FC Dallas sticking to plan vs. Rapids

A week ago, FC Dallas kept things very tight as they played the Colorado Rapids to a scoreless draw in the first leg of their Western Conference Semifinal Series.

The Hoops likely won't change things too much in Saturday's second leg at Pizza Hut Park, but if there is a big difference, it will likely be a subtle shift -- how much Bobby Rhine and Ramon Nunez contribute to the attack from their wide positions.

Rhine has given the Hoops just about everything one can ask for in a player this year. About the only position he hasn't played is goalkeeper, but after playing as the right back for much of the year, over the last month or so he's moved farther forward.

"The last couple of games I have been asked to move into the midfield - I think it has gone quite well," said Rhine. "I think I can do some of the defensive work in terms of helping keep our shape defensively and tactically."

Rhine was considered an out-and-out forward until this year, when he was moved to the back by FCD coach Colin Clarke. But he had seen some time as a wide midfielder before the recent switch.

"I think going forward I have been dangerous and effective," Rhine said. Added FC Dallas captain Greg Vanney: "We have options with Bobby Rhine coming from the back and attacking."

With Rhine playing in the midfield, the back four will probably stay the same, which means Steve Jolley -- nominally a center back -- will again play on the right of the back line.

"Defensively, I imagine we are going to have the same lineup (Vanney, Steve Jolley and Clarence Goodson in the center, Chris Gbandi on the left) but we will see," said Vanney.

The big question is whether Carlos Ruiz will start in attack, or whether 20-year-old Ecuadorian international Roberto Mina will start as he did against Colorado. Ruiz came on as a 65th-minute substitute after missing the season finale when he failed to return from Guatemala in time. But the only two shots on goal from the Hoops in the first leg came from Nunez from his left-sided midfield position.

The other big change, of course, is returning home for the second leg. It's the home-field advantage the Hoops played the entire season for -- getting a draw on the road in the first leg so they can return home and take care of business.

"I think it is to our advantage to come back to Pizza Hut Park," said Rhine. "It's a huge game for our club given the newness of the stadium -- there would be nothing better than for us to move onto a place where we expect to be, and certainly the conference finals is one of those places."

Ron Goode is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.

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