These teams met back on May 6 in Frisco, with Colorado winning 2-0 after Daniel Hernandez and Blas Pérez were BOTH sent off in a three-minute span in the first half, leaving Dallas with just nine men for the rest of the game.
A lot has happened since then, and some Thursday night rumors have been heating up about Toronto midfielder Julian de Guzman potentially being traded to Dallas. But regardless of whether or not FCD has a new center mid, here are three of the key matchups for FC Dallas on Saturday:
- Set Pieces – Big in any game, set pieces loom especially large because of Colorado’s recent troubles defending them and a serious FC Dallas size advantage. Colorado’s tallest regulars are Conor Casey and Jeff Larentowicz at 6-foot-1. After that, Drew Moor at 6-foot-0 and Jaime Castrillon at 5-foot-11 are next tallest. As you can see above, Colorado’s set-piece strategy has been to position Larentowicz and Moor as zonal markers along the 6-yard box, with 4-6 man markers at the top of the penalty area and nobody covering either post. That leaves shorter players, other than Casey, marking opponents’ primary targets, so driven delivery that lands between the zonal markers can put the Rapids under serious pressure.
Dallas, meanwhile, boasts big targets in Matt Hedges (6-4), Brek Shea (6-3), Andrew Jacobson (6-2), James Marcelin (6-2) if he starts, and Hernan Pertúz (6 feet). That’s four players taller than Colorado’s tallest, not counting goalkeepers. What’s more, David Ferreira is back and can provide consistently dangerous service, something Daniel Hernandez has struggled to do. After Seattle scored two goals on poor Rapids marking last week, expect Schellas Hyndman and Dallas to look for set pieces early and often. On the other side, it will be interesting to see if Oscar Pareja sticks with the same marking system or tries something new to fix a recurring problem.
- Defending the Dynamic Duo – Feared as one of the most formidable forward tandems in MLS, Conor Casey and Omar Cummings are a handful for any defense. Colorado is fourth in MLS in scoring at home, averaging two goals per game, which will test a young Dallas back line (Zach Loyd-24 years old, Hernan Pertúz-22,Matt Hedges-22,Carlos Rodriguez-21) that has grown confident after allowing just one goal in the last three games. All three of those games were at home, however; Dallas has the second-worst road defense in MLS, allowing 2.13 goals per road game. Meanwhile, Casey and Cummings have only started together twice this season, but the Rapids had 31 shots in those two games, and expect to see them put a lot of pressure on Kevin Hartman in goal.
- Second Stanza – While Dallas is one of the worst second-half teams in MLS, Colorado is one of the best. The Rapids have scored 18 of their 25 goals in the second half, including nine goals in the final 15 minutes, which trails only the 'Goonies-never-die' Earthquakes in MLS. Dallas, meanwhile, has surrendered 21 goals in the second half, ranking second-worst after only expansion Montreal. Perhaps most surprisingly, Dallas has only trailed at halftime twice this season, yet its record when leading or tied at the half is a frustrating 3-7-7. Dallas is going to have to close the deal to break either its four-game road losing streak or its 14-game all-competitions winless streak.
* A reminder that you can use Twitter to ask questions of myself and analyst Ian Joy during Saturday’s game by using the hashtag #FCDTV- we'll answer some questions prior to the second-half kickoff.
These matchups are very subject to change, because both teams are unpredictable in terms of formation and personnel, especially with Colorado’s different formations (4-3-3, 4-4-2, 4-1-4-1) and Dallas’ continued injuries and now personal absences. Blas Pérez, sadly, lost his father this week, so you have to assume he won’t be in the lineup, which leaves Dallas without a proven forward. Brek Shea has been playing up top, but we know he’s more comfortable as a wide midfielder. Despite his inconsistency, the speedy Fabian Castillo has a favorable matchup against Colorado right back Hunter Freeman, so I think we might see Shea stay up top.