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FIFA14 Preview - FC Dallas vs Real Salt Lake

FC Dallas has been playing like a team in a video game recently, so, for a week, I'm going to scrap the video game.

Fabian Castillo has been ridiculous lately, but Mauro Diaz' health and ability to contribute for longer stretches could be a huge difference-maker down the stretch.
Fabian Castillo has been ridiculous lately, but Mauro Diaz' health and ability to contribute for longer stretches could be a huge difference-maker down the stretch.
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

As this season has gone on, my FIFA14 previews have taken on a certain cadence. It's time to change it up. With only seven more regular season matches after tonight, the Hoops will fight to hold onto their current playoff position in the standings and try to continue to put immense pressure on other teams' defenses.

Moving forward or backward?

Since players started to drop like flies at the beginning of the season, Oscar Pareja has gotten his team used to scrambling, playing various formations, and playing with numerous lineup combinations at every level. Over the past few weeks, Dallas has begun to see some consistency and has played their best soccer because of it.

But soccer is an ever-changing game. In a month, Pareja's players almost definitely won't be in the form they are in right now. Will the team move forward and get better or take a step back over the final push of the regular season.

Additional knocks and injuries could always play a part. If Dallas is faced with any, they should be well-versed in scrambling new players or formations to make up for it. Honestly, I think that for all Dallas has gone through, the fact that Pareja's players have gone stayed resilient and put themselves in a prime playoff position says a lot about this team's character. I just don't see them moving backwards much.

On the flip-side, one could argue that it would be hard to play much better. Fabian Castillo has been a revelation. Andres Escobar has been exceedingly exciting. Victor Ulloa may be emerging as an above-average defensive midfielder, and Zach Lloyd has done everything a coach could ever ask for from a defender.

The one place I think Dallas can improve is also health. Mauro Diaz, who I pegged as maybe the most important player for FC Dallas this season, is still coming back into form after a knee injury. Diaz has been back for a while, but only in the past few games have we seen flashes of the real Mauro. If Diaz can get himself close to what he was at the beginning of the year, then Dallas starts to look even more frightening than the squad that just put up five goals in last week's match.

This is better than a video game.

Five goals isn't something I can usually do in FIFA14. The thing I would have looked for this week in the video game is a group that could have come out a little flat. Real Salt Lake is a really physical team. They're the type of opponent Dallas had a really hard time with earlier in the season.

Tonight, we'll see whether Dallas really can play more mistake-free. RSL will not give up the chances that San Jose did. They will take advantage of their opportunities. They will put constant pressure on a Dallas team that has heavily depended on the counter attack. They'll challenge the heart and mind of Fabian Castillo. They'll challenge the body of Mauro Diaz and the hands of Raul Fernandez.

What we'll find out in this one isn't something I could necessarily glean from a video game.

At the end of the day, Dallas could be tied for first place in the division or six points back with seven games to play. This week, it's why I'm staying away from the video game. Right now, the real thing is much more exciting.