Chivas USA-FC Dallas Preview

After finishing at the bottom of the Western Conference last year, FC Dallas and Chivas USA have gotten out to surprising undefeated starts this season.

As two first-year coaches with strong ties to each other work the sidelines, one of the suddenly potent clubs will remain atop the standings following Saturday night’s match.

Dallas (1-0-1) endured its share of struggles while finishing eighth in the West with 48 points in 2013, but the club has enjoyed a strong start under coach Oscar Pareja.

Following a 3-2 victory over Montreal in its home opener March 8, Dallas played defending MLS Cup champion Sporting Kansas City to a 1-all tie last Saturday.

Matt Hedges headed in the tying score off a set piece in the 90th minute and then made a clutch goal-line clearance in stoppage time to preserve the draw. Five of Hedges’ seven goals over the past three seasons have come off a set piece – four of them headers.

Dallas will try to extend its unbeaten start as Pareja goes up against former teammate and coaching colleague Wilmer Cabrera for the first time in MLS.

Pareja and Cabrera both played in the Colombian national team system growing up before coaching together with the U.S. U-17 team. Cabrera also was one of the first assistants named to the staff when Pareja became head coach with the Colorado Rapids in 2012.

"I have a lot of respect for Wilmer; as a person, as a friend, as a coach and the experience he has in all his years of soccer," Pareja told the team’s official website.

Following Colorado’s playoff loss last season, Pareja moved on to Dallas – where he spent eight years as a player – while Cabrera took on the challenge of rebuilding West-worst Chivas. Now the clubs are two of four teams tied atop the conference with four points from two games.

Cabrera has gotten the Goats (1-0-1) off to a promising start following a 3-2 victory in the home opener against Chicago on March 9 and a 1-all draw with Vancouver last Sunday despite going most of the way with 10 players.

Midfielder Agustin Pelletieri was ejected in the 13th minute Sunday for a studs-up tackle on Vancouver’s Pedro Morales.

Erick Torres scored his second goal of the season on an assist from Mauro Rosales in the 45th, but the visiting Whitecaps cashed in on a turnover in the 81st to salvage the tie.

Torres has nine goals in 17 matches since coming to MLS midway through 2013, while Rosales has a league-high three assists in two games this season.

"After these two games we should have a lot of belief going into Dallas that we can get another result," said goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, who has allowed just one goal in three career starts at Dallas.

Dallas, 5-1-4 in the last 10 meetings overall, hasn’t lost at home in the series since 2009 with a 2-0-3 record in that span.

The clubs split the two meetings at Chivas and played to a scoreless draw at Toyota Stadium last season.