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Three questions for FC Dallas ahead of the 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs

Dallas heads into the playoffs with hopes of revenge against Portland in mind.

MLS: Portland Timbers at FC Dallas Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The playoffs begin this weekend for FC Dallas as they head west for the first time this year to battle the Portland Timbers.

A road to a MLS Cup will likely all take place away from Frisco, which leads to some big questions ahead of the single elimination tournament. Here are three big questions I have for FC Dallas, as they look to make a dream run to a MLS Cup.

Which road side will show up in Portland?

One thing that has been pretty consistent this year, is just how inconsistent FC Dallas has been away from home this year. There has been some good results like in Sporting Kansas City and Nashville, and then some down-right poor showings also in Houston and Atlanta.

As we discussed previously, Portland is no slouch at home, even if their opponents weren’t great this year. Dallas has had trouble over the years in Portland as well with just one win in ten tries.

Dallas will need to find that group that found results in difficult environments this year like Kansas City and Nashville. This may come down to the veterans on the squad stepping up in the defense, or finding a bit of luck in the attack.

Will the attack find some life?

This kind of goes back with the first item. Away from home, Dallas has struggled to find their attacking groove. In 2020, the club scored just seven goals away from home, as opposed to the 21 that they found in Frisco. That is a pretty massive difference.

I think it is fair to say that the attack hasn’t been stellar in 2020. Sure, Franco Jara has looked good at times (he does have a few goals away from home, which helps). Andres Ricaurte has been solid in stretches. But outside of that, its been super hit or miss and those numbers away from home are a good example of it.

But what has worked recently has been Jesus Ferreira and Ricaurte in the midfield, sitting above someone like Thiago Santos or even a Tanner Tessmann. Those two, along with whomever on the wings being Michael Barrios, Fafa Picault, Santiago Mosquera, Ryan Hollingshead, or even someone down in the depth charts like a Dante Sealy or Ema Twumasi. I do think that finding the best wing combo to go with Ferreira and Ricaurte seems to be the key as it could determine what kind of service Jara or Ricardo Pepi have in the penalty box.

If everyone is healthy (outside of guys like Paxton Pomykal or Bryan Acosta), you gotta think Luchi Gonzalez will want to stack the deck as much as he can, and even if that means pushing Hollingshead up the field to allow having John Nelson to earn another start (something I feel like he’s earned here).

Speed could also be a factor in this one as well against the Timbers. Having both Barrios and Picault may be worth having on the wings to stretch out their defense.

Does the timing work out well enough for FC Dallas?

The link above really went into how Dallas should not be too worried about this Timbers’ squad as they have injuries to key players and international absences that will play a factor.

Normally, I would think the home field advantage comes in a big way for a team like Portland but without fans, that doesn’t feel the case to me here. Sure, Dallas has the travel and playing on turf to deal with but that seems like small potatoes here without a packed house.

The playoffs do usually come down to a bit of luck too. A bounce that goes the right way. A call that either doesn’t get overlooked gets called for you or one that doesn’t get called against you. And throw in 2020 in general, and all bets should be off here.

Sometimes you just need some things to go your way in the playoffs and this feels like a chance that Dallas could capitalize on if they play their cards right.