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Scouting Report: FC Dallas

Dax McCarty, left, and Atiba Harris are two players Sounders defenders will want to keep an eye on.
Dax McCarty, left, and Atiba Harris are two players Sounders defenders will want to keep an eye on.

UPDATE: I've attached at the bottom a "Three Questions" that Dave did with Buzz Carrick of 3rdDegree.net

The breaks have not been kind to the team once branded Burn.

Only hapless DC United sits between them and the bottom of the MLS table, despite decent play. 

Twice opponents have scored in the final 10 minutes to take the lead (against Columbus, Dallas managed to equalize), including last week when Juan Pablo Angel scored on a 90th minute penalty kick. 

In those two games, the Hoops (another abandoned nickname and marketing ploy) outshot their opponents by a combined 36-17, and their plus-seven shots-on-goal differential is fourth best in MLS.

Yet, there Dallas (0-2-1, two points) sits at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, one of only two MLS teams without a win.

Obviously, something isn't right.

I won't pretend to know all the answers, but after watching chunks of the last two games, I can tell you that the Sounders better not be going into Pizza Hut Park expecting to be delivered a win.

Sounders_week_5_stats_medium 

Any discussion of FC Dallas must start with striker Jeff Cunningham, the man who scored 16 of his 17 goals during last season's second half.

Through three games, Cunningham has been relatively quiet, his only goal coming on a penalty kick against Columbus. Like his team as a whole, his scoring stats may paint an incomplete picture. While he has yet to flash the form of last season's second half, his speed has allowed him to find dangerous openings. I'm sure it must be frustrating for Dallas fans, but opposing coaches must know that it's only a matter of time before he starts slamming home his opportunities.

While Dallas tends to favor an attack in which Cunningham is alone up top, that doesn't necessarily mean the Hoops play a conservative style. At numerous points in last week's game at Red Bull Arena, Cunningham was joined on the attack by all five midfielders. 

David Ferreira tends to be the one taking the longer-range shots. Heath Pearce seems to fit more of a playmaker's role. Diminutive Dax McCarthy seems to be constantly buzzing around, looking for openings to exploit. While Atiba Harris has shown an ability to be a physical, albeit inconsistent, presence.

Defensively, I'm trying to figure out what's going on. Kevin Hartman played two games ago, and seemed fine. Dario Sala started the first and most recent games. We have Sala listed as the starter, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to see the MLS vet Hartman guarding the woodwork. Both keeper, by the way, have stopped penalty kicks this year.

The players in front of them haven't exactly made life easy. Hoops defenders have given away three penalty kicks, which I'm almost certain is worst in the league (believe it or not MLS's website doesn't exactly make finding this information easy). Even when not dragging down players in the penalty area, the defense didn't exactly look stout against New York. Juan Pablo Angel had one goal erased on a questionable offside call, and New York attackers were getting behind their Dallas counterparts with alarming regularity (luckily for Dallas, the Red Bulls were whistled for 10 offsides). I don't discount that this must have been partly by design, but that strikes me as playing with fire.

Despite all of these miscues, Dallas has been in position to win all of three of its games. It will be interesting to see whether the players are buoyed by this fact, or ready to crawl into a shell at the first sign of adversity. 

For the Sounders, the attacking players appear to once again have a chance to exploit some holes. Maybe playing in front of a crowd that might be about a quarter the size of what they're used to at home will relax the players, and allow them to finally put a complete game together.

Three questions with Buzz Carrick of 3rdDegree.net:

  

Sounder at Heart: Last year Jeff Cunningham got all the statistical love, but much of his production was due to quality service. This year he isn't yet on a streak, is it due to a loss of service? 

Buzz Carrick: Jeff is a streaky player.  It's not a lack of service as FCD outshooting NY 17 to 7 shows.  (I didn't look the stat up, so that may be slightly off).  The cahnces are there, it's just form. 

SH: With 15 players 25 and under on FC Dallas, is there such a thing as too much young talent? 

BC: Not really, soccer is a young man's game.  They could use some more guys in their prime though, the 27-29 age.  Right now it's too many young and old without enough middle. 

SH: Is there a Keeper battle developing, or is it more of a rotational thing between Sala and Hartman? 

BC: It's not a battle at all nor is it rotational, Sala is No. 1.  Hartman only played as Sala had picked up a small injury.

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