Now that the Brimstone Cup resides in Chicago for the first time in over a decade, FC Dallas sets its sights on ending an eight-game winless streak at a place it has never won before, Rio Tinto Stadium, on Saturday night against Real Salt Lake. Here are some points to ponder heading into this game:
A more level field? -- Salt Lake will be without Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando for this one as both starters are with the U.S. national team. But it’s not like FCD hasn’t faced RSL before without Beckerman. Yordany Alvarez will spell Beckerman, the man Dallas fans love to hate, in the central midfield while Kyle Reynish will be between the posts. However, Salt Lake was without both top striker Fabian Espindola and former MLS Defender of the Year Jamison Olave the last time these clubs played to a 1-1 draw in Frisco back in April. Still, not having Beckerman and Rimando is definitely big for FCD. In other RSL-related injury news, it looks like either defender Chris Wingert or midfielder Javier Morales won’t play. Morales will most likely be the one to return, leaving Jason Kreis’ back line without the services of Wingert.
Rio Tinto demons -- Sure, the sample size is a small one, but in regular-season matches, FC Dallas has not fared well at all at Rio Tinto Stadium since its opening, going 0-4-1 and scoring a grand total of three goals in those five matches. Of course, there is one draw among those five results and FCD did register another draw in Sandy during the 2010 playoffs, so this is far from an impossible task. But RSL’s home field advantage is one of the best in MLS and against a Dallas side that has struggled away from home to put it mildly this year means this is one streak that most likely lives on after this weekend.
Study in contrasts -- The biggest contrast in this game might be in the amount of rest each club has had. RSL hasn’t played in two weeks, last hitting the pitch on May 12 for a 1-0 win at Seattle. Since then, Dallas has already played three times and will add a fourth match in two weeks in Saturday’s tilt at Rio Tinto. Even without the services of Beckerman, RSL will be a much more crisp, well-oiled machine compared to a highly fatigued FCD side that comes into this game fresh off an emotional yet controversial 2-1 loss at Chicago on Wednesday, the first time the club had lost at Toyota Park. So the big question is how much does Dallas have left?
Light at the end -- The good news for FCD is that after Saturday’s match in the Beehive State, they won’t play again for two weeks as they get a two-week break of their own. That being said, one has to wonder what the mentality would be heading into this game. Does FCD look to end their winless streak and head into their layoff on a hugely positive note, possibly using a draw or win at RSL as a springboard to the rest of the year? Or do they see getting through the Salt Lake game as a mere necessity, a way to finally get some rest and even if their winless streak does indeed hit nine games, just get out of RSL and get some rest? Some might think the second question is more than a bit off base but it’s human nature when things aren’t going bad, especially in a team setting, that at least some members of the roster are going to see the glass half empty, just saying.
Shea’s last break -- Another good thing about Saturday’s match from a Dallas standpoint is that it will be the final game of Brek Shea’s three-game suspension. Then again, Shea wasn’t exactly at the top of his game when he was suspended. Maybe part of that was the turf toe he was battling and then again, maybe it was nothing more than a dip in form. But getting him back for the Houston game will be huge, especially since FCD has been missing something on the flanks lately. Bryan Leyva played well against Philadelphia but displayed some serious inconsistency in a forgettable performance at Chicago. Fabian Castillo didn’t even travel to the Windy City and it’s doubtful he plays on Saturday, which likely means Carlos Rodriguez or Scott Sealy gets the call on the flank likely alongside Leyva. No matter who starts at the two flank midfield spots on Saturday at Rio Tinto, it will illustrate one thing, how crucial Shea is to any success FCD is to have or not have in 2012.