FC Dallas heads to Portland to face the defending MLS Champion Timbers in a Western Conference Finals rematch from last year's playoffs. Both teams are in need of a win, are on short rest, and are missing key contributors. This will set up for a late night battle royale in Portland full of intrigue and tenacity.
Avoiding Another Terrible Start
As we've seen in the previous two matches, FC Dallas has given up early goals within the first 10 minutes of each game. Add in the loss at Houston that saw them give up a slew of goal early on and this is starting to be a bad trend for FCD.
There hasn't been much consistency among the back four, with Oscar Pareja starting a different combination in four of the first six games. Coach may still be deciding who he wants to be in that starting back four going forward, but more consistency along with added chemistry will be desperately needed tonight.
Portland themselves will be looking to get off to a better start as they are the only team in MLS that have yet to score a goal in the first half of a game this season. Something will have to give in order for FC Dallas to secure their first ever win in Providence Park. This will be by far the most raucous atmosphere the 2016 FC Dallas squad has experienced together, and giving up another early goal would be devastating.
Offensively, the absence of Mauro Diaz has made a significant impact on the once potent attack, and it has forced the likes of Kellyn Acosta, Carlos Gruezo, and others to take on more of a creative role in the offense.
This could be an opportunity for Mauro Rosales to get more playing time as he gave the team a huge spark in their game against the Earthquakes last weekend. During this two game stretch, all of FCD's goals have come from a lucky bounce, an own goal, and a penalty. It would be great to see a well manufactured goal from this offense to get them back on the right track.
On the other hand, Portland will be without their catalyst Darlington Nagbe, so look for their offense to get going with new faces in the starting XI. Look for Ned Grabavoy to start in his place and Jack Barmby seeing some time as well.
Urruti vs His Former Squad
One of the more interesting storylines surrounding this game will be the return of Maximiliano Urruti against his former squad where he played the better part of the past three seasons. With Nagbe out and the Timbers offense struggling to get their feet under them, it's safe to say the Timbers miss Maxi right about now. The Timbers' fans have made it clear how much they miss Maxi, commenting on each instagram post he makes clamoring for his return and showing enormous admiration and love for his time there.
But will it be easier for Portland to contain Maxi since they used to play together?
Yes, says Diego Chara. Portland is coming back home a confident group, even though they should have came back with three points in LA. It also appears they feel like they can minimize Urruti's impact on the game, so it will be very interesting to see how that plays out.
It's about as fascinating a game you'll see early in the season, and you know FC Dallas will come out motivated to put away those bad memories from the post season watching Portland celebrate on their field. Urruti will surely have a chip on his shoulder, as much as he wants to act like this is just another game. Getcha popcorn ready.