One down, one to go for Dallas this week as they travel back home to take on LAFC. The new kids in town sit at third place in the West with 21 points, being leapt over by the Hoops after their win over the Galaxy. LA comes into this week’s match having drawn against DC United in their last game. Since FC Dallas and LAFC last met at the beginning of May, LAFC has gone 1-1-2, with an impressive draw against NYCFC and the one loss against a flaming hot Portland Timbers team.
Dallas didn’t get ahead of themselves Wednesday and picked up a big win in Carson, beating the Galaxy 3-2. Now second in the West with 23 points, they have a chance to jump to first with another win. Coming off back-to-back wins in their last two games, Dallas looks to put together a three-game winning streak for the first time this season. The last time this happened was a stretch in June/July last season, with one game including a fourth round US Open cup victory. So, it’s been a while.
Formation - 4-2-3-1
LAFC is piecing together a mismatched lineup for this game due to the World Cup. They will be without star talisman Carlos Vela, who is away with Mexico preparing for the big tournament. Vela has been spectacular in his first MLS season, scoring seven and adding five assists. But what probably hurts LAFC more is missing two of the three center backs on the roster in Laurent Ciman and Dejan Jakovic. This leaves Walker Zimmerman returning to Dallas for the first time, fresh from USMNT duty and his first international goal. It will be interesting to see who else LA starts in the back. They have the option of using their first overall pick from this years draft —Joao Moutinho. Or they could go with veteran fullback, Steven Beitashour, much the way Dallas uses Figueroa.
On the offense, LAFC is missing Marco Urena, out injured. He’s claimed five assists this season, keeping the strings of the offense moving. (But don’t feel bad just yet - they still have another best-eleven caliber player we haven’t mentioned.) Out on the wing, Diego Rossi has been just as good as Vela, hitting five goals and six assists so far. They’ll be pairing him with Latif Blessing on the other wing and former Kansas City no. 10 Benny Feilhaber, a vital bridge from defense to offense who plays in a more deep lying creator-type role.
Last, but certainly not least, we come to Lee Nguyen. With Urena out, Nguyen will most likely slot up as the number 10 against Dallas, playing in the advanced attacking midfield spot. He has only played 58 minutes this season, but starting this week, will probably get a good run of games, filling in while Urena is out. Recently signed forward Adama Diomande (newly signed before the transfer window closed) will be another name to keep an eye on. No one is sure what they have in him yet, including LAFC.
Dallas rotated heavily for the midweek Galaxy game, so we will see a different lineup from Wednesday night. Matt Hedges will be coming off suspension to presumably partner back up with Reto Ziegler. On defense, we can expect to see two of either Reggie Cannon, Maynor Figueroa, or Ryan Hollingshead to again start in the full back spots. In the midfield, Carlos Gruezo, Roland Lamah, and Jacori Hayes will probably start and Maxi Urruti will be back up top. Santiago Mosquera replacing Barrios out on the other wing also gives Dallas solid support when defending. Oscar made a great decision when he kept Gruezo and Hayes fresh for this game. They both provide a good work rate with strong defense and should be able to muck up the LAFC attack.
Key Matchup - Midfield vs Midfield
With Vela out, the danger men for LAFC lie in the midfield. Rossi, Nguyen, and Feilhaber all have proven track records of success or, in Rossi’s case, he is proving emphatically this season. Matching up and containing this trio’s influence will be the key to how this game plays out. I suspect we might see Ulloa start again. Jason Poon’s Chalkboard article points out how Coach Pareja uses them to slow down opposing attacks. And since Jacori Hayes has done such a great job replacing Kellyn Acosta, I think the three of them will be able to contain the LAFC attack.
1. Streaking Again! - Ok, since Maxi didn’t play last game, I think we can say the streak is still alive for having four straight games with a goal in games he has played. Mosquera and Lamah will need to chip in to help, but Maxi is such a mercurial striker, it’s important to keep him going in the right direction
2. Rotation...Again - Well, Coach P made the right calls, with who to rotate and how against the Galaxy. Let’s see how the second part of this week’s decisions pays off. I also think that this may be a good opportunity to, if we have a lead, see some of our younger players get some game time. Here’s hoping for Paxton to make an appearance.
3. Time Wasting – I like to say that Jesse Gonzalez is a “professional time waster” and I mean that in the nicest way. Much was made about his time wasting against LAG - even amongst the staff here at Big D, he split opinion. I understand why he does it and mostly appreciate it. But I totally see the other side because, as 2 yellow cards in 2 games shows, sometimes he takes it too far. But, between you and me, if he’s time wasting, it usually means we are winning, so…
Ok, I feel really good about this game for the Hoops. Maybe I’m riding a little too high from last game, but they absolutely had the right mix and game plan to own the Galaxy (not like the Empire, Dallas is definitely part of the Rebellion). I am gaining back some faith in Oscar to put our guys in the best position to succeed. Pair that with all of the important missing pieces for LAFC, I think we have a chance to have a six point week and climb to the top of the Western Conference. (Breathes in) I’m going with a 2-0 win for FC Dallas. (Exhales.)