PIZZA HUT PARK
1 pm CT (ESPN2)
Four days after getting a first-ever victory in their new Pizza Hut Park home, FC Dallas play host to Real Salt Lake with a chance to book their passage to the MLS Cup Playoffs and put another dagger in the postseason fate of the expansion team. FC Dallas still haven't won in their last 10 league matches and in five MLS games at home, but they stayed on course for the double with a 1-0 victory against the Chicago Fire in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals on Wednesday. Real come off a weekend off, having not won in five games while all but needing to win out to have any chance of reaching the playoffs.
REFEREE: Jair Marrufo. SAR (bench): Paul Scott; JAR (opposite): Jose Corro; 4th: Richard Heron
MLS Career: 35 games; FC/gm: 30.9; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 8; pens: 18
Games involving FC Dallas: P2 W0 L2 T0; FC/gm: 35.5; Y/gm: 3.0; R: 0; pens: 1
Games involving Real: P1 W0 L1 T0; FC/gm: 29.0; Y/gm: 6.0; R: 0; pens: 0
INJURY REPORT: FC DALLAS - OUT: MF Richard Mulrooney (R knee surgery); GK Jeff Cassar (R shoulder separation); FW Eddie Johnson (R foot stress fracture) ... REAL SALT LAKE - OUT: FW Jason Kreis (L knee partial ACL tear); QUESTIONABLE: DF Rustin Pierce (R hamstring strain); PROBABLE: DF Nelson Akwari (L groin strain); MF Chris Brown (L hamstring strain);: DF Eddie Pope (L ankle sprain); FW Dante Washington (R ankle sprain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: RSL: MF Nikolas Besagno (U.S. U-17 national team)
SUSPENDED: RSL: Jason Kreis (through Sept. 18); Andy Williams (through Sept. 18)
WARNINGS: DAL: Clarence Goodson (10 CP in 2 gms); Ronnie O'Brien (19 CP); Mark Wilson (9 CP in 2 gms) ... RSL: Paul Broome (17 CP); Kenny Cutler (18 CP); Clint Mathis (9 add'l CP)
ALL-TIME (3 meetings): FC Dallas 2 wins, 5 goals ... Real 1 wins, 3 goals ... 0 draws
AT DALLAS (1 meeting): FC Dallas 1 win, 3 goals ... Real 0 wins, 0 goals ... 0 draws
This is the fourth and final meeting between the clubs, the second of two in Dallas but the first-ever trip for Real Salt Lake to Pizza Hut Park.
Coaches record: Colin Clarke vs. RSL: P3 W2 L1 D0 ... John Ellinger v DAL: P3 W1 L2 D0
THIS SEASONFC Dallas had won both of the initial meetings between these two teams, once at each ground, a 3-0 win in Big D on April 23 then a 2-0 victory in the last meeting on June 4 on the Wasatch Front. In the last encounter, Real won in impressive fashion, rolling to a 3-0 victory at Rice-Eccles Stadium on July 23.
At the Cotton Bowl on April 23, FC Dallas struck early and never looked back in running wild with a 3-0 victory. Richard Mulrooney opened the FCD account after just four minutes when he whipped in a free kick from just outside the area, the second time this season he's scored within four minutes of the start of a match.
Then after Eddie Johnson hit the woodwork for the first of two times he would do it on the night, he doubled the Dallas lead on a quick break, running down a long ball played over the top before cutting inside and lashing a low shot inside D.J. Countess's near post from the right side of the arc (35).
Carlos Ruiz finished off the scoring from the penalty spot (63), taking his own spot kick after he was tripped up running at goal. Real defender Eddie Pope was sent off 18 minutes from the end, just the second time in his 10-year MLS career he was shown a red card.
At Rice-Eccles Stadium on June 4, FC Dallas scored opportunistic goals on either side of halftime to ease to a comprehensive victory. Both goals came from rebound opportunities. In the first half, Abe Thompson collected a pass in the penalty area and a hit a low shot that Real 'keeper D.J. Countess was able to turn aside with a dive to his left, but Ronnie O'Brien was quickest to the rebound and knocked it into the unguarded goal (22).
Then just before the hour the visitors doubled their lead when O'Brien's angled shot was kicked straight up the heart of the penalty area. Thompson steamed in and drove the rebound right back through the Real defenders and into the back of the net.
LAST MEETINGFC Dallas lost back-to-back matches for the first time this season, falling 3-0 to RSL on July 23 at home. After allowing two goals in the dying minutes the week before to turn an apparent victory into a 3-2 loss to New England, FC Dallas allowed three goals in the opening half-hour to Real - all from free kicks.
Real took the lead after just three minutes. After a foul on the left touchline, Clint Mathis drove in a low cross into the FCD penalty area. Brian Dunseth was able to separate himself from Steve Jolley and turned home his second goal of the year.
RSL then struck twice in four minutes. First, after Andy Williams was fouled on the right touchline and while the Dallas defense was still organizing, Williams stepped up and whipped in a quick kick into the box. The quick restart caught FCD off guard as Jordan Cila snuck into the middle of the goalmouth to put a head on the ball, again catching Garlick flat-footed (26).
