Can FC Dallas prove they're among MLS elite vs. Western Conference heavyweights Real Salt Lake?
FRISCO, Texas – In mid-April, FC Dallas were at 5-1-1 and atop of the league table. A run of injuries and red cards led to a significant tumble, and Dallas spent the next two-and-a-half months regaining their place in the top pack of the Western Conference.
On Friday, they hope to prove they once again belong at the top of that heap.
FC Dallas will host Real Salt Lake on Friday night (9 pm ET, NBC) in a match of two of the top three teams in the West. The Hoops not only have a golden chance to make a statement at Toyota Stadium, but also to close the three-point gap that currently separates them from RSL and the Seattle Sounders.
“We want to win it and show everybody that we’re one of the top teams,” said team captain Matt Hedges. “They are [tied for] first place in the league right now so you’re always going to compare yourself to that first place team in the league. If we can get three points, we can be right there. It’s definitely a barometer because they have been a top team in the league over the last few years.”
After an eight-game winless streak that started in late April and continued through the rest of May, Dallas embarked on a nine-game unbeaten streak in league play. The club lost twice in that span, but one was in a friendly to English Premier League side Aston Villa and the other was a penalty-shootout defeat to the Philadelphia Union in the semifinals of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
Real Salt Lake, on the other hand, come into the match tied with the Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City for the most points in the league. RSL have overcome their own summer swoon that was mostly due to the absences of key players for World Cup duty.
Although they have been one of the best teams in the league over the past five years, RSL have struggled to win in Frisco. In 12 trips to Texas, they've only taken three points once to go along with two ties.
“We’re going to play hard for sure, and Salt Lake has done good so far,” said FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja. “But at the same time, I think we have all the tools to make things happen on Friday. We respect the teams, and with Salt Lake it is no different, but we have the tools to get the three points at home.”
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Dallas certainly have reason to be confident after smashing their way through what was one of the stingiest defenses in MLS last week. They put five goals past Jon Busch and the San Jose Earthquakes and earned the shutout to top it off.
“You look to San Jose’s game, right before the game, we said to ourselves this is a good test to know where we are,” Pareja said. “And then after that victory, we’re thinking this Friday will give us something. Every game will give you a different challenge, and a different measurement.
“This time, we are going to say it’s a team that has done a very good job of getting results, and for sure we will get a lot of information after the game.”