Not even a month has passed since FC Dallas last played the Vancouver Whitecaps, but nevertheless, here we are to get a little bit of information out of the Whitecaps SB Nation blog: Eighty-Six Forever.
BDS-1. It's only been 2 games since we last spoke, but in that time Vancouver lost to primary playoff competitor Portland and then found redemption against a strong RSL team. Adding the unfortunate injury to Portland's captain to that pile, how do Whitecaps fans now feel about their chances to qualify for the post season?
86F: I'm not sure about other fans, but I'm not too optimistic. This club relies far too heavily on Pedro Morales and haven't been getting scoring from any other sources. Our strikers have been abysmal, and our scoring woes are the biggest reason we've tailed off in the second half. Portland hasn't looked amazing either, but the Whitecaps have a tired Captain in Pedro Morales, a weak forward core, and no plan 'B'. It's very simple to shut-down the Whitecaps; if Pedro Morales isn't on his game, this club will not do well.
BDS-2. Vancouver had a run of not so successful Designated Players up until this year. How are Matias Laba and Pedro Morales turning the tide? Are there any indications of a 3rd DP coming next year?
86F: I haven't heard anything regarding another DP addition next year, but I can tell you that Laba and Morales have been the two premier acquisitions from the off-season. Laba was perfection earlier in the season, and while he has come back to Earth a bit, he's still a shutdown superstar in the defensive midfield. It's a shame Gershon Koffie was injured earlier, because the pair really had some chemistry. I already mentioned Morales; he's the club's best player, and I shudder to think where the 'Caps would be without him this season. If another DP is coming down the pipe, it had better be a striker.
BDS-3. Like many of his colleagues, Carl Robinson was a recently retired player, working as an Asst Coach and was then thrust into a promotion when his predecessor was fired. DCU chose to stick with Ben Olsen through historically bad seasons, and it appears now that standing behind him was the right decision. How do you think the club views Carl Robinson as head coach- is he a long-term investment or one bad season away from the axe?
86F: That's an excellent question, and I believe it's the former. I don't think Robinson was this club's first choice in the off-season, but I think he's established a vision in Vancouver and executives are buying in. Robinson will also get a bit of a pass this year because his tenure started so choatically, with the departure of Camilo. He's managed to right the ship and make the team competitive despite losing 22 goals, and the club now has a better understanding of what their prospects (Mattocks, Manneh, Salgado, Hurtado) are, or aren't capable. If the 'Caps miss the post-season this year, I think Robinson is safe. Next year, different story.
86F Prediction: The 'Caps buck history and manage a 1-0 victory.
*** Throw it into reverse ***
86F-1) FC Dallas have been a bit inconsistent of late, going L,L,W,L,W in their last five matches. Blip in the radar, or is there something more there?
BDS: It's player availability and also a little bit schedule. The first two losses there were to Chicago and RSL. Blas Perez is incredibly important to this team, and he was unavailable for both of those games while away on international duty. In addition to his goal scoring ability, Blas is tireless off the ball, distracting defenders and creating room for his strike partners. Any player asked about Blas says that he is a top locker room guy and veteran leader on this team. He's back and starting with FCD now. To lose to Chicago then beat Seattle in that short span of time shows how crucial Blas is to FC Dallas. Those wins are no accident. [That other loss was an unlucky 2-1 defeat to LA Galaxy away. I don't think any team can be faulted for that.]
86F-2) FC Dallas have historically owned the 'Caps (7 wins to 1). How does Dallas find success against the 'Caps?
BDS: The last time you asked me this question it was 6 wins to 1. FC Dallas found what works and is able to implement that system time after time. FCD feels confident pressing the Whitecaps. Both goals scored last month were long range bombs. FCD fires anything they can at the Vancouver goal and have come away with wins most times. When FC Dallas isn't able to implement the first XI, Oscar Pareja has been happy to experiment with other combinations. Some of these have panned out and some have been failures. That drive to take risks, though, and the willingness to keep pushing forward despite a bad result - that is what makes FC Dallas dangerous.
86F-3) Does Dallas have what it takes to try and make a late run up the standings, or do you see 4th place in the West as a likely finish for them in the regular season?
BDS: I think FC Dallas has all the potential to make a move (or two) if everyone can stay healthy and perform through the final stretch. FCD has one of the hardest remaining schedules, and RSL has one of the easiest. However, as we saw last week, FCD is very capable of beating any team, including Seattle or Los Angeles. Our game against the Galaxy is going to be extremely difficult, but FCD is capable of surprising the visitors. I think this team can beat out Salt Lake for third place. It will depend heavily on the distribution of points between the Seattle-LA home and home series, but I think FCD can even be a dark horse for 2nd place. If FCD can pull results from their last 4 games and/or one of those top 2 dominates for all 6 points- FCD could make a surprise jump. It's so dependent on what the other teams do right now. FC Dallas has to do its part first and foremost; then they can hope for favorable results from everyone else.
BDS Prediction: Another FC Dallas victory despite some respectable effort from the Whitecaps. I'm going with a 3-2 goal fest for FCD.