Then Clint Mathis hit for a stunning goal, his free kick from all of 35 yards straight out from goal sliding past the end of the wall, skidding on the turf and past Garlick's outstretched dive just inside the near post (30).
After the break, D.J. Countess played the hero, making a number of acrobatic saves while getting battered himself, twice attended to before finally limping off the field with his fourth shutout of the campaign with seven saves on the night.
Here's John Ellinger's team (4-2-3-1): D.J. Countess - Chris Brown, Nelson Akwari, Brian Dunseth, Paul Broome - Kenny Cutler, Seth Trembly - Andy Williams, Clint Mathis (Brian Kamler 67), Jordan Cila (Jamie Watson 77) - Jason Kreis
Here's Colin Clarke's team (4-1-4-1): Scott Garlick - Bobby Rhine, Clarence Goodson, Steve Jolley (Abe Thompson 66), Chris Gbandi - Simo Valakari, Roberto Mina (Ramon Nunez 74), Oscar Pareja, Ronnie O'Brien, Arturo Alvarez - Carlos Ruiz
FC Dallas saw their league winless streak extend to 10 matches - two short of the all-time MLS record - in a 2-1 loss to D.C. United at Pizza Hut Park last Saturday. With the loss, FC Dallas fell to third place in the Western Conference with 36 points from 25 matches, two behind the Los Angeles Galaxy and now 14 behind division leader San Jose Earthquakes, while leading fourth-place Colorado Rapids by just five points. Still, with a victory against Real, the Hoops will book their ticket for the MLS Cup Playoffs.
D.C. United moved back into second place in the Eastern Conference while FC Dallas saw their winless streak reach 10 games - two shy of the MLS record - and remained winless after five games in their home as they fell to third in the West.
Defender Facundo Erpen scored his MLS goal - in his first game at the center of the United back three - giving D.C. a 15th-minute lead with a wild left-footed side-volley from a corner kick.
United then doubled their lead in the 72nd minute, Nick Rimando spying Jamil Walker on the left flank behind the FCD defense and hitting him with a long clearance. Walker then drove a low center into the goalmouth where Santino Quaranta turned it home.
Ramon Nuñez pulled a goal back for the Hoops three minutes from the end when he hit a looping, dipping shot from long distance after a long run up the center of the park that sailed over the outstretched hand of Rimando.
FC Dallas coach Colin Clarke made five changes to the team that lost 2-0 to the San Jose Earthquakes the previous weekend. Simo Valakari was suspended, while Steve Jolley, Carey Talley, Roberto Mina and Eddie Johnson all returned to the substitutes' bench. There was a new role for Bobby Rhine as Drew Moor came in at right back, Clarence Goodson came back from suspension and Greg Vanney from national team duty, while Abe Thompson started in the lone striker role and Mark Wilson made his first MLS start.
Here's Clarke's team (4-1-4-1): Scott Garlick - Drew Moor (Eddie Johnson 62), Clarence Goodson, Greg Vanney, David Wagenfuhr - Oscar Pareja (Arturo Alvarez 74) - Bobby Rhine, Mark Wilson, Ronnie O'Brien, Ramon Nuñez - Abe Thompson (Carlos Ruiz 63)
"We have seven games left in the season, and the good thing is that we already put ourselves in a good position to qualify for the playoffs and that is the thing that really matters at the end of the day," said FCD captain Greg Vanney. "So we have seven games to figure out and turn around the bad luck or misfortune that we have so we'll build off the positive finish and go from there."
TEAM NEWSThe big news before the United match was the absence of Carlos Ruiz and Eddie Johnson from the FCD starting lineup. Clarke said it was his decision, and intimated it was for disciplinary reasons.
Still, the pair came off the bench and provided a spark for the Hoops. "I thought that Carlos was great after he came on and could have had two or three goals," Clarke said.
But after going winless for the first time in league play in their new stadium against United, on Wednesday FC Dallas reached the U.S. Open Cup Final for the second time in club history - first since 1997 - with a 1-0 victory against the Chicago Fire in the semifinals at Pizza Hut Park.
Ronnie O'Brien scored the game's lone goal in the 20th minute, knocking home his own rebound, and FC Dallas survived playing nearly the final 35 minutes a man down after Simo Valakari received two bookings.
"I knew when the first one came it wasn't going to be easy," said Clarke. "It was never going to be a three- or four-goal cakewalk - we knew we were going to have to earn it and survive a few moments. But I thought the boys were magnificent - unbelievable tonight."
The win puts the Hoops in their first final since 1997, when the then-Dallas Burn won the U.S. Open Cup on penalty kicks against D.C. United after playing to a scoreless draw over 120 minutes. In addition, the fan-created Brimstone Cup stays in Big D for another year.
"It's great for that group over there (The Inferno) because I know the Brimstone Cup means a lot to them," Clarke said. "We keep it here against the old enemy, so to speak, and it gets us into our cup final. First time we've been in one of those for a long time, so a lot of positives. Now we've got to be sure we build on it."
