AH HA! You only thought that your beloved Hoops were not in MLS action this week. They are…not in MLS action this week - because this week, they take on Sporting Kansas City in the U.S. Open Cup. In this round of 16 fixture, Dallas travels north to Children’s Mercy Park in what is undoubtedly the premier game of the week.
Sporting KC made their way to this round by way of a 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake while Dallas snuck by San Antonio FC to the tune of 1-0. Each team played with a number of young and upcoming squad members. For Dallas - Ema Twumasi, Paxton Pomykal, and Jordan Cano. Let’s see how many kids we see in this game, considering who the opponent is.
Sporting KC is coming off a tough road draw against the Portland Timbers, while Dallas flies in on the back of their 4th straight win, this one courtesy of Montreal.
Formation – 5-4-1
A brief review of last year’s USOC quarterfinal match is needed before we move any further. In one of the most drama-filled matches I personally have witnessed, Dallas again travelled north to take on SKC as the reigning USOC Champions. Within the first 15 minutes, SKC was shown a straight red after Michael Barrios was taken down by the last defender back on a counter attack. SKC had a goal disallowed after a keeper interference foul just a moment before. The game stretched on without a goal and soon enough, we were headed to extra time. Ten minutes into the first half, Maxi went for a bicycle kick and ended up connecting with the head of Ike Opara. Already having a yellow, he was shown a second and subsequently a red to level the teams up with 10 men a piece. Five minutes later, a misplayed ball by Ryan Hollingshead broke the game open as Benny Feilhaber rushed down the field to set up Latif Blessing for the opening goal. Literally less than two minutes later, another misplayed ball by Javier Morales led to another Feilhaber take away. Morales pulled him down from behind, which garnered Morales a red card. Three minutes later, SKC scored again, through Latif Blessing. In the end, SKC won 3-0. The win ultimately propelled them toward their 4th US Open Cup championship.
In the first USOC game of the season against Real Salt Lake, SKC came out in an atypical 5-4-1 formation. Also playing the kids, the lineup featured 3 players under 20 and a few players from the second team. The man pulling the strings, however, was 28-year-old Scottish international Johnny Russel, who had a goal and an assist. Expect Sporting to feature a few more regulars this time around, but not too many more.
Dallas comes into the game looking to break a run of misfortune in USOC play against SKC. They are winless in three games against Sporting which have (mysteriously) all been played in Kansas City. They have conceded 14 goals in those 3 games, scoring only 2. With no 2nd team of their own to pull from, Dallas will again look to play some squad members who haven’t featured as much this season.
Key Matchup - Youth vs Vets
Without knowing, as of this writing, how either of these two teams will lineup, it’s difficult to nail down what to expect. Both will be trying to rest a few of their high-profile starters, but probably not to forsake a win. This then, swings back the other way in which we may see quite a few regulars from both teams as each tries to advance. In the end, the team lineup will come down to which teams’ younger players are most prepared to help the cause. While FC Dallas played a number of young kids, the majority was still from the first team squad. SKC, on the other hand, had a majority of youth and 2nd team players. If they run them out again, it will be a big test.
1. Who Scores for Dallas - With Cristian Colman’s playing status questionable due to an ankle injury, we’re going to have to see who lines up as a forward. Again, without knowing Coach Pareja’s plan, it will be interesting to see how and around whom we shape our offense.
2. Playing the Kids - Finally, we had a Paxton Pomykal sighting. As much as I was hoping he would be a regular part of the first team, giving him entire games in the USOC will make due…for now. Even for this round, I hope Dallas calls up a few more of our draft picks and loanees. If we advance again, we may start to take a few more vets along - but not yet.
3. Revenge - After last year’s game, I remember that feeling. Breathless. Gut-punched. I was annoyed at how our guys finished the game; more annoyed at how we gave up the three goals; most annoyed with hearing and watching the home fans at SKC. I’m not sure we can classify this as a full blown rivalry, but these are currently two of the best teams in the league, with a history in this particular tournament. I want the Dallas players to remember last year. Remember all the crazy, ridiculous drama and use it as fuel to take care of business.
I feel at a loss for making any sort of prediction on this game. If we go with a young team like our last USOC game, I don’t feel very confident. If we lean more veteran-heavy with a dash of young guns, I like our chances. But we can’t predict how Sporting KC will lineup. As the top two teams in the Western Conference, I can see both teams using this as a preseason/scouting-type game, looking for ways to attack the other later in the season when playoff spots are on the line. So two predictions this time, with a caveat for each: If it’s kids vs. kids, I see a loss for Dallas at 1-2. But if it’s mostly first team vs first team, mark me down for a 2-1 win.