Critics have said FCD (3-0-3, 12 points) hasn’t played a tough schedule to begin the season, only having one road match against New England, which resulted in a 1-0 victory for The Huntsmen. So Sunday will be a benchmark test for the Texas side since NYCFC (5-1-2, 17 points) is a league leader that started off the season unbeaten until recently losing 3-0 to Portland on the road.
In that loss last weekend, NYCFC dominated possession, as it likes to do. 13 shots were attempted but only three were on target. The worrying factor was that 62 percent of the shots came from outside the box. Dallas coach Oscar Pareja said he did study that result and glean insight.
“I think we all do that,” Pareja said. “That’s part of our job, analyzing how they won games and how they lost. And see where were those moments, players, sequences, or spaces that appear in the game or how is the behavior of the team.”
Pareja also pointed out the many factors involved in an MLS road match and said the team looked at multiple games, not that one result.
“It is different,” Pareja said. “Every game is. In that case, sometimes, we just see it with a bad perspective knowing that they were away, that it was turf and many other things. I see the games at home and I see the last two games we’ve played against them, too, one there and one here — just trying do the job and help the boys.”
A player key to FC Dallas’ run is goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer, brought in from the New York Cosmos. He’s performed admirably, taking the starting role by the horns with Jesse Gonzalez out due to injury. The 29-year-old made a double save last weekend to keep his clean sheet and has provided stability at the back.
“We’ve done well early on in the season, but we got two big challenges ahead,” Maurer said. “New York City first, then going out to LA. One game at a time. But even though we’ve done well, we know we have things to work on and we got a couple of big challenges on the road so we know it’s going to be tough. We just gotta keep working hard on the training ground and keep confidence in ourselves and keep working.”
Jacori Hayes is another player who has taken advantage of the opportunity given to him. The second-year man out of Wake Forest started in the home opener against Real Salt Lake and has not looked back. With Kellyn Acosta coming back to the starting lineup in the coming weeks, Hayes will have to fight to keep his spot.
“They’re leading the league table right now and it’s at their field, which is a little bit smaller,” Hayes said of NYCFC. “It’s something we’re going to have to adjust to in training this week and we’re going to have to give it our all. We had a good showing [against New England] in our away match but this is a big test for us on the road.”
If FC Dallas gets a result on the road against a quality NYCFC side, its unbeaten run will gain credibility. But Pareja is only worried about the task at hand, and that’s getting a result in Yankee Stadium.
“They’re good,” Pareja said. “They have an identity, a model that is really well known. They don’t mind playing against anyone but they just have that model. I think Patrick [Vieira] has done a great job, putting [together] a group of guys and scouting the guys who help them. But like any other system, model and team, we all have our weaknesses, too. We will try to exploit that.”