player with undeniable talent, but just a step slow in his speed of play. He will no-doubt be looking to impress against an MLS team, however, and is a danger on direct free kicks.
What kind of lineup will we see from Dallas?
I expect a very similar lineup to Saturday's draw at New York. It's been five days since that game so rest shouldn't be a huge issue and, in my mind, Schellas will place more importance on this game than Sunday's against Chivas USA. That means Daniel Hernandez in the midfield, though Bruno Guarda could sub in for Eric Avila moving Eric Alexander out to the right.
Keys to the game
-Emotional intelligence I expect a frantic first 15 minutes to this match. Both teams will be playing their first ever Champions League game in front of what should be a crazy atmosphere. Dallas players have to keep their head, especially in the first 45 minutes. It's OK to go into halftime at 0-0, what's not ok is to lose your head and pick up a dumb red card. The ES players will be play-acting, expect it and know how to deal with it.
-Attack late Probably the biggest advantage for FC Dallas will be their fitness levels. Alianza is a team that begins their season this weekend, put that on top of the fitness advantage that I expect MLS teams to have over the average Central American team and I think you could see Dallas taking charge of this game in the last 20 minutes. If I'm Schellas Hyndman, I tell the guys to keep it compact for the first hour or so then begin to step on the gas.
Perhaps luckily, Dallas has drawn a Canadian referee crew for this match. According to this article, David Gant, tonight's ref, will be in his first ever CCL match tonight, though he reffed the 7-1 Gold Cup victory of Honduras over Grenada.
To me, a lot depends on the first 45 minutes. I think Daniel Hernandez and his experience will do a good job of settling Dallas in this match giving the guys without the international experience an idea of what to expect. If Dallas can go into halftime at 0-0, I think they'll grab a Brek Shea winner late. I'll be watching at Trinity Hall tonight, feel free to come and join! There was a nice crowd there for Saturday's game.
1-0 FC Dallas