Sporting Kansas City and FC Dallas will square off Friday night at Sporting Park. The Western Conference clash will kick off at 6 p.m. CT with TV coverage beginning at 5:30 p.m. CT on 38 the Spot. The match can also be seen nationally on UniMas and heard locally on Sports Radio 810 WHB and La Grande 1340.
To preview the match, we spoke with MLS writer Steve Davis, who calls FC Dallas games on local radio.
Jonathon Feyerherm: FC Dallas has had a very balanced attack this year with four players scoring five-plus goals. What's been the key to their success this season?
Steve Davis: I think if you take Fabian Castillo out of the equation, as his talent level is probably a little higher, it is a very balanced team talent wise. The model that FC Dallas has built around is good, young players without a lot of stars. Again, Castillo would be one and Mauro Diaz would be one, but he has not been playing. It’s been essential that they have that kind of balance. You can argue whether it’s better to have one 20-goalscorer or a couple 4-5 goalscorers, but at the end of the day they are goals and count the same and Dallas happens to do it with balance.
JF: How would you describe the team's recent form?
SD: I don’t think FC Dallas is any different than other teams in Major League Soccer. It’s a long season and you go through a lot of peaks and valleys. The League is fairly homogenous talent wise. The collection of talent on the rosters is fairly equal. So if you just have a couple of guys that start playing well, get healthy and confident then all of a sudden you are on a winning streak. If you have a couple of guys that take a dip in form, then all of a sudden you are on a losing streak. That’s what happened with FC Dallas and they just happen to be going on one of the upswings right now. As everyone knows, the trick to Major League Soccer is to be on the offense rather than on the defense when it comes to playoff time.
JF: What have you seen from Sporting KC this year?
SD: When you have a player like Benny Feilhaber who was in such good form earlier in the season, he helped cover up other deficiencies. I think Sporting KC has probably not been what they wanted to be on defense and a lot of that is because of the injures to Ike Opara and Chance Myers, but you have Benny covering up some of those deficiencies and other players getting it done here and there. Like everyone else, Sporting KC is dealing with injures to different people right now. When you look at Sporting KC, it’s difficult to make an assessment of the team. Sometimes they look like a team that can absolutely threaten the opposition and sometimes they look like an ordinary team.
JF: What are your expectations heading into tonight's match?
SD: First of all, it’s an interesting match because Friday matches have been very tricky for FC Dallas. One of the first bad losses of the season for FC Dallas came at Sporting Park on a Friday and they’ve been beaten a couple times by Colorado on Fridays. Second, you look at 20-year-old goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez who has made four straight starts and has done mostly well. But with new goalkeepers, you look at how they handle those first bad moments. You just don’t know with young goalkeepers and I have a feeling Jesse will have a lot to do on Friday, assuming he plays. How he handles those pressure situations might say a lot about the game.
JF: What is Dallas' injury situation heading into Friday?
SD: FC Dallas, like every other team, is a little guarded about injury information. The two you look at right now are Mauro Diaz - where he is from his recovery from a quad injury - and Dan Kennedy and his recovery from the knee injury. Those are two key players for Dallas. Jesse Gonzalez has done well, but there is no question Dallas needs its first string goalkeeper down the playoff stretch. And it would also help tactically for Dallas if they can get Mauro Diaz their playmaker back in the lineup.