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FIFA14 Preview - FC Dallas vs. Chivas USA

It's hard to count the number of times FC Dallas has reinvented itself this season, but the set-piece can be a weapon no matter the formation.

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I went to college at UC San Diego, where the women's soccer program was pretty dominant. In 1999, head coach Brian McManus led the Tritons to a Division III national championship. In 2000 and 2001, the Tritons -- now in Division II -- won national championships again. I know you probably don't care about Division III or Division II women's soccer from 14 years ago, but bare with me.

I went to a few of those games as a 19 or 20 year-old, and I remember those games looking a lot like FC Dallas did in this week's FIFA14 preview. Here's how:

Defense

Those UCSD teams were GREAT defensively. I don't remember the formation they played, but they had some studs protecting the keeper.

With a 5-3-2 formation the new FIFA14 default for Dallas, the Hoops also weren't letting anything by them. Chivas only managed ## shots on goal as the combination of Matt Hedges, Walker Zimmerman, and Stephen Keel kept things calm in the middle against a Chivas team that, at least in this game, lacks real offensive firepower.

Set pieces

UCSD always had one or two really fast wings who did a great job of drawing fouls and corner kicks. That's when the really tall striker, I think her name was Erika Alfredson, came into play. She was taller than everyone else and gave UCSD a weapon that turned out to be really hard to defend.

We know this FC Dallas team is deadly from set pieces. Players like Michel and Mauro Diaz provide great service and Blas "Raton" Perez (the back of his FIFA14 jersey says Raton) and others have proven they can also finish when given the chance. Having a stalwart defense and some players who earn corner kicks and fouls around the opposing goal is generally a good combination

In this particular preview, Walker Zimmerman started the scoring on a set-piece garbage play. The deflected header from the Michel corner kick fell to the young defender and he took one touch and buried it in the left corner with his left foot. 1-0 Dallas. From a set-piece.

Tall Guys scoring

The second goal of the game was a more traditional corner-kick goal, but it was Zimmerman again. Zimmerman pounded a Mauro Diaz corner into the back of the goal for the second and final goal of my FIFA14 preview. The final score was 2-0, but it probably wasn't even that close.

I'm still reading up on Chivas, but they are definitely a team that, on paper, Dallas should have the upper-hand on.

Why it all might be for naught

Two players who could cause the formation to change yet again become available this weekend. They are both speedsters. Fabian Casillo and Andres Escobar could cause Oscar Pareja to once again change his team's style.

This means that, while FIFA can do a great job of matching a team's formation or lineup from the week before, it can't predict the future.

This is a potential double-edged sword for the Hoops. On the one hand, I would imagine it makes FC Dallas unbelievably difficult to scout. On the other hand, teams generally continue to develop a particular style of playing. Usually, when teams play lots of different formations and styles, they don't play any of them particularly well. One of the reasons this FC Dallas team is one of the most interesting soccer teams I've ever watched is their propensity to change styles so readily based on the varied personnel that is available.

I have to ask myself whether I'll continue to play with drastically different lineups in every preview from here to the end of the season or if Pareja and the team will settle in. I feel like I'm going to be kept guessing. Maybe that's the point.

Final score: FCDallas 2-0 Chivas USA.

While the Hoops have been playing better defense, I think they give-up at least one goal on the road, especially if Castillo and Escobar both play.

Prediction: FC Dallas 2-1 Chivas USA.