FC Dallas is playing Portland Timbers on Sunday in the first round of the 2020 MLS Playoffs in Providence Park.
With this being a one-match round, FC Dallas will have to beat Portland away from home, which will be a tall order.
Let’s look at the most important player matchups that will occur on the field.
Thiago Santos vs Diego Valeri
Thiago Santos has been a pretty good addition to the club’s starting eleven. When he plays at his highest level, he is up there with the most defensive midfielders in the league. His ability to cover the field and win one-v-ones is a quality that FC Dallas missed in the latter half of 2019 when Carlos Gruezo when to Germany. However, this season has taken its toll on Santos, as it has on the rest of the squad. Santos has often played well when given a break midweek, but there have matches sprinkled throughout the season where he looks tired and lethargic.
It’s assumed that Santos will play this weekend, as it has been two weeks since the team’s last match. Santos will have to play at his highest level and intensity in order to cover Diego Valeri. Over the course of the season, Portland has had to endure a ton of injuries to their best players, including the other two Designated Players, Sebastian Blanco and Jaroslaw Niezgoda. Diego Valeri has, by default, become the lynchpin for this Timbers squad. In order to neutralize the entire offense, Santos will have to cover, mark, and track Valeri in order to get him out of the picture when it comes to the Timber’s attacking presence on the field.
Bryan Reynolds vs Yimmi Chara
Every year, FC Dallas has a homegrown that breaks through to the starting eleven. In 2018, it was Reggie Cannon. In 2019, it was a combination of Edwin Cerrillo and Brandon Servania. This year, it has been Bryan Reynolds, the former winger who has been molded by Luchi into the best-attacking fullback in the league (yes, I said it).
The kid is young, and still has a ton of potential. His defensive capabilities, while promising, are still not at the level of other wingbacks in the league. That’s where Yimmi Chara enters the conversation. The younger Chara brother has had a decent season when looking at the stats, but his contribution to the Timbers has been more than his 4 goals and three assists. Yimmi’s ability to stretch the defense with his speed is almost reflective of Michael Barrios for FC Dallas, with the exception of the goals that Yimmi has scored this season.
Reynolds has been known to go forward and not trackback, which has often led to chances for the opposition. It will be interesting to see if Reynolds can handle the Colombian International.
Franco Jara vs Mabiala and Zuparic
Franco Jara, amidst the fan backlash of his style of play, has been pretty good for FC Dallas. HIs 7 goals this season are higher than anyone else in the squad, and his goals per game ratio had him on track to match Maxi Urruti’s goal scoring record back in 2017, which was the last time any FC Dallas player scored more than 10 goals in a season.
However, the eye test doesn’t lie. Jara has missed as many sitters as the goals that he has scored this season. In a match like this, where he’s facing off against two of the strongest center backs in the league, FC Dallas needs their highest-paid player to step it up and take his chances when they come.
FC Dallas will face off against the Portland Timbers in Providence Park on Sunday, November 22nd, at 9 pm.
Featured Image: BigDSoccer.com