This week, FC Dallas has two matches verses those team from the City of Angels, starting with our old foe, LA Galaxy. These two teams met a mere two and a half weeks ago, with FC Dallas holding on for dear life to win 3-2 in Texas. Since then, LA has won its past two matches, both 1-0 affairs, and picked up six points. They now sit in a three-way tie for 7th with 16 points.
Dallas picked up a draw and a win in their past two matches and enter this game tied with Portland for third in the West, with 20 points. The fact that Dallas and LA have each won five games is slightly unnerving. The difference is that LA has only one draw and six losses, while Dallas reversed that with five draws and only one loss.
Formation - 4-2-3-1
LA will keep the same shape as last game, just without two of their star players — the dos Santos brothers. While it hasn’t been the best start to the season for either of them, they are both capable of making a difference on any given night. Chris Pontius and Sebastian Lletget will fill their absence. Of course, the big (literal) return comes in the form of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. After his face-shoving incident, he returns from suspension to lead the front line and will be a…(ahem)…large boost.
Through the first 10 games of the season, including the loss to FC Dallas, LA had just two clean sheets. But after meeting and beating two of the worst teams in the league, it would appear the defense has found its legs. The question is if those are just illusions from matches with two pretty bad teams — or if the momentum is something more. The interesting change is that club captain Ashley Cole has been replaced. I’ll let you decide if that is worth anything.
Of course, just like last match, the trouble with LA is that because they have so many quality attacking pieces, they can make a comeback if the opposing team isn’t careful. Romain Alessandrini scored a terrific goal last match and has probably been LA’s best and most consistent player this season. Ola Kamara has four goals in his past five matches; and, of course, you know Zlatan will be itching to make a big impact on his return. Dallas has had a fine run of form in front of goal, and Maxi Urruti has scored in each of his past four matches and made five goals in his last six. He’s had help from different supporting players each game — from Roland Lamah, Santiago Mosquera, Mauro Diaz, and even Reggie Cannon. But Dallas will need Maxi’s to keep his streak alive or get some other players to step up to earn another three points.
You’ll remember that final 15-or-so minutes from the Dallas game as a nervy, clinging-to-life affair for both teams; Dallas desperately held onto the lead as LA brought wave after wave of attack down on Maurer and company. Things will be different this time around defensively for Dallas. After a spectacular showing in Toronto, Jessie Gonzalez will be in goal. Matt Hedges will miss the game due to card accumulation, so we will now see how Maynor Figueroa plays next to Reto Ziegler. Anton Nedyalkov is out with a broken collarbone, which is a gaping void to fill. It will be interesting to see how coach Pareja approaches this game. Since Dallas has another game on Saturday against the newest LA team, I wonder if he will be conservative with his lineup or go for the win. Knowing we will be back at home but on short rest for the game against LAFC makes this a tricky game and week to plan for.
Key Matchup - FC Dallas back line vs LA Galaxy front line
For the first time this season, Dallas will be at a disadvantage when it matches up defense to offense. Cannon and Zeigler have proved themselves wonderfully well. Both have been worth more than what we are paying them. But Fig and the-player-to-be-named-later at left back have me worried. Some of our more-free-thinking Big D contributors have mentioned Kellyn Acosta as a suitable spot starter, but I have my reservations. My best guess is that Ryan Hollingshead will get the start. No matter who it is, the back four will need to keep the LA attack at bay while our offense goes to work.
- Go Streaking! - Dallas needs to keep the Maxi Urruti goal streak alive. His goals tend to have a galvanizing effect on the team; being on the road, we will need his fantastic plays to leave LA with a point.
- No Defensive Mistakes - I’ll make this brief: no own goals, no free headers, no letting a winger get past you in the box. That covers Fig’s last game plus our last matchup against LAG. Enough said.
- Rotation. Rotation? Rotation! - Due to injury and a suspension, Dallas will have to rotate a few players this game. But how many more should we risk to stay competitive this game and the next? Whose minutes should be cut short? Coach has to get those decisions right to maximize our chances at points for the next two games.
I’m not particularly sure how I want this game to go. I feel we should go all out for the win against the weaker LA team this game and get three points, rather than settle for a draw now to possibly get only a draw at home on Saturday. The old cliché about “never looking past your current opponent” should probably ring true, but this week catches Dallas up with the rest of the league for games played. It would be a shame if we came away with only one or two points instead of three or four. Ultimately, I think Dallas wins another nervy, cagey game with a final of 1-0. Hopefully that sets us up for a good lineup to go for the win on Saturday too.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.