FC Dallas relies on defense; Galaxy struggle to defend

Defense and concentration when under attack is the difference between the early season fortunes of FC Dallas and the Los Angeles Galaxy, who square off on Saturday afternoon at Toyota Stadium in the north Dallas suburb of Frisco, Texas.

FC Dallas, for years one of MLS’ most explosive teams, has turned to its defense to remain among the league’s best sides. Conversely, the Galaxy have struggled to defend consistently, and have lost three straight matches because of that deficiency.

The Huntsmen (3-1-4, 13 points) return home from a two-game road swing for their first meeting of the year against the Galaxy after earning a come-from-behind draw last week against Los Angeles FC, the other team from LA in southern California,

FC Dallas has allowed just seven goals in eight games and established itself as the best defensive team in MLS. It is the only team in the league still in single digits in that department.

With the return of Kellyn Acosta to the FC Dallas defensive midfield, the options on defense are plentiful. Second-year player Jacori Hayes has stepped up, playing alongside Carlos Gruezo and Victor Ulloa interchangeably on the back line. All four are now healthy and each bring a unique skill set to the table.

“The rotation this year has helped us add more minutes for the players,” FC Dallas coach Oscar Pareja said. “First, it provides depth. Second, it has provided opportunity for other players. Third, it just gives us competitiveness in the group.

“And fourth, it helps us show different looks that get more mature and more rich. With consistency, we will be much better, but at this point all of that just creates some different options for us in the middle, up front. Versatility is positive for us.”

The Galaxy (3-5-1) head to north Texas on the heels of a 3-2 loss on the road in Houston on May 5.

Early goals by Houston forced Los Angeles to battle back from deficits twice, only to concede a late goal in stoppage time. For the fifth time this season, the Galaxy conceded first and needed to chase the game in search of a result, only to fall short.

Sigi Schmid’s squad is now 1-5-0 when allowing the first goal.

“We’ve shown character, but what this team needs to realize is that this needs to hurt,” Schmid said. “It really needs to freaking hurt and that pain needs to drive you so that doesn’t happen again.”

Forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic says it’s time for his team to wake up after Los Angeles dropped its fourth game in five matches.

“It is very irritating because after five minutes we conceded already a goal like that and we are chasing goals, which is not normal,” Ibrahimovic said. “We cannot concede like that — it shouldn’t be normal. It’s not good; it is not good. We can either wake up or continue like this, but if we continue like this, we don’t want the same objective — we don’t want to win.

“Either I wake up, and I take care of it, or we all wake up,” the Swedish striker said.

FC Dallas is 19-9-7 against Los Angeles in MLS matches played in north Texas. The Huntsmen have not lost to the Galaxy since Sept. 27, 2015.