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Behind Enemy Lines: Scouting Colorado Rapids

Pareja returns to Colorado looking for three points and third seed

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

A playoff spot is clinched. Colorado is out of playoff contention. Does Saturday's game against the Rapids mean anything?

Yes.

With FCD a point out from Real Salt Lake for the third seed in the Western Conference, Dallas will have critical 90 minutes with the Rapids in Commerce City, Co. as head coach Oscar Pareja makes a return to his former club.

Injury Report

Rapids' head coach Pablo Mastroeni will be without three players - all defenders - to his squad in this weekend's match.

Out: D: Drew Moor, Thomas Piermayr (season-ending injuries), Brian Mullan

Questionable: F Edison Buddle (Achilles tendon), D Chris Klute (calf)

Probable Lineup

There's no complexity in Mastroeni's formation. He will stick to a normal, tactical 4-4-2 lineup.

GK: Clint Irwin; RB: Marvell Wynne; CB: Zat Knight, Jared Watts; LB: Marc Burch; RM: Carlos Alvarez; CM: Nick LaBrocca, Jose Mari; LM: John Neeskens; RF: Dillon Powers; LF: Charles Eloundou

Key Matchup

Zach Loyd vs. Neeskens - FCD has had to fill the hole in at the right-back position here-and-there throughout the season. Last week, Loyd filled back in to his more natural position for JeVaughn Watson. He will be dealing with Neeskens, who found the lone goal for the Rapids' last match on a streaking run. Loyd should be able to hold down the right flank like he has throughout times this season.

Keya to Three Points

Strike first, strike early. As thrilling as last week's comeback was, the Hoops need to set the tone of the game early with a goal to their name. Colorado is 1-11-3 when allowing the first goal. If FCD can find Tesho Akindele or David Texeira early on a one-on-one with Irwin and get the ball to the back of the net, that will only spark momentum for a easier way to a win. FCD's weakest 15-minute interval to score in is in the opening 15 minutes of the match. Let's go ahead and fix that.

Defend the leftside. With Moises Hernandez out due to his ejection against LA Galaxy, Michel appears to be replacing him at left-back. The last time Michel played at left-back was in the U.S. Open Cup semifinal against Philadelphia on Aug. 12 that resulted in a loss in penalty kicks. He will work well in moving up and providing early crosses but his defensive work controlling Powers and Alvarez will be keen.

Working the wings. FCD is stacked with its outside midfielders. Bringing the ball through the two quick midfielders - Castillo and Escobar - could easily result in good things upfront for Dallas. The Hoops have seen plenty of good opportunities on goal through those early thru-balls and crosses coming from the wings. Against a struggling team like Colorado, Dallas should be able to exploit the wings and make the most of every opportunity wide.