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Behind Enemy Lines: Scouting Real Salt Lake

FC Dallas hosts top ranked Real Salt Lake in a battle of Western Conference elites Friday night.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas has been hot in the midseason, but now hits the final stretch of the season with a Western Conference showdown against Real Salt Lake.

The Friday night home game can either continue FCD's unbeaten streak to 10 or see what could be the start of a rough final stretch against the league's best.

Injury Report

Head coach Jeff Cassar announced after practice Thursday that RSL will be without forward Javier Morales due to a hip injury. This tacks on to a roster filled with long-term injuries.

Out: F Javier Morales (hip), M John Stertzer (tibia), D Rich Balchan (abductor), D Jordan Allen (knee), F Alvaro Saborio (foot).

Probable Lineup

Even with Morales out, RSL will still be able to adjust and field a stacked lineup, formed in a 4-4-2 with the midfield playing in a diamond.

GK: Nick Rimando; LB: Chris Wingert; CB: Nat Borchers, Chris Schuler; RB: Tony Beltran; CDM: Kyle Beckerman; LM: Ned Grabavoy; RM: Luke Mulholland; CAM: Luis Gil; LF: Joao Plata; RF: Olmes Garcia.

Key Matchup

Michel vs. Kyle Beckerman - This matchup will be key on both sides of the coin. As Michel looks to expose the backfield, he'll have to deal with the stonewall that is Beckerman. The USMNT defensive mid has limited opponent's productivity on attack and will have a tough challenge with a speedy, hot FCD offense. As for RSL's attack, Beckerman has done a fine job creating options upfront for a talented Plata.

Keys to Three Points

Repeat last week's attack. It's not every game you see a 5-0 victory. Although highly doubtful, if FCD can have even half the performance up top that they saw last week, then Dallas can snag the three points. Fabian Castillo's speed should be too much for Wingert down the right side. He can just use that speed and skill to work from the outside and in and trouble Rimando. All Akindele has to do is clean up the trash - which worked out well for him against San Jose - and not be scared to take shots from outside the eighteen.

Kill Gil. Okay, don't kill him, but don't let the youngster be a threat. Gil has been a blessing for RSL recently. Fitting in comfortably as the attacking mid for Morales, Gil has the skill to create space for his forwards in the attacking third and is able to hold possession in the midfield. The young talent could be the next face for RSL, but FCD will have the chance to not give the kid too much attention across the league just yet by closing him down on attack.

Work the counter attack. RSL is the toughest opponent FCD has to face during this streak. Real has the ability to make opponent's play to them rather than the opposite. If RSL does set the tempo and control possession, it will be essential for FCD to utilize the speed down the sides for the counter. Beginning with Andres Escobar to Castillo or even to the opposite side to Akindele, FCD will need to pressure the back line immediately after stealing the ball in the midfield.