Originally posted on Total MLS  |  Last updated 8/15/12

It’s fair to say that FCD was hard done by the result in Vancouver towards the beginning of the 2012 campaign. A brilliant Camillo strike within the first 15 minutes shell-shocked Dallas -  a team that was bereft of confidence and struggling to find form after starting the season so well, and then struggling so quickly to repeat that form.

Both sides enter tonight’s match in similar circumstances. Both will have key players missing due to international duty. For Vancouver it’s Mattocks, Richards, Telbert, Barbara, and Mitchell. Dallas will face the prospect of Brek Shea’s absence, along with Julian de Guzman’s Canadian NT call-up.

But the Dallas side that will face Vancouver tonight will be relatively unchanged from the team that beat Colorado in a thrilling 3-2 victory last Saturday. Brek was relatively silent most of the match, rifling off a few shots and providing his usual marauding runs up and down the wing.  But again, he was silent.

De Guzman’s presence has been a welcome one of late, as he has proved to be a more fit counterpart to Andrew Jacobson than Daniel Hernandez has been of late. These two changes in personnel shouldn’t matter too much to FCD, who should be used to constant squad changes and absentee players.

Ebbing Tide in Vancouver

By all accounts the Whitecaps were the team to beat in the west within the first ten matches of 2012. Goals came from scattered outlets throughout the midfield, and sometimes even the back line often. They looked like a team with enough versatility in its attack, and a stalwart defense to boot, to pick apart their Western Conference foes with relative ease.

However the Caps suffered a dip in form midseason, and have struggled to find consistency ever since. They have a few bright surprises, however, in the form of Mattocks and the newly acquired Dane Richards. Mattocks was looked over by a handful of MLS sides before being picked up by Vancouver in the preseason, and is now the team’s leading goalscorer. Richards has already netted twice in his short stay.

That being said, the Caps haven’t even unleashed Kenny Miller upon the MLS quite yet. The former Cardiff City forward has bided his time patiently since arriving in Canada. Tonight has been pegged as an ideal opportunity for a start against fledgling Dallas and an absent Mattocks.

Holes in the Canadian Shield

Ideally, Canada’s best team will aim to repeat what they did to Dallas early in 2012: go up early and keep a grip on possession. Neither team is that remarkable or different than the other inside the penalty area, or the goalmouth for that matter. Vancouver has even less goals scored than FCD this season (28). The difference really has been in defense.

Dallas’ lack of offensive ability in the beginning of the season forced inordinate pressure on the back line. The result was a series of leads dropped, ties gained, games lost, and frustration mounting. Vancouver, while not exactly setting the world alight with the offensive firepower it has, has kept a modest tally of goals but been much better on defense. Jay DeMerit, Lee, Bonjour, and Rochat have managed to keep nine clean sheets this season.

To put it kindly: there aren’t many holes in Vancouver’s defense.  They have only lost one game at home this season, winning seven others and tying four more, and sporting a +7 goal differential. But the Caps do concede a corner or two, and have been inexplicably caught on the cross more times than you’d think they would, especially with the likes of Jay DeMerit on the back line.

Storming the Conference

The big frame of Ruben Luna – the same that acquitted himself well against Colorado – will have to provide problems for Demerit and his back line. His holdup play was not otherworldly, but it was effective. If there is any striker that has experience in Hyndman’s and FCD’s system it’s certainly Luna. He grew into his target role in the same formation and style of play encouraged at academy level prior to his first team duties. Prior to the Colorado match his performances were pretty unremarkable, but it’s fair to say that he’s earned at least another start at this point.

Benitez, Ferreira, and Castillo will all need to up their game tonight. Ferreria may come in with a chip on his shoulder as well: after all, it was against Vancouver sixteen months ago that he broke his foot. But given the “Columbian Exchange” that occurs when Ferreira and Castillo are synced well on the pitch, Dallas has every chance of taking three points. DF10 loves to glance immediately in Castillo’s direction simply because the elder Columbian knows he can put the ball wherever the younger finds himself behind a back line. Expect the lineup, with the absences of Brek and de Guzman, to follow as such: Hartman, Loyd-John-Hedges-Benitez, Castillo-Jacobson-Hernandez-Ferreira-Leyva, Luna.

Tonight’s starting XI for FCD will have to recognize the situation: 9 games left, 26 points earned, every match against Western Conference opponents, and only two of those nine games are against teams that sit below FCD currently in the standings (both against Chivas USA). It’s actually a pretty simple situation: start beating the people above and watch the team rise. Winning against Colorado was the perfect sending off to this three game road trip. Six points would be ideal, if not overly optimistic; in these same fixtures earlier in the season Dallas only managed to secure a single point.

At least Vancouver is vulnerable, and without key starters tonight. The absences of Koffie (suspended), Mattocks, and Dane Richards will particularly sting for the Caps. The downside is that none of those absences are defensive ones. Dallas has played good soccer in Vancouver; they already did their first visit.  Now more than ever the team will have to improve upon previous performances, like the win in Colorado, to defeat a more difficult opponent that is likewise bent on making the playoffs.

(image courtesy of fcdallas.com)

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