With many players from FC Dallas and Columbus Crew SC out due to international duty, Sunday's fixture shows potential to be a slower, back-and-forth match. However, it could be the complete opposite of that as both teams are making strides toward first-place in their respective conferences.
Two players are listed questionable for Sunday's showdown. Midfielder Fedrico "Pipa" Higuain has a right groin soreness while midfielder Kristinn Steindorsson has a left hamstring strain.
Nine Columbus players are suiting up for their national team this week, including league-leading goalscorer Kei Kamara.
Out - D: Harrison Afful (Ghana), Sergio Campbell (Jamaica), Waylon Francis (Costa Rica); M: Kevan George (Trinidad and Tobago), Cedrick Mabwati (DR Congo), Justin Meram (Iraq), Ben Swanson (U-20 USMNT), Will Trapp (U-23 USMNT); F: Kei Kamara (Sierra Leone)
Columbus will have many holes to fill in its lineup.
GK: Steve Clark; RB: Chad Barson; CB: Michael Parkhurst, Tyson Wahl; LB: Chris Klute; DM: Mohammed Saeid, Tony Tchani; RM: Ethan Finlay; CM: Fedrico Higuain; LM: Kristinn Steindorsson; F: Aaron Schoenfeld
Finlay vs. Ryan Hollingshead - A lot of the attacking pressure will be put on Finlay. Whether Hollingshead lines up as a leftback or left-mid, this will be the battle to keep your eye on Sunday. Hollingshead could single handedly shutdown Columbus' production if he can get Finlay out of his groove in his fortress. From there, look to see what the homegrown duo of Kellyn Acosta and Victor Ulloa do to limit Higuain's touches.
Keys to Three Points
Step up. FC Dallas' offense will look different for this one, but luckily a lot of FCD's attack has seen minutes this season. Rolando Escobar will probably get the start up-top with David Texeira, and these two will need to make the most of their time. Parkhurst is a strong centerback who can easily control his defensive-third, so Escobar and Texeira need to make their presence known quickly.
Easy on the keep. Goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez picked up his first MLS win and shutout last week to Real Salt Lake. Now he and his team heads to the road against a four-game undefeated Crew. Higuain was the playmaker in Columbus' 2-1 win over New York City FC, so slow down his momentum and make the night a little easier for Gonzalez.
Come out swinging. Columbus sees its most goals conceded in the first 15 minutes of each half. In the first 15 minutes, Columbus has allowed eight goals while in the first 15 of the second half, the team has allowed 12. Starts the halves strong and FCD can be on its way home with three points. Dallas is 11-1-2 when scoring first as well.