Hoops wary of returning Revolution

FC Dallas hit the road for the first time in a month on Wednesday when they travel to face the New England Revolution on Wednesday night at Gillette Stadium. The Hoops have won two in a row and are fresh off a 1-0 triumph against Colorado on Saturday night at Pizza Hut Park.

New England's fortunes are going in the other direction as its last win came on May 13 when they beat Chivas USA 3-1. On Saturday, the Revs traveled to Real Salt Lake and left with a point courtesy of a 0-0 tie.

In fact, the Revs have had draws in five of their last six games, keeping them in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference. However, they have clearly been lacking something offensively as only once since their last win have they scored multiple goals.

Despite his next foe's recent struggles, FCD head coach Colin Clarke knows facing the Revs on their home field is always a tough proposition.

"It's a tough place to play," he said. "We went there last year and it was the start of a bad run for us. It's a tough place to go but one where I feel that we can go and get a good result."

Clarke said he thinks New England deserves credit for battling to get at least one point with ties in each of their last four games even while their offense has continued to struggle.

"It's down to their character," he said. "They're hanging in there and not getting beat. They're a hard team to play against. It's going to be a tough game but it's definitely one that we're looking forward to."

The teams first played on May 20 in Frisco and FCD scored a league-record four goals in the first 19 minutes of the game, sending the Revs home with a 4-0 defeat. The win ended a four-game winning streak by New England against the Hoops.

"Us beating them 4-0 the last time we played them means nothing," said FCD midfielder Mark Wilson. "They've got a few players back from the World Cup and it's going to be a tough game."

Winning in New England is something that FCD hasn't done since July 16, 2003. If the Hoops can claim three points on Wednesday, not only will it mark the first time they have swept the season series against the Revs since 2000, but it will also extend their winning streak to three games, a season high, and will also be their second consecutive road victory.

It won't be easy since the Revs should get midfielder Clint Dempsey back from the World Cup and Pat Noonan is expected to return from injury.

"I'm sure it will be good for them to get Noonan back," said defender Bobby Rhine. "He's been injured for a little bit. Getting Clint back from the World Cup, where he looked pretty sharp, is also big for them. They've had some injury issues and to have players of that quality coming back is always good for a team."

As always, the New England offense is led by Taylor Twellman, who is tied for the team lead in goals with four. He hasn't scored in more than two weeks, with his last goal coming on June 11 against Chicago, but Clarke knows it is only a matter of time before the reigning MLS MVP starts scoring goals again.

"He's a goal scorer and it's going to happen for him soon," Clarke said. "Just like Carlos (Ruiz) earlier in the year when he wasn't scoring goals, it's going to happen for him. I just hope it's not on Wednesday."

For the most part, the Hoops are healthy. Ramon Nunez, who started at left midfield against the Rapids after missing the previous game due to injury, suffered a strained right quadriceps muscle in the second half and will be out for both of the Hoops games this week. He has two goals and two assists in his nine starts this year.

But with a squad as deep as FCD has, there are plenty of options to replace him. Arturo Alvarez started in Nunez's place in a 2-1 win against Chivas USA on May 11 and is one possibility.

Another is Wilson, who started five games at the beginning of the season and netted the game-winner against Real Salt Lake in Week 2. He has since become one of the Hoops' top options off the bench and his strong showings in training and as a substitute could pay off in a return to the starting 11 this week.

David Wagenfuhr is yet another option. He performed well in his first-ever appearance as a midfielder, coming in for Nunez against Colorado on Saturday and nearly scored late in the game. His 22 previous appearances for the Hoops had all been at left back but against the Rapids, he showed his versatility with solid play off the bench.

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