I thought this team would be centered around a center attacking midfielder. I thought this year's Hoops would be centered around Mauro Diaz, David Texeira, and Hendry Thomas.
Remember that season opening win, when Chris Seitz was in goal and Tesho Akindele was an afterthought sub who didn't get into the match?
That was a long time ago.
In this week's preview, the FC Dallas team that ended the season played Vancouver Whitecaps. With Pedro Morales at the same CAM position we all expected from pre-injury Mauro Diaz, the Whitecaps have become what FC Dallas fans hoped the Hoops would be.
While Vancouver continues in their 4-2-3-1 formation, FC Dallas seems to have settled on more of a loose 4-4-2. Their formation allows their wing players to attack at-will while central midfielders like Michel and Victor Ulloa are able to hold down the defensive end of the midfield.
Whitecaps FC is a really interesting team, with Darren Mattocks or Eric Hurtado up front, Morales, Sebastian Fernandez, and Mauro Rosales are all capable of putting together inspired offensive combinations.
The first goal is crucial in any game, but especially in a one-off, loser-go-home playoff match. Both of these teams are going to play offensively from the outset. In the preview match, it was Fabian Castillo who started the scoring. The team's most dynamic player this season, Castillo picked off a cross, used two nice touches in the box, and slotted a right-footed shot past David Ousted.
Tesho out wide?
David Texeira and Blas Perez have been playing really well of late. Fabian Castillo has been amazing and Andres Escobar can be just as dangerous. So, where does that leave FC Dallas' super rookie?
Tesho Akindele started out wide in the FIFA lineup, but I think he might be more valuable as a versatile substitute who could come on as an additional striker if the Hoops need a goal in the final 20 minutes. In the video-game preview, his strength and speed relative to defenders is really impressive.
Goals, Goals, Goals
FC Dallas just has so many legitimate goal-scoring options. In the preview, Castillo scored again, Escober got free on a breakaway, and Akindele headed in the fourth and final goal.
The key to every goal was an amount of composure. On both of Castillo's, he took a lobbed pass, took the time to control it in the box, make a move, and put it where it needed to be.
Raul Fernandez made four big saves throughout the preview match. Fernandez' quick reflexes and decisive coming off his line on at least two breakaways made the difference in the clean-sheet win.
Raul Fernandez probably has the bigger downside -- he could flame-out spectacularly in a playoff game. He also has the raw ability to do fantastic things and keep the Hoops in a game.
This game has potential for any huge number of outcomes. Dallas has lots of offensive threats, but it's players like Victor Ulloa, Zach Loyd, and Matt Hedges who will make the difference. An overzealous attack from an outside back could be the difference one way or another for the Hoops.
In the end playing at home really does make a difference on this night.
FIFA14 Result - FC Dallas 4, Vancouver Whitecaps 0
My prediction - FC Dallas 3, Vancouver Whitecaps 2