FC Dallas had their sights set on the top of the Western Conference last weekend, but fell short when Jahmir Hyka scuffed a 94th minute equalizer into goal for San Jose. The result was a disappointing away draw for the back-to-back Western Conference Champions, but FC Dallas is well positioned six weeks into the 2017 MLS season.
Oscar Pareja’s team currently sits in third place in the West on 11 points. They are just two points from the top after five matches played. Their next two league opponents, Sporting Kansas City and the Portland Timbers, are currently the top two outfits in the conference. This FC Dallas team can take hold of the conference yet again if they beat those two at Toyota Stadium over the next two weekends.
FC Dallas Faces Early Tests Against the West’s Best
FC Dallas is one of only three MLS teams to have played just five games this season. Their tally is low because their April 1st match against the Colorado Rapids was postponed. The delay allowed FC Dallas to prepare for their recent CONCACAF Champions League exploits. They are undefeated in their five league games, with three wins and two draws. They can also boast the second highest points per game average in the league at 2.2 PPG, second only to Orlando City SC. Additionally, they hold an advantage over Kansas City and Portland, because those teams have played six and seven matches respectively.
First Up: Sporting Kansas City
Sporting KC will be looking for revenge when the two sides meet this Saturday in Frisco. They felt aggrieved by FC Dallas’ game plan when the two sides clashed in Kansas City on March 11th. The match was played the weekend before their CCL semifinal first leg against Pachuca. Pareja opted to sit nine starters for that match and essentially parked a very effective bus in front of their own goal. Sporting KC couldn’t break down the stubborn second-choice side. FC Dallas escaped with 0-0 draw.
Sporting KC’s Peter Vermes said the following of FC Dallas’ approach:
“I think you have to realize how difficult it is when a team drops back within 40 or 50 yards of their goal and compacts the space. There’s not a lot of places to go in there. We even at times tried to drop off a little bit to let them come out a little bit. But they were very quick to get numbers behind the ball.” [Sporting KC]
It’s fairly certain that Sporting KC will face a different looking FC Dallas team this Saturday. They’ll see the first-choice eleven and the tactics of a team that expects to win on its home patch.
Timbers Travel to Dallas Next
The first place Portland Timbers have put up mixed results after winning their first three matches. Most recently, they dropped three points in a 1-0 home loss to the afore mentioned Sporting KC. If the Timbers can win their home match this Saturday against Vancouver, they’ll ensure they arrive in Frisco as the conference leader. Texas was not kind to Portland last year though. FC Dallas performed a sweep of the Timbers last season, beating them twice at Toyota Stadium and once in Portland on their way to a second straight Western Conference title.
Early Tests Against the West’s Best
It’s way too early to start talking about who’s going to win the West. These three teams are currently setting the pace for the conference though. In addition, a revitalized Houston Dynamo sits just behind FC Dallas in fourth place. If Houston can build on their good start, they’ll be right in the thick of this race too. The Texas Derby, whose first leg is scheduled for 5/28, should carry a bit more weight this season. One thing is certain. The next two weeks will serve as an early test for FC Dallas and the contenders looking to prevent them from a Western Conference three-peat.