FC Dallas returns from break to face Impact

FC Dallas looks to keep the momentum it gained earlier in July when it returns from its 11-day Gold Cup break to face the surging Montreal Impact on Saturday at Stade Saputo in Montreal.

FC Dallas (8-3-7, 31 points in 18 matches) won its final two games heading to the break and is 2-0-2 in its past four dating to June 10. FC Dallas is just a point behind Sporting Kansas City in the Western Conference standings despite playing two fewer matches.

The 2017 campaign has been a series of starts and stops for FC Dallas, and it won’t be at anywhere near full strength in Saturday’s north-of-the-border matchup.

Defenders Maynor Figueroa and Matt Hedges, midfielder Kellyn Acosta and goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez are still away on Gold Cup duty for their respective national teams. FC Dallas does have attacking midfielder Mauro Diaz back in the lineup and has potent offensive threat Maxi Urruti making the most of his chances.

Urruti ranks fourth in MLS with 11 goals in just 16 starts and has scored in four straight matches.

“It’s a big opportunity that (FC Dallas coach) Oscar (Pareja) gave me, just giving me the confidence and minutes to play here in Dallas,” Urruti said. “That’s a key component in me being able to play well.”

The Impact have been largely inconsistent and have managed to string together back-to-back wins just once this season. Montreal is 6-6-6 after 18 games and its 24 points place it five beneath the red line in the Eastern Conference.

Montreal has won six of its last 10 games at home, including its last four, and has scored multiple goals in eight of those 10. In its past six home games, the Impact have garnered 16 of the possible 18 points.

Montreal has worked hard to integrate some new faces into its roster, none bigger than midfield playmaker Blerim Dzemaili, who has four goals and four assists in his eight MLS games thus far.

Dzemaili’s presence has slightly papered over the absence of star winger Ignacio Piatti (groin injury) but nothing has really been able to help the Impact’s error-prone defense. Montreal has conceded 30 goals in its 18 games, which is second-worst per-game average in the conference.

The Impact enter Saturday’s game with some momentum, built on a 2-1 win over Philadelphia on Wednesday in their first game back from the Gold Cup break in which Dzemaili scored the winner.

“We knew it would be a tough game tonight,” Impact coach Mauro Biello said after the win on Wednesday. “Philadelphia is amongst the hottest teams in MLS over the past 10 matches. It was important for us to get these three points and build our confidence, especially with a lot of young players in the lineup. It’s a good start for us to win today and now we move forward and get ready for FC Dallas.”

It’s the only meeting of the season between the two sides.

In five all-time meetings between Dallas and Montreal, the home team is undefeated. FC Dallas is 3-0-0 at home against the Canadian contingent, and the Impact are 1-0-1 at home against the Texas side. During Dallas’ last trip to Montreal in 2015, Hedges scored his lone goal of the season in a 2-1 loss.

FC Dallas has not won on the road since May 6, drawing in its two matches away from home in the past two-plus months.

“We have been analyzing Montreal for a few weeks now and we know their players and we know their team,” Pareja said. “Our plan is going to be the same as we have for most teams. Montreal has had its ups and down like all teams in the league. We have a good plan — we understand what they are and we will work and try to get our stuff together.”