Attacking options limited for FC Dallas

FC Dallas coach Colin Clarke isn't quite sure how he's going to mount a semblance of a dangerous attack for next week's home fixtures against Columbus, then Colorado. He's only certain there won't be any new player transactions, such as elevating himself to player/coach.

"No, no. Too old, man," said the 41-year-old Clarke, who scored 13 goals in 38 appearances with Northern Ireland and 146 goals in 361 club matches in England. "We'll be fine. We'll be fine."

FC Dallas, playing the Los Angeles Galaxy for the second time in four days without its premier attacking talent, was again starved for offensive creativity, cohesion and clear-cut chances in a 2-1 defeat Saturday night at The Home Depot Center.

The Hoops (43 points) -- 0-7 against the Galaxy at The Home Depot Center, and 1-11-2 in L.A. since 1997 -- fell into third place in the Western Conference behind L.A. (45 points), but have two matches in hand on the Galaxy.

However, FC Dallas know they will struggle to find the confidence to create scoring opportunities in going forward. FCD will be without strikers Eddie Johnson (toe stress fracture), Carlos Ruiz (Guatemala national team duty) and Roberto Mina, who leaves Sunday to join Ecuador for World Cup qualifying.

Right winger Ronnie O'Brien, who took Marcelo Saragosa's knee in his lower back in Wednesday's U.S. Open Cup Final against L.A., is considered doubtful for now.

O'Brien, who has six goals to go along with 10 assists that ties him for second-best in MLS, said the swelling in his back has gone down but "it's still very tender. One knock there and it could be back again. I'm planning on (playing Wednesday). We need some wins."

As in the Open Cup Final at midweek, Clarke's 4-5-1 formation did not produce much cause for Galaxy concern. Few passing combinations were executed in the final third and most buildup going forward broke down into individual play.

Clarke is hopeful O'Brien can play Wednesday and expects Ruiz (strained hamstring) to play in the regular season finale at home against Kansas City Oct. 15. As for Johnson, Clarke said, "come playoff time, maybe he'll get some minutes. We're hopeful."

Herculez Gomez scored clinically in the 12th minute and in first half stoppage time to trump Aaron Pitchkolan's 42nd-minute laser for FC Dallas, reduced to 10 men with defender Greg Vanney's sending off in the 50th minute for tripping Joseph Ngwenya from behind as the last defender.

"He took a good first and second touch. I tried to get out of the way. I bumped him with my arm a little bit, but no way was it enough to make him fall," said Vanney. "I see they're not very good on one-on-ones (the Galaxy did not convert on three breakaways on goal in the last three minutes), so probably the smartest thing was for him to go down."

Vanney also admitted that the defense feels tremendous pressure to perform to a flawless level with scarce offensive options -- tough, considering Vanney and central defense partner Clarence Goodson will both be suspended. Vanney's red card came after Goodson's 13th-minute caution for dissent that put Goodson over the caution point limit.

"It'll be interesting, the next game," Vanney said. "It's frustrating. It's not just injuries to our attacking guys, it's suspensions to our guys in midfield (Carey Talley and Simo Valakari served match suspensions Saturday). You defend that little bit less.

"Take away that last 30 minutes, that was a little bit false, but they're not really breaking us down. We're making mistakes. Their second goal was a little bit silly. We had a short free kick. They like to have a wide-open game. We need to be more disciplined and be a little more compact in defense."

Following Pitchkolan's goal, the Hoops would have taken a stalemate heading into the locker room, but Gomez's workrate would not allow for it. Dallas played a free kick as a back pass in their own half to last-man defender David Wagenfuhr.

Gomez ran at Wagenfuhr and blocked his high pass forward with a shoulder. The ball deflected behind Wagenfuhr as Gomez raced past, headed down towards the top of the area and cheekily chipped Garlick a yard inside the area for the match-winner.

"We created our own problem there when there are probably other options," Clarke said. "We've given up a bad goal. We definitely deserved to get something out of that game."

The Galaxy win increases the chances of these two teams meeting in the MLS playoff quarterfinals, though the Hoops insist two losses in four days to L.A. won't play with their heads.

"We sit and talk with the young guys," Vanney said. "Obviously, they're a team that struggles on the road but they're pretty good at home."

Added Clarke: "Both games have been pretty spirited. We've been here and they've beat us twice and they've been to our place twice and we've beaten them."

Damian Secore is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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