FC Dallas hosts the San Jose Earthquakes for the first time in 2016. FCD holds a four-game unbeaten run against the Quakes, dating back to 2014. Time to dive into some key aspects of tomorrow's game.
Is Mauro Diaz healthy?
With Mauro Diaz suffering from "leg tightness," Oscar Pareja opted for the safe approach and held him out of the match versus the Columbus Crew. The result wasn't pretty. Pareja used three defensive midfielders in Kellyn Acosta, Victor Ulloa, and Carlos Gruezo. Acosta admitted, "I've never been that far up on the field. It's something I'm not too familiar with... I kind of tried to mimic Mauro, but I mean he's a magician." Without a playmaker, Dallas struggled to create quality chances and settled for long range shots, with 15 attempts off target.
Will Mauro be ready to play on Saturday? It seems likely, although it might be a game time decision. If Diaz is ready to go, the lineup will be the usual 4-2-3-1. If not, I don't think Pareja makes the same mistake as last time and either swaps in the like-for-like attacking midfielder Mauro Rosales in the 4-2-3-1 or changes to the 4-4-2 with Tesho Akindele like in 2014 when Diaz was injured.
Zimmerman or Loyd? Gonzalez or Seitz?
Walker Zimmerman and Jesse Gonzalez won their offseason position battles and started the first three games of the year. But upon returning from international break, they found themselves riding the pine. With Chris Seitz and Zach Loyd in the lineup, FC Dallas shut out D.C. United on the road. Oscar Pareja has a tendency to keep the same players on the field after a great performance. Seitz saved a penalty in D.C. and then stood on his head against Columbus with 5 saves. "This game he was incredible, kept us in the game, kept us alive and gave us hope. Organizing the back line, he was tremendous," Acosta said about his keeper after the Columbus game. Zach Loyd returned to midseason form with excellent positioning and strong partnership with Matt Hedges in both games.
Zimmerman and Gonzalez will get more minutes this year. Will it be in this game or will Pareja continue with Seitz and Loyd for now?
Just how good are the Quakes?
After San Jose won their first two games in surprising fashion, LAG Confidential's Sean Steffen wrote an article in which he characterized the Quakes as "historically bad." After two games, the Quakes were taking less than eight shots per game. No MLS team has ever finished a season while shooting at such a low rate. At the other end of the field, San Jose was giving up an average of 17 shots per game. 11 of those were between the posts in the box and 73% were "uncontested," meaning that they were neither blocked nor saved. Sean argued that San Jose's wins to begin the year were lucky.
Center Line Soccer's Colin Etnire responded, saying that Dominic Kinnear's conservative tactical approach combined with the deep defensive line that San Jose plays featuring "two very good but very slow center backs," means that the Quakes give up a lot of shots, but the shots are well defended. San Jose gave up most of those shots in circumstances where they were winning the game. When they talked on Colin's podcast, Colin took offense to the label "uncontested," arguing that just because a shot was not blocked or saved doesn't mean that the defender wasn't riding the shooter off the ball causing the shot to be sent high or wide.
Since those first two wins, San Jose has lost and drawn. In their only road game thus far, Simon Dawkins was sent off in first half stoppage time in a 1-3 loss to the Galaxy. San Jose once again created fewer than eight shots while conceding 17, although they did play a man down for 45 minutes.
The shot creation tide might be turning, however, with an improved performance at home against D.C. United where San Jose took 15 shots, including six on target. Matias Perez Garcia and Tommy Thompson each got their first starts of the year and injected pace and excitement into the offense. San Jose player Alberto Quintero said, "Our midfielders played well on the ball and Matias [Perez Garcia] is a high-caliber player to have in our midfield." San Jose dominated possession but had difficulty finishing in the final third. "We let them off the hook with our finishing. We were creating a lot of chances. I just told the guys keep the same energy, we're going to get chances, keep fighting for second balls dropping at midfield, and I thought the effort tonight was great," said Quakes head coach Dominic Kinnear. San Jose drew level with D.C. United on an 88' Adam Jahn goonie goal.
The biggest issue for San Jose entering this weekend is the absence of former Dallas-draftee Clarence Goodson. Against D.C. United, 29-year old Argentinian Andres Imperiale partnered with Victor Bernardez in central defense. Imperiale played well, with five clearances and five interceptions.
San Jose will miss Goodson's leadership and organization. The Earthquakes' backline will sit very deep to prevent FC Dallas from getting in behind their defense. Expect San Jose to give up more than 15 shots to an FC Dallas team averaging 15 shots a game. With Mauro Diaz back in the lineup, Dallas should create higher quality chances than the long-range shots taken against Columbus.
Anibal Godoy is also out for the Quakes, so Kinnear will likely opt for the same midfield as last game of Quintero, Thompson, Fatai Alashe, and MPG.
How to watch:
Kickoff: Saturday, April 9, 8:00pm CST
Venue: Toyota Stadium, Frisco, TX
TV: TXA-21, MLS LIVE
Weather Forecast: Sun sets at 7:54. Night-time, cloudy, 68 degrees at kickoff. Wind 14 mph. 45% humidity.
Projected Starting Lineups: