FC Dallas' spirits and confidence are flying high as the team brings their six-game unbeaten streak into Rice-Eccles Stadium to face Real Salt Lake Saturday on the newly installed natural grass field.
The last loss for the Hoops came on April 30 against the Los Angeles Galaxy. Since, they have outscored their opponents 12-6. FCD and RSL will play in the second half of the doubleheader featuring a World Cup qualifying match between the U.S. and Costa Rica.
The league's all-time leading goal scorer, Jason Kreis, looks to get back on track against his former team as he was held scoreless in his last game Saturday against Chicago Fire. Kreis leads Real with four goals this year.
"We know Jason [Kreis] pretty well obviously. We will give him a lot of respect," said FCD coach Collin Clarke. "We know what he is all about. Again, he is a good striker in this league so you gotta watch him and you gotta be on top of him at all times. I know he will be out there trying hard to get a result for his new club."
Clint Mathis comes into the game with team-high three assists. "They are also very good on their set pieces and Clint Mathis delivers a very good ball on the attack as well," added the FCD coach.
Dallas will try to exploit the RSL defense minus U.S. national team central defender Eddie Pope. The Fire were able to get three goals past D.J. Countess. Countess (also a former FCD 'keeper) currently is ranked 10th in the league with a 1.57 Goals Against Average (GAA).
On the flip side, FCD's goalkeeper Scott Garlick has a GAA of 1.00 and is ranked third. FCD will keep Countess busy as they are ranked first in the league with the most goals scored (20), including two players in the top six in scoring. Guatemalan Carlos Ruiz leads the league with seven goals and Eddie Johnson, who is away on national team duty, has five tallies. Ronnie O'Brien is ranked third in the league in assists with five.
RSL will have a trio of players in Andy Williams, Mathis and Kreis to keep FCD honest as well.
"Yeah, Andy [Williams] is a good player and he is very strong on the ball which people don't give him credit. He is very good with the ball, good passes between him, Clint and Jason. [They are] three players you've got to be very aware [of] and people who can be very dangerous," said Clarke.
To compensate for the departure of veteran central defender Greg Vanney, the team has added eight-year MLS player Steve Jolley to starting lineup.
"I wouldn't say it is different [without Vanney], well maybe it is different because of different personal in the game obviously," said defender Clarence Goodson. "We have a lot of good players on the team and we have confidence in all those guys that anyone can step in and do the job, and we really do have whatever it is eight or nine defenders that can play that will do a good job."
Despite being an expansion team, RSL has made a respectable showing, currently sitting in fourth place in the Western Conference.
"Go there [Salt Lake] and get the result," concluded Clarke. "They definitely have a team aspect with Jason, Clint, and Andy Williams. They are all very, very good players. They can create things for themselves or create things for their team -- we have to make sure we close them down, stop the forward pass to Jason."
Ron Goode is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.