Major League Soccer (MLS):
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. FC Dallas (FCD)
BC Place-Vancouver, B.C., Canada-9:00 p.m. CDT, Saturday, June 17, 2017
Record and Standings:
Vancouver Whitecaps: 6-6-1-19 points (Tied for fifth place in the Western Conference)
FC Dallas: 6-3-5-23 points (Tied for third place in the Western Conference)
An extra time own goal allowed FCD to beat Tulsa 2-1 and advance to the 5th round of the U.S. Open Cup, where they will host Colorado Rapids on June 28.
A Key Question:
Can FCD return to the dominating early season performance after experiencing a slump where it has only won once in the last six league matches?
Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Houston Dynamo
Stub Hub Center, Los Angeles, CA-10:00 p.m. CDT, Saturday, June 17, 2017
Record and Standings:
LA Galaxy: 5-5-3-18 points (Eighth place in the Western Conference)
Houston Dynamo: 7-6-2-23 points (Tied for third place in the Western Conference)
Memo Rodriquez scored in the 109th minute to lead the Dynamo to a 3-2 U.S. Open Cup win in added extra time against North Carolina FC in Cary, NC. The Dynamo played exclusively with a squad consisting of reserves and short-term contract players from Rio Grande Valley. Houston will now host Sporting KC at BBVA Compass Stadium in the next round June 28.
A Key Question:
Can the Dynamo build on its first road victory and also secure its first MLS road win, against an in-form but short-handed Galaxy, in the same week?
United Soccer League (USL):
San Antonio FC (SAFC) vs. Tulsa Roughnecks
Toyota Field-San Antonio-7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 17, 2017
Record and Standings:
San Antonio FC: 9-0-4-31 points (Second place in the Western Conference)
Tulsa Roughnecks: 5-6-0-15 points (Eighth place in the Western Conference)
A Key Question:
Is Cyprian Hedrick ready to step back in for the full 90 to replace suspended Steven McCarthy at center back?
Los Angeles Galaxy II (Los Dos) vs. Rio Grande Valley FC Toros (RGV FC)
H-E-B Park, Edinburg-7:30 p.m., Saturday, June 17, 2017
Record and Standings:
Rio Grande Valley FC: 5-4-2-17 points (Tied for fifth place in the Western Conference)
LA Galaxy II: 2-8-2-8 points (Fourteenth place in the Western Conference)
A Key Question:
How many Toros players returning from their stint with the Dynamo in NC will be in the lineup tomorrow?
Both Texas MLS teams are at home this week. The Dynamo play their 7th home match in 10 to open the season. FC Dallas plays their only 2017 regular season match against a strong NYCFC side this week.
Houston Dynamo vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC
BBVA Compass Stadium-Houston-7:30 p.m., Friday, May 12, 2017
- Vancouver will be looking to win their third consecutive road match tonight in Houston, in the final game of their three game stretch away from home. Previous victories in Montreal and Colorado over the last few weeks are not out of the ordinary for the Whitecaps. Interestingly, they have won almost as many road games (13) as home games (17) since the beginning of the 2015 season. In an interview with Glenn Davis on Soccer Matters earlier this week, Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson talked about how he follows a deliberate strategy to play more aggressively to win on the road, instead of looking to play conservatively and hope for a draw like the approach many in MLS follow. Whitecaps FC has only given up 4 goals in the last 4 games, thanks in part to the strong performance of the three-man midfield of Matias Laba, Andrew Jacobson and Tony Tchani. Former Dynamo right-back Sheanon Williams returns to Houston for the first time since his off-season trade to Vancouver. Bryan-native Brek Shea makes his first appearance in Texas since his early season trade from Orlando.
- The Dynamo has only played Vancouver nine times during the Whitecap’s short history. Neither team has ever won on the road in this rivalry. The only draw in the series was played in Houston.
- Mauro Manotas was named to the MLS Team of the Week after his brace against Orlando City FC last Saturday. The four key Dynamo forwards, Manotas/Elis/Quito/Torres have scored 18 of the 19 Dynamo goals so far this year….a dramatic difference from the trend last year when goals from forwards were few and far between. Alberth Elis’s game-winning goal last week was named MLS Goal of the Week:
- Alex Lima received recognition this week when he was named to the MLS Best-XI, selected by Matthew Doyle on mlssoccer.com, for the first quarter of the season. Alex is currently tied for the league lead with six assists, after only having four others in previous 121 MLS game career. In the Best-XI article, Doyle described Alex’s breakout season as follows: “Somehow in 2017 he’s become the league’s most effective two-way midfielder.”
- The only depressing news to come out of last Saturday is that midfielder Eric Alexander, who has performed admirably this year, will be out 8-12 weeks with a right knee strain.
- This will be the final game in the long home-heavy opening stretch of the season. After tonight’s match, Houston will play 6 of the next 7 on the road, where they have yet to secure any kind of result.
