FC Dallas-Orlando City Preview
With consecutive multigoal wins in league play, it seems FC Dallas is overcoming a humbling stretch that saw its respected attack go all but silent.
The club now needs to prove it can bring the act on the road, which could be difficult Saturday night against an Orlando City team that's growing more comfortable in its temporary home at the Citrus Bowl.
Dallas (8-5-5) beat New England 3-0 last Saturday to match its largest margin of victory this season. Consider a 2-0 win over Houston on June 26, and it seems things are back to running smoothly. The problem is those victories were split by a 6-2 U.S. Open Cup loss in Kansas City on July 1, which is a part of an 0-4-2 away span that's seen Dallas outscored 16-4.
Michael Barrios has been providing offense regardless of venue or competition with four goals in five matches, while Fabian Castillo has scored in three straight league contests.
The road task is further complicated by five Gold Cup departures, which matches Salt Lake and Toronto for the biggest roster hit. Tesho Akindele (Canada), Kyle Bekker (Canada), Moises Hernandez (Guatemala), Blas Perez (Panama) and Je-Vaughn Watson (Jamaica) are all on international duty.
"For us to win a championship, we need to gel together," goalkeeper Dan Kennedy said. "We need to be prepared to have interchangeable parts, because things are going to happen, and players are going to have to step in and play. But for the last two home games it's been great for the back line."
That back line figures to have an easier time than one might expect against Orlando (6-6-6) due to key attacking absences. The expansion club is without Darwin Ceren (El Salvador) and Cyle Larin (Canada), while Brek Shea is out with a groin injury and Kaka faces suspension.
Orlando played to a 1-all draw in Salt Lake City last Saturday after Kaka gave it a fifth-minute lead. It was the former FIFA World Player of the Year and Ballon d'Or winner's ninth league goal before he was red-carded just before halftime.
Salt Lake equalized in the 28th minute, and the 10-man second-half effort on the road has Orlando bringing plenty of confidence back home. Tally Hall credited the defense, but coach Adrian Heath said it has more to do with Hall than the keeper lets on. Hall has limited opponents to eight goals in as many matches, while fellow keeper Donovan Ricketts gave up 14 in 10 as Hall recovered from a torn ACL.
"He gives the back four a bit of confidence," Heath told the club's official website. "We knew when we brought him in - that was one of the most important things, we thought we needed a top keeper and we've got a top keeper."
Offensively, however, the pressure for someone to step up will be higher than ever. Kaka and Larin have combined for 15 of the club's 20 goals scored by its own players, but the remaining group feels that can happen at home.
The club went 0-3-1 with one goal scored in Orlando through the end of April. It's flipped that recently with a 4-0-1 span that's featured four clean sheets and an 11-2 aggregate, including a 2-0 Open Cup win over Columbus on June 30.
"Everyone feels confident," said Eric Avila, who will be facing the club he was with from 2008-11. "Everyone feels ready. Everyone feels excited to play at home."