FC Dallas hits the road for the first of three games in seven days as they square off against the Portland Timbers tomorrow evening. Dallas is just a couple points back of the Timbers in the standings, so a win could be a huge momentum boost for the Hoops as they push towards the playoffs.
FC Dallas Notes:
Question marks. With Andrew Jacobson out and Zach Loyd doubtful for this match, Dallas will once again have to shuffle the lineup in the defense and in the midfield.
Erick. The Brazilian will be asked to do more this weekend as well. In his first start last weekend against LA, he completed over 90% of his passes in 67 minutes of work. Not too shabby.
The Timbers return to league play for the first time in 10 days tomorrow when Dallas comes to town. Caleb Porter's club is 1-2-2 in their last five league games. Dallas has spent plenty of time against the Timbers this season already, playing them three times already. Portland is 2-0-1 in those games with one of those wins coming in Frisco to knock FC Dallas out of the US Open Cup.
This Timbers team is still one of the top teams in the league despite the current slump in play. Offensively they use speed and pressure up front with loads of possession out of the midfield. Darlington Nagbe has been a bit of a Dallas killer in the past with two goals in league play against the Hoops this season.
Portland is the type of team that loves to keep the ball and when they don't have it they come at you with lots of energy to win the ball back. Given how the field at JELD-WEN Field is a little more narrow than what Dallas is use to, keeping possession is going to be a big key in this game.
Defensively, the Timbers have gone through a ton of Injuries this season but have still managed to do well thanks to keeper Donovan Ricketts.
Porter will likely come out in what appears to be a 4-3-3 with Diego Chara and Will Johnson (if he plays tomorrow, he's currently doubtful) withdrawn in the midfield a bit in a holding/defensive midfielder role.
Goalkeeper: Donovan Ricketts; RB: Michael Harrington; CB: Pah Madou Kah, Andrew Jean-Baptiste; LB: Jack Jewsbury; RM: Diego Chara; CM: Diego Valeri; LM: Ben Zemanski; RW: Rodney Wallace; LW: Darington Nagbe; FW: Ryan Johnson
Keys to three points:
Handle the early pressure. The crowd in Portland will likely play a big factor for the Timbers in this one early on. If Dallas can keep the Timbers off the board and possibly put one in the goal early, it may be enough to keep this large crowd quiet.
Spread them out. Portland is a team that you can beat with speed on the wings. Teams that have done well against them recently have put the ball wide and worked it into the penalty box.
Smart possession. We've mentioned how well Portland is on the ball so Dallas will need to make their possession count. That means no silly give-aways in the open midfield and smart ball movement to work the ball up the field. Portland does a good job of getting in the passing lanes to frustrate teams and they will do that tomorrow for sure if Dallas lets them.
Ride the confidence boost from the LA game. Getting the monkey off the back against LA by scoring not once but three times was huge for this club's confidence. You could tell this week that they are much more confident to score again and will be willing to take some chances on offense because of that. They need to ride this current wave of confidence tomorrow and really test Ricketts out. As good as he's been this season, he is the type of keeper that will bobble up the ball from time-to-time or let in some stinkers.
Getting some goals last week was certainly a confidence boost for the club and my opinion of them. Still, saying that, I don't have a lot of confidence on them for this road game. Dallas has one road win all year and it was way back in the early stages of this season in New England. Portland is a good home team too thanks to their crowd and energy. If Dallas can play a complete game though by pressuring the Timbers, having smart possession and not giving up a ton of bad passes in the midfield, then I think there is a good chance for at least a point. Their backs are still up against a wall and I hope to see some fight out of this group. I just think at the end of it Portland is still the better team.
Portland 2, Dallas 1
What is your prediction for Saturday's game? Let's hear it in the comments below.