The MLS season is almost upon us. There is one last test on the schedule before that happens and it comes in the form of a NASL side, the San Antonio Scorpions. FC Dallas will travel to Toyota Field in San Antonio on Saturday for an in-state showdown with a club with serious MLS aspirations.
This will be the first meeting between these two sides, and the winner will claim the deeproot Funds Cup.
Dallas is still dealing with injuries to several key players. Raul Fernandez, George John, Walker Zimmerman, Stephen Keel and Zach Loyd have yet to suit up for the team in preseason. John will miss this game for sure and likely the season opener against Montreal as well while the status of the others appears to still be in limbo.
San Antonio manager Alen Marcina will likely use a similar lineup to what he used in their previous friendly against SMU. In that game, they implemented a 4-1-4-1.
Goalkeeper: Jeremy Vuolo; RB: Jonathan Barrajo; CB Greg Janicki, Adrian Cann; LB: Josue Soto; CDM: Richard Menjivar; RM: Walter Restrepo; CM: Shaun Saiko, Danny Berrera; LM: Jonathan Fana; FW: Tomasz Zahorski
Danny Barrera vs. Hendry Thomas - The Scorpions newly signed creative midfielder was involved in both first half goals in their recent scrimmage against SMU. He pulls the strings for the Scorpions attack and shutting down his time and space on the ball will be key to disrupting their offense. Enter Hendry Thomas, who Dallas fans are desperately hoping is the midfield destroyer that the team has been missing for quite a while.
Richard Menjivar vs. Mauro Diaz - Another recent signee for the Scorpions, this NASL Best XI selection from a year ago will sit in the hole above his backline and look to stymie the effectiveness of Diaz, the main playmaker for Dallas. How well he is able to do this will go a long way in determining the tempo and direction of this game.
Keys to three points
San Antonio has completely rebuilt their team following a disappointing finish to their 2013 season. The Scorpions finished last in the NASL for the Fall Season, quite a collapse after a promising Spring Season where they only finished one point away from a birth in the Soccer Bowl. Only six players from last year's team return this season, and only a couple of those are expected to be starters. The Scorpions and their fans will be extremely excited to host a MLS team and should provide a good atmosphere, especially on the heels of recent rumblings regarding a possible move to MLS.
With this being a preseason game, getting the three points won't be the sole focus of this game for either team. But for San Antonio, a win here could be a feather in their cap and a tangible boost to fan support. For Dallas, a loss to a lower division side in their home state certainly wouldn't sit well with anyone. Despite being a friendly, expect both teams to play hard, especially in the first half when both teams are using first choice players.
Despite their inexperience in playing together, there is talent on this 2nd division team. They will play a possession based, attacking style and try to flow through their two center midfielders. All four of their starting defenders have MLS experience and will not back down from the challenge. Danny Barrera is an effective player with the ball at this feet, leading the Atlanta Silverbacks into last year's Soccer Bowl against the New York Cosmos. Richard Menjivar also comes over from the Silverbacks and is an El Salvador international with Gold Cup caps under his belt.
Several other players boast MLS and European experience. The depth, however, is severely lacking and there is a huge drop off in talent from the starting XI to the bench. The starters controlled and dominated the first half of their friendly with SMU, leading 2-0 at half and barely allowing SMU any possession at all. When changes were made at halftime, SMU took advantage of some very shaky defensive work and stormed back for a 3-3 draw.
With a solid effort, Dallas should be able to control this game with superior talent. However, emotions will be running high for the Scorpion fans and players so expect there to be some nervous moments from the potential chances created by San Antonio, as long as their starters are in the game. Prediction: Dallas enjoys a one goal lead at halftime(although it could possibly be tied) and then blows things open in the second half for a comfortable win.
That's our take from here at Behind Enemy Lines. What's your take? Let us know in the comment section below.