Real Salt Lake-FC Dallas Preview
FC Dallas hasn't posted a league victory in seven weeks, but a win Saturday night would move them into a tie atop the Western Conference.
Undermanned Real Salt Lake would like to keep that spot and win its first match as the road team in this series.
Since improving to a MLS-best 8-2-3 with a 1-0 victory over San Jose on May 25, Dallas (8-4-7) has gone 0-2-4. The club had a chance to pull even on points with RSL (10-5-4) on Sunday but lost 3-0 at Los Angeles following three consecutive draws.
"We basically just got outworked,'' coach Schellas Hyndman said after his side was outshot 23-6. "We didn't create enough chances, which causes you problems. We didn't have enough people running off the ball. We didn't win very many tackles.''
FC Dallas' last seven-game winless stretch was a franchise-worst 0-7-6 skid April 21-July 7, 2012.
Dallas, though, is 7-0-3 at home and 10-0-2 all-time with RSL in town following its 2-0 victory March 23.
Former Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Chris Seitz, who replaced Raul Fernandez while he was with Peru for World Cup qualifying, stopped three shots in that match, while Jackson scored and set up Fabian Castillo's goal.
RSL was without goalkeeper Nick Rimando, midfielder Kyle Beckerman, defender Tony Beltran - all were on the U.S. squad facing teammate and Costa Rican forward Alvaro Saborio in a World Cup qualifier - for that match, and all four will be unavailable Saturday as the U.S. plays Cuba and Costa Rica faces Belize in Gold Cup group play at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Without Rimando, Josh Saunders is expected to get a second straight start and third this season. He made five saves in RSL's last match, a 2-all draw against Philadelphia on July 3 when Salt Lake was denied a club record-tying fifth straight win.
Saunders' first action this season came in the March defeat in Frisco, Texas.
"I have a little bit of vengeance. I want to play better than I did the last time in Dallas," he told RSL's official website. "So I'm going to work really hard this week and put in a good effort."
Saunders will face a Dallas club that's been shut out three times in the last five matches.
Finding the back of the net could be an even bigger challenge with leading goal scorer Blas Perez away on international duty for Panama at the Gold Cup. Perez did not play in the first matchup with RSL this season due to World Cup qualifying.
FC Dallas' defense, though, could get a boost if George John returns from a three-game injury absence (hamstring). The club is 7-2-4 when he plays and 1-2-3 when he doesn't.
"If you'll look at our results with George John and without George John, that's an indication that there's an issue," Hyndman said.
Fernandez should be in net for Dallas after missing Wednesday's practice due to a virus. He's never faced RSL.