After a busy week capped off by an incredible comeback, FC Dallas comes home to host in-state rivals Houston Dynamo in the Texas Derby to fight to keep El Capitán and their playoff hopes alive.

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Match Information

Date: Sunday, August 25th

Time: 7:00 PM CST

Location: Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas

How to Watch: Fox Sports 1

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This will be the second and final matchup between Dallas and Houston and will determine who will be in possession of El Capitán for next season. On May 4th, Houston hosted Dallas and came away as 2-1 winners in controversial fashion, with a Santiago Mosquera 90th minute equalizer being ruled out for a questionable foul call on Reto Ziegler. Both sides are coming off of a comeback draw, with FC Dallas scoring 3 goals in 30 minutes to comeback against Montreal and Houston scoring twice in the second half to rescue a home point against Colorado.

Houston come into the game in 10th in the Western Conference, 6 points behind 8th place Dallas and the playoff line. Houston have a record of 9-4-13 and have been in a poor run of form following the best start in the franchise’s history, leading to manager Wilmer Cabrera being fired on August 13th and being replaced with interim coach Davy Arnaud. Dallas enter the game with a record of 10-7-10, good enough for 8th place in the Western Conference, missing out on the playoff picture on a tiebreaker with Portland. This will be Luchi Gonzalez’s first opportunity to retain El Capitán since he became manager prior to this season.

Both teams will view this game as an absolute must-win. In addition to being an in-state derby, Houston needs a win to retain any hope of making the playoffs and Dallas will view this as a huge opportunity to pick up some much needed points to keep touch with the rest of the playoff contenders.

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Projected Lineups

FC Dallas

Dallas Lineup vs Houston

A largely unchanged lineup for Dallas this week with the same 11 that started the second half against Montreal starting the Texas Derby. After his second half performance, Zdenek Ondrasek earns his second start of the season, shifting Domonique Badji to the left wing in place of the still injured Santiago Mosquera. After a week’s rest, the rest of the team remains unchanged.

Houston Dynamo

Houston lineup vs Dallas

Houston are tough to predict with an interim coach in only his second game. This is an unchanged lineup from the starters against Colorado. Houston will certainly look to play on the counter, potential other options are Christian Ramirez playing on the wing or as a forward and Juan Cabezas spelling Boniek or Vera in defensive midfield. Manotas, Martinez and Elis are basically written in ink on the team sheet and the backline is Houston’s first choice option, but don’t be surprised to see DaMarcus Beasley get a start (if healthy) in such a massive game.

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Keys to the Match

Start Fast and Strong

Throughout the 3 games in a week against Minnesota, Los Angeles and Montreal, Dallas struggled at the start of matches. Even in the 5-3 thriller against Minnesota, Dallas conceded an early goal and took time to grow into the game and ultimately come out victorious. The entirety of the LA Galaxy game was slow but Dallas also failed to make an impression in the early stages of that match and of course, Dallas was down 2-0 at halftime against Montreal before their inspiring comeback to earn a point in the second half.

Dallas can’t afford to start so slowly against Houston. Houston are playing for their playoff lives and to take home El Capitán and will certainly try to come back and hit Dallas hard early in the game. Dallas must match their intensity and start strongly against Houston to avoid having to fight back later in the game. Start fast and strong and stay that way.

Play More Directly

Luchi Gonzalez has shied away from using the word “direct” to describe Dallas’ play at any point this season but it is clear from the second half against Montreal that Dallas is far more dangerous going forward when they play more decisively and aggressively in the final third as opposed to trying to find the perfect pass and perfect opportunity and attempting to break down a bunkered defense. So many teams this season have found success against FCD by sitting in a deep block and allowing Los Toros to possess the ball, waiting for the ball to turn over and hitting them on the counter. Houston will almost certainly look to do this away from home with the likes of Manotas and Elis going forward. Dallas will need to adjust their typical style slightly and put pressure on Houston’s inconsistent and shaky backline. Balls over the top to Barrios and Badji should be a regular sight and Ondrasek will need to work to bring the Dallas midfield forward and into attacking areas. Endlessly passing the ball around the top of the box will likely not be the best way to deal with the Dynamo.

Eliminate Unforced Errors

Two of the three goals conceded against Montreal came from unforced errors by Dallas players, the first a highly uncharacteristic swing and miss on a clearance attempt from Matt Hedges and the second coming from an incredibly careless pass from Jesus Ferreira, both mistakes allowing Lassi Lappalainen easy one-on-one situations with Jesse Gonzalez. Dallas can’t afford to have these kinds of mistakes against Houston. Giving the likes of Manotas and Elis easy opportunities is a recipe for disaster. The week in between games should help with this tremendously, affording players rest and time to refocus and reorganize in training. Hedges and Ferreira are certainly well aware of the magnitude of their mistakes against Montreal and it would be surprising to see any similar errors from the team against Houston.

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How are you feeling going into the Texas Derby? Will Dallas be able to win the game and retain El Capitán? Should Zdenek Ondrasek get his opportunity to start following his performance last weekend? How should Luchi Gonzalez approach this game tactically? Sound off in the comments below!

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Featured Image: Matthew Emmons-USA Today Sports
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