FC Dallas (12-4-14, 50 points, third place in Western Conference)
Real Salt Lake (15-4-11, 56 points, second place in West)
at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas.
FC Dallas lead 11-6-1;
RSL won 2-0 on Oct. 16 at Rio Tinto Stadium;
FCD are 7-0-0 against RSL at PHP.
4 p.m. CT, Fox Soccer Channel
Having played a 4-1-4-1 all year I'm not really buying the swap to a 4-4-2 idea that's being bandied about on MLS' various websites.
There are however some serious questions that need answering about who might play for FCD. Both Daniel Hernandez and Ugo Ihemelu are looking good in training and are expected to be in the team. I don't think there is much question about that. Even Hyndman indicated that was the case.
Right back is, all of a sudden, a problem. Jackson looks to be unavailable due to injury, although he will be evaluated late in the week. Heath Pearce is back in training, but there is some series concern about him playing at right back form his coach. Zach Loyd is getting lots of time with the first team this week. “We’re still contemplating what we’re going to do with Heath," coach Schellas Hyndman said at training on Thursday. "The suspension is something we’re concerned about. One of the things we’re concerned about is when we played Real Salt Lake, they seemed to really overload that side. We’re kind of looking to see what may be some options for us.”
Also clearly of concern is the limited form of Dax McCarty having recently come back from his long injury lay off. Eric Alexander's play over the latter half of the season has put him in serious contention for that spot. Play has been split between the two this week, so keep an eye on that spot for game day. Midseason this was a no-brainer decision, now it's up in the air.
Perhaps the biggest spot of concern is in the net where Kevin Hartman is just returning to game fitness and Dario Sala has picked up a knock. Hyndman says Hartman's ready to go. “He’s been looking very good in practice. That will be something that we’ll have to evaluate. In the game against LA, Dario [Sala] was complaining a little bit about an injury as well. So, right now they’re both questionable and we’ll see who will step up for the game. [Dario] went down and twisted his hip in the LA game. Because we used all three substitutes, he stayed on the field.”
The last question of the day is Brek Shea, although that question may be more from fans more than the coaches. Since Shea's red card Marvin Chavez has been getting the bulk of time, although Shea was strong in his minutes in the season final. Hyndman isn't the kind of guy to swap out players week to week, so I expect Chavez to remain in the team for now.
At this point I would put my money on Hartman in the net, FCD is a goal a game better with Hartman in there. Hartman, along with Hernandez and Ihemelu, are key in the gaffers mind.
“Kevin is just a true professional. He’s been around and has played on a lot of good teams and championship teams. The leadership he brings is he holds players to a standard and his communication with players brings the best out of them. He helps players before they’re in dire decision making situations. With Daniel, he’s been nothing but a great captain and leader. He’s very positive with the players but also very demanding with the players to play their roles and do their job description. We definitely miss the two when they’re not on the field. We have players that will try to do that. These guys are extremely important because they can calm the room. They can also put players’ minds in perspective.” - Schellas Hyndman
It may be a surprise, but it seems very likely that Zach Loyd and Eric Alexander are getting the call as well. FC Dallas did close training on Friday to try and keep a lid in the final adjustments going on.
FC Dallas: OUT: DF Kyle Davies (L ankle sprain); DF Edson Edward (osteitis pubis); QUESTIONABLE: DF Heath Pearce (R hamstring strain); DF Jackson Goncalves (L hamstring strain); PROBABLE: GK Kevin Hartman (R knee MCL sprain)
Real Salt Lake: REAL SALT LAKE -- OUT: MF Nelson Gonz·lez (R foot contusion); DF Chris Schuler (R broken foot); DOUBTFUL: FW Paulo Junior (R groin strain); QUESTIONABLE: MF Will Johnson (L hamstring strain); PROBABLE: DF Jamison Olave (R knee internal derangement); FW ¡lvaro SaborÌo (R knee internal derangement); DF Chris Wingert (L quadriceps strain)