Chivas USA's 2-0 loss to Real Salt Lake at midweek can be broken down into two distinct halves.
In the first half, the Red-and-White's defense broke down twice, leading to a pair of RSL goals. But in the second half, Chivas USA was more effective offensively and played with more poise and composure than it had prior.
It's the latter that gives Chivas USA hope for Sunday.
"I think that in the second half we came out with a lot of determination, a lot of energy, created some chances," coach Thomas Rongen said. "We need to start our game against Dallas the way we finished in Salt Lake."
"Where they hurt us is their threesome up top. They're just a handful," Rongen said. "They're a very, very good team."
While the forward line of Eddie Johnson, Carlos Ruiz and Ronnie O'Brien has combined for 11 goals and six assists this season, it's the midfield and defense that help maintain the club's equilibrium.
"They provide good service out of the midfield," Rongen said. "(Simo) Valakari is a good anchoring midfield and wins a lot of balls. They've been very solid in the back. There's a reason why their in first place. They're a good balanced team."
FC Dallas, however, lost a key piece to its puzzle when Richard Mulrooney tore a knee ligament in last Saturday's scoreless draw in San Jose. Still, FC Dallas has plenty of depth to absorb his loss, Rongen said.
The key for Chivas USA will be how well the defense matches up against Johnson, Ruiz and O'Brien.
"If we can contain their front three, we at least give ourselves a chance to win this game," Rongen said.
One way to contain FC Dallas' strike force is to play the aggressor's role. But while it could be effective - the Los Angeles Galaxy beat FC Dallas 2-0 by applying consistent pressure on the club's backline - an attacking style against FC Dallas has its drawbacks.
"If you force the issue, you play with a lot of space behind your back three or four," Rongen said. "One thing that goes to mind is that Ruiz and Johnson are very, very athletic and are very good at making runs behind defenders. The key for us is if we do go forward with numbers we have to get something at goal. We cannot lose possession in a critical part of the field where in transition they can go forward and get their good players involved."
How Chivas USA prepares for FC Dallas might have already been determined.
"We're home," Rongen said. "We owe it to ourselves and our fans to go after this team but we've got to do it in a smart way."
Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.