Sporting Kansas City-FC Dallas Preview
Playing without a full roster has been taxing on both FC Dallas and Sporting Kansas City, though each club is set to return key contributors.
Dallas looks to extend its home unbeaten streak to 13 while keeping Kansas City winless for a fourth consecutive match Saturday night.
Western Conference-leading Dallas (8-3-4) is just 1-2-1 over its last four league games and fell 1-0 to Portland last Saturday, marking the first time it was shut out in 21 MLS matches.
Dallas, though, played without strikers Kenny Cooper (family emergency) and Blas Perez (international duty) and lost Eric Hassli in the ninth minute due to an inflamed lower back.
"I think we have arguably the best strikers in the league," coach Schellas Hyndman told the team's official website. "What are the chances that none of them would be available in one game?"
While Hassli is likely to sit out Saturday, Cooper and Perez are expected to be back. Perez, who has been with Panama's national team, hasn't played since scoring both goals in Dallas' 2-all draw with Colorado on June 1.
"He's been gone for two weeks training hard, competing, traveling," Hyndman said of Perez. "What we wanted to do was give him some time to (recover), and then hopefully have him playing on Saturday."
Despite having its conference lead trimmed to one point over Portland and Real Salt Lake, the team remains confident.
"This is a long season," midfielder Andrew Jacobson said. "We try and get better every game, and sometimes you can get better and not win."
Dallas is 9-0-3 at home in league play since a 1-0 loss to Los Angeles on July 28, though it will face a Kansas City team that ended another long streak last month.
Sporting KC (6-5-4) earned a 1-0 victory at Houston on May 12, ending the Dynamo's 36-game home unbeaten run across all competitions. That was Kansas City's last league win, though, as it's gone 0-1-2 over its last three.
It fell 2-1 to Montreal in its last MLS game June 1, then suffered a 1-0 loss to Orlando City in U.S. Open Cup competition June 12.
The positive from the latest defeat was the return of forward Teal Bunbury, who came on as a substitute in the 75th minute for his first action since tearing his left ACL in August.
Midfielder Graham Zusi and defender Matt Besler also are expected back after playing with the U.S. national team.
"It's good to have them back for a number of reasons," coach Peter Vermes told the team's official website. "One is the community of the team, the culture in the locker room, all of that - and then, obviously, their play on the field is a big part of our team."
No matter who is in uniform, Vermes knows KC will have a tough time with Dallas.
"They're the team at the moment," Vermes said. "They're good on both sides of the ball, but I think the biggest thing is that they manage games really, really well."
Kansas City last played at Dallas on June 12, 2011, winning 4-1 as Zusi scored twice.