REAL ESTELÍ FC vs. FC DALLAS
ESTADIO INDEPENDENCIA, Estelí, Nicaragua
August 24, 2016 (CONCACAF Champions League)
10 pm ET (Facebook.com)
FC Dallas look to improve to 2-0 in their CONCACAF Champions League group, when they travel to Nicaragua to take on a club who have become perennial CCL fixtures but still have yet to taste any success in the competition.
Wednesday's match against Real Estelí FC will be a rematch of the Group H opener between the two clubs, which saw FC Dallas prevail 2-1 on Aug. 4 at Toyota Stadium. With two teams on three points each in the group, a victory at the Estadio Indepencia would go a long way toward putting FC Dallas in control of their own destiny as the Supporters Shield leaders and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup finalists try to reach the knockout stage for the first time.
Saved late, looking to take control early
FC Dallas nearly had to settle for a home draw when the two sides met for the first time, only to be saved by Maynor Figueroa's match-winner in the 84th minute. Real Estelí played solid, tactically sound ball throughout that match, and this time they'll have homefield advantage as the six-time CCL qualifiers continue to look for their first victory in the competition.
A victory on Wednesday would put FC Dallas on six points, keeping them ahead of Guatemalan side C.D. Suchitepéquez – who they'll face in their final two Group H matches. Dallas won't want to go to Guatemala on Oct. 20 needing a road result in their group-stage final, so it would serve them well to get it here.
Roster decisions for Pareja
In FC Dallas' opener, manager Oscar Pareja could afford to go with a regular-heavy roster because the club had the following weekend off. That's not the case this time, with a Saturday match against Houston looming after the midweek trip. Dallas are also coming off a 1-0 away loss to Real Salt Lake this past weekend, and saw their Shield and Western Conference lead over the Colorado Rapids shrink to just two points.
Given those concerns in league play, Pareja could go with depth on Wednesday as his club continue to push for an unprecedented domestic treble. Or – given that the Dynamo sit a distant last in the West – he could roll the dice and see if his regulars have enough in the tank to keep the wonder season rolling in Nicaragua.
One more and done?
Wednesday's match represents Real Estelí's last real chance at getting out of group play – and even then, it would be an uphill battle that would require finishing 2-0 and getting favorable results elsewhere.
After this week, El Tren del Norte – who lost a 1-0 heartbreaker at Suchitepéquez last week, on Kevin Ruiz's stoppage-time free kick – will be the only side in the group to have played three matches. If they don't manage to take down FC Dallas this time around, they'll have to hope for another successful domestic season and a seventh CCL appearance next summer.