Steve Stoehr of The Bent Musket and myself traded some questions ahead of tomorrow's big showdown. You've got a few bonus questions for this one! Hooray bonus questions! My questions and his answers then vice versa.
1) I think the win in New England raised a ton of eyebrows all over the league. How did it happen and how can New England replicate that performance in Dallas?
The Revs went into last week's match at LA with a game plan and executed. It's as simple as that. The passing was slick, the interplay was good, and they defended well as a unit before breaking out with precise, incisive balls.
They instituted a bit of a "full-court press" and kept the pedal on the gas all over the pitch, through to the final minutes, and as a result were able to pounce on LA's mistakes and overwhelm them. Dallas strikes me as a similar opponent to LA - a defensively talented, possession-oriented squad that is very good, but not playing like it at the moment. If the Revs can repeat the performance, they should be able to pull out a result.
2) New England has had two very good results and two not so good results, what are some of their weaknesses that FCD could exploit on Thursday?
The Revs are weak at fullback, though you wouldn't know it by the way they played on Saturday. Chris Tierney provides great service but is often lacking in his defensive positioning and skills, while Kevin Alston is all speed and no end product, allowing him to recover quickly from positioning mistakes but meaning he often kills Revolution attacks before they ever begin.
I hope that the two of them play at the high level they showed against LA, but I'm not holding my breath that both will do so. A.J. Soares, Stephen McCarthy, Clyde Simms, and Shalrie Joseph should lock down the center of the park defensively, but the flanks remain vulnerable, something I'm sure Brek Shea will be quick to recognize.
3) Local kid Lee Nguyen, a guy we’re very familiar with here in Dallas, was picked up off the scrap heap and put straight into the starting lineup. How has he looked so far?
Lee has been a revelation. The ball seems stuck to his foot. There isn't another player on the Revolution squad - maybe not in the entire league - who has Nguyen's level of control in tight spaces. He's been easily one of the most exciting players in a Revs jersey, even though he hasn't scored yet.
On the other hand, he does appear to be a little rusty in his final decision-making, and needs to be a bit more selfish around the goal. Sometimes he crosses when he should shoot, sometimes shoots when he should cross, an oftentimes waits just a second too long to make the decision in the first place. Still, I have a feeling that is coming as he continues to gel with his teammates, and once it does, the league had better watch out.
4) Give us a player Dallas fans may not be familiar with but could play a big part in Thursday’s game.
Here's a good one: Clyde Simms. Clyde's far from an MLS unknown, but the calm and simplicity he brings to the midfield has allowed Shalrie to take the shackles off and be himself, and provides ample cover for the Revs defense. Clyde pops up in all sorts of positions - it seems like he has a 6th sense about it, and just knows exactly where he needs to be, two steps ahead of the developing play.
And, here's a great stat for you: against LA, Simms completed 44 of 46 passes. Some people will tell you to watch out for Saer Sene, or Kelyn Rowe, two players MLS is not yet familiar with, or even Ryan Guy, whom everyone seems to overlook; but the engine of this team right now is Simms, and no one's noticed yet.
His questions, my answers
1.) The First Kick victory over New York was an encouraging start to a season with high expectations in Frisco, but it seems like the Hoops are falling off, and quickly. Losing a close one to SKC is understandable, but dropping a 4-1 result to DC in which Ben Olsen's young guns totally dominated almost all phases of the game is a truly worrying prospect. What do you think is going on with Dallas right now, and what do they need to do to right the ship? Or do you think maybe that any panic right now is an overreaction?
I think it’s still really early to make any judgments. FCD had three points through four games in 2010 when they went to MLS Cup and they had four points through four games last year in a season which they were very competitive through most of the year. The loss to DC was very troubling, but coach Hyndman may have gotten the team selection wrong in starting Brek Shea & Carlos Rodriguez who were coming back from Olympic duty and were clearly exhausted. That shouldn’t be a problem on Thursday.The most troubling aspect to things is the defense because there are no excuses as to why they’ve given up eight goals in four games which is almost double the rate from last year. FCD has built their reputation in the last couple years as a team that doesn’t give up a lot of goals so this is a big problem.
2.) Blas Perez scored the only goal against DC, and while I was watching, he looked like he was built to be in that starting lineup. What sort of impact has he had so far, and where do you see him in the Golden Boot race at the end of the year?
Blas has been, hands down, the best FCD player through the first month of the season. He’s had a hand in every goal Dallas has scored so far and is simply a pure finisher that so many teams in the league don’t have. He was brought in here to finish the chances that other guys couldn’t and he’s done that without being provided much service. See his goal in DC, he may have been offsides but realistically how many forwards in the league finish those types of chances?He’s a guy that will hassle your backline the entire game and you’ll probably hate him by the end, but he’s a guy that you love to have on your team and hate when he’s on the opposition.
3.) Give us an under-the-radar player that Revolution fans should watch out for.
I’m not sure how under the radar Fabian Castillo is anymore, but he’s a guy that should return to the starting lineup against the Revs after missing the last three games due to an injury from a Thierry Henry challenge(imagine that). He’s a speedy right winger with a ton of tricks in his bag and a guy that can finish his chances well too. When he combines with Brek Shea on the other wing, it’s a deadly duo paired with Blas Perez in the middle. We only saw it for 30 minutes in the regular season vs New York but it was very potent.
4.) Who do you think FC Dallas fears most on the pitch for New England?
Well there’s the two guys that you always worry about with New England and that’s Shalrie Joseph and Matt Reis. Shalrie is the type of player that can change a game with one great play and watching him battle Blas Perez the whole game should be pretty fun to watch.
I think the thing I’m most impressed about with Shalrie is that he has played forward, midfield and defender at an extremely high level. Very impressive.
Matt Reis is the other guy who, when he’s on, can earn you points on his own. I still remember him stealing the 2007 US Open Cup and I’ll never forgive him for that. I’m also very interested in seeing how local product Lee Nguyen does in his first game in Frisco. He’ll certainly be very motivated for this one playing against an FCD team that had their chance to sign him last year and chose not to.
5.) Finally, give us your projected starting XI and a scoreline prediction.
Daniel Hernandez is out for a red card picked up last week and Jair Benitez has been suspended so lets go for…
Hartman, Loyd, Ihemelu, Pertuz, Rodriguez, Warshaw, Jacobson, Villar, Shea, Castillo, Perez
Tough to see FC Dallas losing this one after the last three games. They need a win much more than New England does and I think they’ll get it with Fabian Castillo back on the field for FCD. 3-1 FC Dallas