FC Dallas (2-4-4, 11th in West) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (2-6-2, 13th in West)
Location: Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas
Data and Time: Sunday, July 4, 5:30 p.m. PT
Watching: TSN 1/4 (over-the-air), ESPN+ (streaming), AM730 (radio)
FC Dallas are a team who have had a rocky year but are coming off a decent result and are hoping to use it as a chance to rocket up the table ... sound familiar?
To be sure, Dallas has not been as dire as Vancouver. Their shots per game (and shots on target per game) are about in the middle of the pack leaguewide. Their dribbles-per-game is even higher and suggests a group of technically talented players who have not had a whole lot of luck putting the ball in the back of the net (their expected goals are also slightly higher than their goal output).
It seems like FC Dallas very effectively used some direct play to best New England Revolution last time out, with the 2-1 victory their first since May 1. Ricardo Pepi is certainly the man in form at the moment, bagging a brace in that game as the youngster seeks to make a claim for being the next Dallas academy prospect to make a European move.
Luchi Gonzalez has toyed with formation a lot this year but seemed to settle on a 4-4-2 against New England which both encouraged that direct play and made use of both Pepi and fellow youngster Jesus Ferreira. Jader Obrian has underwhelmed a bit in his first MLS season but Gonzalez appears to favor the Colombian despite his relative dearth of goals (two thus far). It is worth noting the decent form of Justin Che, who has returned from a loan with Bayern Munich, and has played at both right midfield and right back.
Defensively, this is a team which has struggled, keeping only one clean sheet all season. Gonzalez has oscillated with his preferred center backs (as well as the number of CBs) and doesn’t seem like he has really hit on something he likes there. Ryan Hollingshead has been generally good but has also switched to the midfield in recent games, leaving some open questions about the entire backline.
Basically, this is a team with a lot of unknowns, given the churn (in part due to injuries) so far this season. The Caps seem like they’ll have a chance to take some shots at whomever lines up at fullback and if Cristian Dajome and Deibar Caicedo continue their run of form from last game, they could ask a lot of questions. Similarly, Ricardo Pepi is the kind of player who has given the Caps a lot of fits this season and I don’t like the idea of Facundo Quignon carving up the Vancouver defense with through balls at will. Should be an interesting tug of war.
This opens up a run of matches the Caps have to get something out of if they want to make the playoffs. The good news is there were certainly some positives to take from their 2-2 result with Seattle.
The oft-maligned 4-3-3 has its moments, particularly when Caio Alexandre and Michael Baldisimo showed up. The Caps will be looking to duplicate the 20 minute spell in the middle of the game where these two were excellent in their passing and where both Dajome and Caicedo were up to the task of receiving those balls. If Caicedo can build on his good work with Cristian Gutierrez and continue to dominate the left hand side of the park, that would be great.
For all their defensive posturing in the latter stages of the match, the Caps actually outdid the Sounders in big chances created. FC Dallas seems, on the surface, to be a team hospitable to creating some good looks — the key will be finishing them off.
If form is anything to go off of, expect Marc dos Santos to look to Janio Bikel at right back again after a decent performance. It will be interesting, meanwhile, to see if MDS’ banishment of Ranko Veselinovic continues given Andy Rose’s poor run of form as of late.
Out: Bruno Gaspar (left ankle sprain)
Out: Tossaint Ricketts (Achilles tendinopathy)
Questionable: Michael Baldisimo (right ankle sprain)
Caleb: 2-1 Dallas
Andrew: 2-2 draw
Ian: 2-1 Vancouver
Sam: 1-0 Dallas