Rapids-FC Dallas Preview
Over two years ago, the Colorado Rapids beat FC Dallas to win their first MLS Cup title.
Both teams haven't come close since, and now they're starting 2013 without their top scorers.
FCD is hoping a healthy David Ferreira and the return of Kenny Cooper can help them withstand the absence of Blas Perez on Saturday night when they host the Rapids.
An own goal by Dallas' George John in overtime ended up giving Colorado a 2-1 win in the 2010 MLS Cup final. Both clubs failed to build on their respective runs to the championship game, and even missed the playoffs last year.
Key changes have them looking to change that in 2013.
Dallas (9-13-12) received Cooper in a trade from New York in January, re-acquiring the club's No. 2 all-time scorer with 40 goals. The hulking forward finished second in MLS with 18 goals for the Red Bulls last year, matching his club record set with FCD in 2008.
Getting off to a strong start will be key since Dallas is without Perez, who is suspended for the first two games for violent conduct that endangered the safety of Chivas USA's Bobby Burling in a 1-1 draw in last season's finale on Oct. 28.
Perez led FCD with nine goals.
While Cooper will be the major offensive threat up top, Ferreira - who was instrumental in the run to the 2010 final - is expected to use his playmaking ability on the left wing as he attempts to put two injury-plagued seasons behind him. Despite being limited to 17 games, the midfielder led Dallas with nine assists last year.
Keeping that up is even more important following the transfer of Brek Shea to Stoke City of England's Premier League.
"We felt like we needed more ball winners and of course we've got to keep David on the field," coach Schellas Hyndman said. "Either we go back with one striker or we try to find a way to keep him on the field and still add something in the center. The decision was to put him on the left and to give him some freedom so he can still be a playmaker for us."
Ferreira has six goals in nine career meetings with Colorado (11-19-4), netting one in a 3-2 home win Aug. 11, as Dallas clinched the season series by winning two of three matchups.
The Rapids are also without their top scorer from last season, as Jaime Castillon is out at least four months recovering from knee surgery. The midfielder had eight goals in his first MLS season, and Edson Buddle will try to pick up the slack until his return.
Buddle is expected to be back from a knee injury of his own suffered with the United States national team in January. However, he's trying to revitalize his career after scoring just three goals in 24 games for Los Angeles last year.
"He's doing very well, and is improving a lot," coach Oscar Pareja said of Buddle, who has 11 goals in 21 games versus Dallas but none in the past three.
Pareja is also calling upon veteran Brian Mullan, known for his feisty play, to move from the midfield to the left side of the defense.
"With Brian, you have experience, you have fight, you have desire and you have 300 games on his back," Pareja told the team's official website. "He's not natural (left back), but Brian is that guy that gives you whatever he has."