FC Dallas (FCD) vs. New York City FC (NYCFC)
Toyota Stadium-Frisco-7:00 p.m., Sunday, May 14, 2017
- Undefeated FC Dallas returns home to face New York City FC on Sunday night. FCD currently is tied for first place in the Western Conference with Sporting Kansas City, but leads in goal differential and has played two less games. NYCFC sits in third place in the Eastern Conference, six points behind leaders Toronto…though they have also played two fewer games. This will be the only regular season meeting between the two teams. Because NYCFC is a relatively new expansion team, Sunday’s match will be only the third meeting between the two sides. FCD won the inaugural game in Dallas in 2015 and drew at Yankee Stadium last year.
- New York has a number of threatening attacking options. David Villa, who is the best forward in MLS, Jack Harrison and off-season signings Rodney Wallace and Maxi Morales have scored 15 or their 17 goals this year. Italian legend Andrea Pirlo has been relegated to the bench because of the wealth of attackers available to head coach Patrick Viera. Holding midfielder Alexander Ring, who also joined in the offseason, was selected by Matt Doyle as the best holding midfielder for the first quarter of the season in the MLS Best XI discussed in the Dynamo preview.
- FCD head coach Oscar Pareja has certainly been willing to adjust formations to reflect the opposition, and the players and the form they are in, this season. It will be interesting to see how he sets the formation up to counter the attacking strength of NYCFC. Matt Doyle on mlssoccer.com talked about this when asked why Dallas has been so successful this season in the quote below. It would provide more options for Pareja, however, if Cristian Colman got untracked and scored a goal. There are no metrics that can guarantee whether a high paid attacking player is successful. I hope this is just an adjustment period, though FCD have had their share of high played attackers who didn’t work out.
To me, that says the No. 1 reason for their success is the guy on the sideline prepping them every single week: Oscar Pareja. He’s gotten buy-in from, it seems, everybody on the roster, and his squad has achieved a state of perpetual gestalt regardless of who’s missing.
There are other reasons, too:
They have the best center back pairing in MLS
They have a top three central midfield pairing on the defensive side of the ball
They have one of the best defensive forwards in MLS
They can mix-and-match personnel and formation
FC Dallas (FCD) opens their Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) Semifinal round against LigaMX side C.F. Pachuca (Tuzos) tonight at 7:00 C.D.T. at Toyota Park in Frisco.
Pachuca, a city of 256,000 people that is roughly 5o miles northeast of Mexico City, is one of the oldest soccer clubs in Mexico. The club has had recent success in international competition, winning our Confederation’s club championship four times since 2002. During that run, they also were the first CONCACAF club to win a South American Championship when they were crowned Copa Sudamericana Champions in 2006. The club is led by goal scoring leader-Argentinian Franco Jara, Uruguayan Jonathan Urretaviscaya, center-backs Oscar Murillo and Omar Gonzalez and legendary 44 year old goalkeeper Oscar Perez. The Tuzos will be missing young Mexican international, Hirving Lozano, who is out with a long-term injury.
Historically, MLS teams have struggled when playing Mexican opponents in the CCL. Since the Confederation club championship was reformatted away from the Champions Cup to a new Champions League competition in 2008, MLS and LigaMX clubs have played each other 18 times in two-legged CCL competitions. Unfortunately, MLS has only won two of these match ups (Seattle in 2012/13 and Montreal in 2014/15). Coincidentally, the LigaMX sides that did lose were Tigres and Pachuca, the two Mexican representatives in this years semifinal.
This year promises to be every bit as difficult as prior years. Last night, Tigres won at home against MLS-side Vancouver Whitecaps FC and took a 2-0 lead into the second leg a few weeks from now in Canada. The Whitecaps were unlucky to give up an own-goal to fall behind in the second half, but to be fair, they sacrificed the overwhelming majority of the possession, rarely threatened and were never really in this game. FCD faces an in-form Pachuca team tonight. After 9 matches they are currently tied for first place in the LigaMX Clausura tournament. Mexican teams have an advantage in this tournament because they are fully involved in their season, while MLS teams have only played 2 regular season games to this point. When this is combined with the significantly higher salary structure of LigaMX, the competitive challenge becomes daunting. Pachuca also comes into this game well rested, because the referee strike in Mexico cancelled all LigaMX matches last weekend.
Despite those advantages, many feel that FCD can be one of the most competitive teams MLS has ever put on the field against LigaMX opposition. The introduction of new spending mechanisms in the form of Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) introduced by MLS, combined with funds generated from the sale of Fabian Castillo last summer, makes this Dallas side one of the deepest and most talented in MLS history.
It is important that FCD attacks early to build as much of an aggregate goal lead as possible (also avoiding a Tuzos away goal) because the return leg at 7,900+ altitude Pachuca in early April promises to be extremely challenging, to say the least.
Of note, Omar Gonzalez, a Dallas native and U.S. international, will be playing his first competitive game for the Tuzos in his home state. MLS.com and Dallas writer Charles Boehm has a great story (link below) with interesting background information on how Omar went from his upbringing in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas and the Dallas Texans youth soccer club to the star he has become today.