We're back in the saddle, gunning for 3 points on a beautiful fall day in North Texas.
This week, the Vancouver Whitecaps come to Frisco, and the boys in red and red hope to fight back from a couple of hard road losses. We're joined by Jon Szekeres from Eighty-Six Forever.
BDS-1) The league has been talking about Chicago's historic 14 draws this season, but Vancouver is right on their tail with 13 ties in 2014! Why are so many of the Whitecaps' games ending deadlocked?
86F: Though they had all cylinders firing earlier in the season, the attack for the Vancouver Whitecaps resembles more of a popgun than a bazooka right now, and that means lots of low scoring contests. That being said, the 'Caps have also had their share of 2-2 and 3-3 matches, so the finger can`t be solely pointed at the attackers. Honestly, i think the draws are indicative of the struggles the Whitecaps have had this season when trying to put matches away; long story short, they've been lacking a killer instinct, although hopefully the 2-0 victory over the Earthquakes is a sign of things to come.
BDS-2) It looks like the fight for the 5th playoff spot in our conference will come down to Vancouver and Portland. Who most holds the crucial ability to keep Vancouver above that red line: an offensive player, a defensive player, the head coach?
86F: It's a mixture between the Head Coach and the attack. Carl Robinson is the captain of the ship and needs to make sure he rolls out effective formations and gives the right players enough playing time. However, there's only so much strategy Robinson can put into place, and at the end of the day, his players need to score goals.
Whether it be Darren Mattocks, Kektua Manneh, Omar Salgado or Erik Hurtado, the Whitecaps haven't been getting enough production out of their young strikers. Pedro Morales is the engine in the midfield and Mauro Rosales is a great addition, but the future of this club will be determined by how the young strikers on this squad react to their dry spell. So far, it hasn't been good. The 'Caps can create scoring chances and they have skill players that a lot of teams would like to employ. Still, they come up short far too often, and that's going to have to change if they want in to the post-season.
BDS-3) Omar Salgado is a young Texan who created a lot of buzz joining MLS but hasn't really hit his stride yet. How is his development coming along at VWFC? What do you think his future looks like?
86F: Not good at all. Salgado has battled injury most of his Whitecaps career, and now that he's healthy, he can't seem to crack the starting lineup. He's been used sparingly this season, and hasn't exactly lit the world on fire when he has gotten his chances to play. I mean, this is a club that is getting little production from it's forwards lately, and Salgado has been stapled to the bench. Despite the 'Caps needing offense from other sources, Salgado isn't really being considered, at least lately. I don't know if that's a good sign for him. The good news is that with a compressed schedule this week, he just might make an appearance this weekend.
86F: Match Prediction: Whitecaps ride the good mojo from that win over the Earthquake, and top FC Dallas 2-1
Switching gears here. My answers to Vancouver's questions coming up next!
86F-1) Despite the last two matches, you guys were on a tear from June to August. Do the last two results have you worried, or is that just a blip for the club in a long regular season?
BDS: I see it as a blip. FC Dallas has one of the toughest schedules of any club to close out this season, but the team is committed and appears to be working hard every week. Any team can lose to RSL in Sandy, and Chicago is an old rival with a history of unpredictable matches. Besides, one mistake is all it took for Chicago to win that game late. The game was heading for a respectable draw on the road for FCD... before that fatal misstep.
FC Dallas has hung tough this year. This was a season in which we thought we needed to temper expectations as Oscar slides into the captain's chair and begins to mold the players to his vision. The team has punched well above their weight, and the players deserve credit for taking to OP's changes so quickly. OP deserves credit for taking risks and making smart personnel decisions.
86F-2) Looks like Fabian Castillo has taken a major leap forward in his 4th MLS season. What's changed about his game?
BDS: Like any young player, some of it comes naturally as every year builds his experience and maturity. But to your point, Fabian is playing significantly better with his teammates than in seasons past. It probably helps that someone like Andres Escobar joined the team - a player that Castillo knows from growing up with the game in Colombia. Additionally, I think Oscar Pareja sent a major jolt into Fabian that no other coach could. Here is a guy who played for Colombia in the World Cup, a guy who specializes in youth players, and a guy who took Fabian into his house to help adjust to a new league in a new country with a new language. That relationship is key to unlocking Fabian's full potential in MLS, and OP leading FCD will boost Castillo into giving reaching his peak performance.
86F-3) Dallas has pretty much owned Vancouver since the 'Caps joined the league in 2011 (6-1-2 record for D). What's going on there?
BDS: Dallas likes to beat up on expansion teams. FCD had a similarly lopsided record against RSL for a long time. Unlike Seattle who has raced out of the gate upon joining MLS, fueled by money and rabid fans. Vancouver is taking a slower path to fully mature. FC Dallas has conservative owners who don't chase the shiny, high dollar acquisitions. So when the team isn't able to compete with the big boys, they take a special interest in beating up the newcomers and taking points from the vulnerable teams while they can. When Vancouver has been in MLS for 19 years like FC Dallas, their relative standing compared to 2014 FCD will all depend on ownership and intelligent growth. VWFC has a long history, but many recent years were spent in the dark unstable basement of the US/Canadian soccer pyramid. Vancouver will catch up, but FC Dallas will give them their lumps in the meantime.
BDS: Match Prediction: FC Dallas bounces back from 2 road losses to regain a step in the points race. FCD wins 2-0.
That's all for Week 24. What do you think of our predictions? Who will come out on top to grab vital Western Conference points? Whose streak breaks, Vancouver's wins or Dallas' losses? Or do we see more of the same?!