Here's Clarke's team on the night: Scott Garlick, Bobby Rhine (Chris Gbandi 89), Steve Jolley, Greg Vanney, David Wagenfuhr, Ronnie O'Brien, Simo Valakari, Mark Wilson (Carey Talley 80), Ramon Nunez (Aaron Pitchkolan 69), Roberto Mina (Drew Moor 61), Carlos Ruiz
The Open Cup victory could also do a lot for the Hoops down the stretch drive to the MLS Cup Playoffs, with five of their final seven matches at Pizza Hut Park.
"We're just still trying to get that first (league) win," O'Brien said. "It's a big deal for confidence. Everybody's down a little bit because we haven't won in a while and the performances are a bit lackluster. But we're still a decent team, and once we get that first win, we'll be all right."
Bad news came the next day, though, as forward Eddie Johnson will miss the next four to six weeks after suffering the second stress fracture in his right foot this year, all but ruling him out of action for the remainder of the regular season.
FC Dallas made the biggest moves as the transfer deadline and roster freeze came. The club signed veteran Argentinian goalkeeper Dario Sala and Canadian U-23 international Winston Marshall, placing Ty Maurin and Alex Woods on waivers. Sala might immediately contend for a starting role: the 30-year-old plied his trade for Primera Division teams River Plate, Independiente, Newell's Old Boys and most recently Arsenal in his native country, while also spending time with Deportivo Cali of Colombia and Jugares de Chiapas of Mexico.
REAL SALT LAKE
Real Salt Lake return to league wars for the first time in two weeks, after falling to a fifth consecutive defeat in their last match, a 1-0 loss to New England Revolution on Sept. 3. Real are on the brink of playoff elimination with 19 points from 25 matches, 12 behind fourth-place Colorado with just 21 possible points remaining - though those two teams still have three head-to-head encounters.
The Revolution survived an early onslaught from a Real team still smarting from a 5-1 midweek drubbing at D.C. United before getting the goal they needed for a fourth victory in five matches.
But New England coach Steve Nicol looked the genius when he brought on Khano Smith in the 74th minute. Just two minutes the Bermuda international contributed the match winner, taking a simple pass well in his own half of the field and racing forward on a long run of more than 60 yards, rounding a defender and driving a low shot from the left past RSL 'keeper D.J. Countess inside the far post.
Real head coach John Ellinger made three changes to the team that had lost 5-1 to D.C. United four days before. D.J. Countess came back in between the posts for Jay Nolly, while Brian Kamler came back into the team and Adolfo Gregorio made his first MLS start. Nelson Akwari was out injured and Kenny Cutler was suspended.
Here's Ellinger's team (3-4-1-2): D.J. Countess - Brian Dunseth, Eddie Pope, Paul Broome - Adolfo Gregorio (Seth Trembly 74), Brian Kamler (Leslie Fitzpatrick 81), Andy Williams, Robert Scarlett - Clint Mathis - Jason Kreis, Melvin Tarley
"The effort was better tonight, but the bottom line was still a negative result," Ellinger said. "We played a 3-4-3 tonight to keep the pressure coming down the front, everything was positive except the final result and everyone is down about the final result. We had more of a fighting spirit tonight and played more physically."
TEAM NEWSAt this point it's still not impossible for Real to make the MLS Cup Playoffs, but to do so, they will essentially have to win every game down the stretch. The schedule is working in Real's favor - they have three games remaining with fourth-place Colorado Rapids, and one at Columbus Crew, in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
"At this stage we just want to focus on winning a game," Ellinger said. "We're not even thinking about the playoffs, we just want to win a game."
However, with Kreis and Williams suspended for the Dallas match, creating chances could be at a premium. "It seems that when you're at the bottom of the table, things just don't go your way," Ellinger said.
Then during the week, it was announced that Kreis will likely be out for the remainder of the season with a knee injury. Kreis said he felt a pop in his left knee during practice Sept 6. It's the same knee he had reconstructive surgery on in 2003. A preliminary examination points to a possible anterior cruciate ligament tear, but Kreis plans to have the knee evaluated by U.S. national team doctor Bert Mandelbaum. "I'm just waiting to see what he says," Kreis said.
Melvin Tarley got his first MLS start in the match after his acquisition from the Minnesota Thunder. "The game is fast and the strength of players is different. You have to play the ball fast and use your strength," Tarley said. "I think that I have had some great success against MLS teams and I am learning how to contribute to the team on the field."
Tarley was signed primarily on his record in the U.S. Open Cup, where he was the leading scorer in the competition for the Thunder, hitting for six goals - all against MLS clubs (including four against RSL). But Wednesday the clock struck 12 on he and his Minnesota teammates - they lost 5-2 to the Los Angeles Galaxy in the semifinal at The Home Depot Center.
Tarley was allowed to finish out the Thunder's Open Cup as terms of his transfer. He had a glorious chance to give the Thunder a shock opener after just two minutes, but blasted a penalty kick over the crossbar.