After taking a point against the Eastern Conference leaders, FC Dallas travels to the Mile High City to take on the resurgent Rapids and possibly book themselves a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Date: Sunday, September 29th
Time: 6:30 PM CST
Location: Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, Colorado
How to Watch: TXA21 (DFW), ESPN+ (outside DFW)
This is the second and final match-up between Colorado and Dallas this season, following Dallas’ 2-1 victory in Frisco back on March 23rd. Dallas has struggled playing in Colorado in the recent years; the last time FCD took all 3 points in Commerce City was back in October 2014. In both of the past two seasons, Dallas has dropped important points away to Colorado late in the season, with a 1-1 draw in 2017 contributing to Dallas’ second half of the season collapse and a 2-1 defeat in 2018 coming just before the playoff defeat to the Portland Timbers.
Colorado is still barely clinging on to hopes for the playoffs, an incredible feat considering this is a team that started the season 0-9-2 under former manager Anthony Hudson. Following Hudson’s firing, the Rapids have been on a 60 point pace. Suffice to say, the Rapids league position and general statistics are a bit misleading due to their terrible start. Colorado currently sits in 9th place in the Western Conference with 39 points from an 11-6-15 record. They must win out and hope other results go their way to fulfill their slight chance of making the playoffs. Their 60 goals allowed is the most in the Western Conference but their 54 goals scored is good enough for second in the conference, behind only Supporters’ Shield winning LAFC. This match-up against Dallas is basically Colorado’s entire season at this point.
Dallas enters the weekend sitting in the 7th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with 45 points from a 12-9-11 record. Dallas was done a huge favor in mid-week by New England, who mounted a controversial late comeback to draw 2-2 against Portland, and Philadelphia, who overcame a 1-0 second half deficit to win 2-1. Those results not only kept Dallas in the playoff positions but also meant that they could guarantee a spot in the playoffs with at least 4 points from their last two games. There are also scenarios where just 3 or even a single point could get them in because Portland and San Jose play each other on Decision Day. All that being said, the points have to be earned and FCD must take care of their own business in these final two games to avoid the disappointment of missing out on the playoffs for the second time in three seasons.
This lineup is mostly unchanged from Colorado’s last time out, a 3-2 comeback win away to Sporting Kansas City. New manager Robin Fraser seems to prefer a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 look for his team with former FC Dallas homegrown midfielder Kellyn Acosta serving as an anchor in midfield. He will likely partner with Jack Price in front of a back line that has seen vast improvement as the season has gone on after acquiring Lalas Abubakar on loan from Columbus. Homegrown midfielder Cole Bassett is always a candidate to get a start, he scored his debut goal in this fixture last season. Former Liverpool midfielder/defender Danny Wilson could get a start in midfield and Nicolas Mezquida and rookie Andre Shinyashiki are additional options in the attacking positions. The singular change is long time USMNT goalkeeper Tim Howard starting in place of Clint Irwin in goal. Howard is retiring after the season and will likely make one last start in front of Rapids fans for his send off.
A couple of changes from the group that started the 1-1 draw against NYCFC. Paxton Pomykal, who played the majority of the NYCFC game, replaces Brandon Servania in the starting lineup after Servania suffered a concussion following a head to head collision with Anton Tinnerholm. After two poor performances against Chicago and Seattle, Jesus Ferreira put in an excellent performance against NYCFC and keeps his spot as the “free 8” in midfield. After getting praise for his second-half performance as a substitute, Santiago Mosquera returns to the starting lineup at the left wing spot, dropping Dominique Badji to the bench after some disappointing performances.
Keys to the Match
Limit Set Piece Opportunities
Colorado have been absolutely deadly on set pieces this season. Of course, the towering figure of veteran striker Kei Kamara will strike fear into the hearts of any MLS center back unlucky enough to have to mark him on a corner or free-kick but the real core of Colorado’s success on set pieces is English midfielder Jack Price. This very in-depth (and very great) article from Alex Bartiromo of American Soccer Analysis explains how effective Price has been on set pieces and how valuable he has been to the Rapids. Price is now the MLS record holder for most set-piece assists in a single season, passing David Beckham in the process. Dallas almost fell victim to a great set-piece delivery and a Kei Kamara leaping header in the previous match-up, with Kamara’s header smacking off the crossbar in the second half, and they’ll need to do whatever they can to avoid giving Price an opportunity to stand over a dead ball and send a delivery into the box.
Start at 100%
This key has been recurring in these match previews for weeks because it has been an ongoing, inconsistent issue for Dallas. Dallas obviously started disastrously in the 4-0 loss to Chicago, going down 1-0 in the first 10 minutes and then 2-0 within 20. They greatly rectified this against Seattle, coming out with intensity and desire from the start and imposing themselves early on in the game. This reverted back home against NYCFC as Dallas lazily defended NYC’s opening possession and allowed Anton Tinnerholm acres of space to pick out Valentin Castellanos with a cross and put NYC up 1-0 within the first minute. Dallas valiantly fought their way back into the match and eventually equalized but gifting the other team an early goal can not happen again in Colorado. Dallas has to start at 100%, not ramp up to it part of the way through the first half.
Win the Midfield
Dallas has struggled to possess the ball and dominate the midfield away from home this season. At home, Dallas looks very comfortable in possession and confidently moves the ball around and presses high up to win it back. Away from home, turnovers rear their ugly head and the team in general looks more hesitant all over the pitch, but especially in midfield. This can’t happen in Colorado.
The Dallas midfield and Bryan Acosta, in particular, has to stamp their mark on the match from the start and work to control the flow and pace of the game. Colorado has pacy, direct wingers in the form of Jonathan Lewis and Sam Nicholson and are a scary team to deal with on the counter. By dominating the midfield, Dallas can choke out these counters before they get going and limit Colorado’s opportunities going forward.
Will Dallas take a rare 3 points in Colorado and take a massive step towards booking their spot in the 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs? Who will make the starting 11 in this massive match-up in the Mile High City? Sound off in the comments below!
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