Each week we do a Q&A with our friends around the SBNation Soccer world to get thoughts on their team from those who know them best. Know your enemy.
This Saturday, New York City FC faces one of its biggest tests of the season as it welcomes Western Conference leaders and recent USOC trophy winners FC Dallas. Dallas has been one of the most consistent teams in all of MLS this season, boasting an impressive and balanced offensive attack as well as one of the league's best defenses.
Big D Soccer's Drew Epperley drops by to share his thoughts on all things FC Dallas including the team's offensive attack, what to expect of incoming MLS vet Carlos Ruiz, and how the team is coping with its demanding schedule.
Q: One of the first things you notice looking through the raw FC Dallas statistics is the even distribution of goal scoring among the team. Michael Barrios, Maximiliano Urruti and Tesho Akindele have scored eight, seven and six respectively, and Mauro Diaz and Fabian Castillo have each added five. How has the team been so successful without a typical marksman forward? Do the tactics that Dallas sets up with impact this even split?
D: Tactics do play a big part of it but this team is built on speed out wide and the ability to counter attack with that speed. Fabian Castillo was a big part of that before he left and the club still works hard at possessing the ball through the midfield and baiting defenses into mistakes around their goal to help set up the passing lanes that Mauro Diaz is able to unlock. With Diaz and guys like Mauro Rosales, this team loves the diagonal ball too. They do well at putting players into space and behind defenders.
The other side of this is how well this team does on set pieces too. Diaz, Rosales and Kellyn Acosta split the duties on that front and are all excellent at finding their bigs in the box in Matt Hedges or Walker Zimmerman.
Q: FC Dallas just brought in MLS veteran and 37-year old Guatemalan Carlos Ruiz on a free transfer. Ruiz, who has 88 goals in 182 career MLS appearances, last played for Municipal, the Guatemalan club, where he made 11 appearances and scored 6. What do you expect from Ruiz given his old age? Is it fair to expect him to contribute to a title run, or is this a situation where Dallas is hoping to get anything out of the veteran?
D: In all honesty, I expect Carlos Ruiz to be a guy that comes off the bench late in games to ruffle things up with opposing defenses. If Dallas is able to get a goal or two out of his short run with the club it will be a success in my book. But I don't think fans here are expecting him to come out and score five goals in a match any time soon.
Q: With the USOC (congratulations on the victory) and CONCACAF Champion's League games this year in addition to the weekly MLS fixtures, Dallas is playing many more games this year than it might have in the past. What has the manager done to keep the team fresh and running strong this late into the season? What kind of personnel and tactics do you expect from Dallas this weekend against NYC FC given the USOC final featured Dallas's best starting XI and was only four days ago?
D: I've been looking back at the schedule a lot here lately to see how this team has done in two and three game weeks. Pareja has done an excellent job in rotating the squad where he needs to in the midfield and defense. He also has pretty solid depth across the field, which has opened things open for this club.
I think this weekend we'll still see a pretty strong group. Some folks may easily forget that even they played on Tuesday and they had a game at home last weekend against Colorado, guys like Diaz, Rosales, Michael Barrios, Carlos Gruezo and Maynor Figueroa didn't go the full 90 in both of those games. Same goes for Maxi Urruti who was subbed out in the Open Cup final on Tuesday. I would still imagine we'll see a pretty strong group on the field with only a couple minor changes from what we had on Tuesday night.
Starting XI and Prediction?
Starting XI: Chris Seitz, Atiba Harris, Matt Hedges, Walker Zimmerman, Aubrey David, Carlos Gruezo, Kellyn Acosta, Michael Barrios, Mauro Diaz, Mauro Rosales, Maxi Urruti
Prediction: A wild game between two good attacks ends 2-2.
Many thanks to Drew and Big D Soccer for their input into the match Saturday. Have your own prediction for the match? Let us know in the comments section!