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City of Angels awaits Óscar Pareja, FC Dallas

Apr 29, 2018; New York, NY, USA; FC Dallas midfielder Mauro Diaz (10) and New York City FC defender Saad Abdul-Salaam (13) fight for the ball during the second half at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

After suffering its first defeat of the season, FC Dallas will continue on the road with a date in the City of Angels against new expansion side Los Angeles FC.

Kickoff is scheduled for 3:55 p.m. ET at Banc of California Stadium.

Last weekend’s 3-1 defeat to New York City FC was a tale of turnovers in a game Dallas (3-1-3, 12 points) believe  it did not play poorly. Mistakes by Jacori Hayes and Reto Ziegler on the conceded goals were among the deciding factors in the loss. A turnover in Dallas’ half by Hayes led to Jesus Medina’s goal and a miscommunication between Matt Hedges and Ziegler gave David Villa his 401st goal in all competitions.

The error and subsequent loss was difficult for Hayes after a strong start to the 2018 Major League Soccer season. He was not very comfortable on the smaller pitch and with NYCFC’s signature press, which seemed to cause him and partner Victor Ulloa some trouble in the midfield. Hayes had 30 touches in the match, which is his season low, before Carlos Gruezo replaced him in the 53rd minute.

“It was a bit rough for me,” Hayes said. “They pressed really quickly and looking back at it, there’s definitely moments I could have handled better but you know, it’s something to learn from. Even if I do well in a game, I want to watch back and see what I could improve on so there’s nothing different from evaluating this game.”

Hayes, 22, has been complimented on his composure in the back and his ability to almost fill the role of Kellyn Acosta, who has been out due to a sports hernia surgery.

“You don’t get too high on your good moments, you don’t get too low on your bad moments,” Hayes said. “You go through the same process to training this week to having a good game against LAFC. Watching the game and seeing what I could have improved, what didn’t I see on the field, what did I see and combining the two so next time, I’m a better player for it.”

LAFC (5-2-0, 15 points) is riding an emotional high preparing to play its second match in Banc of California Stadium. The team won its debut match there against the Seattle Sounders last week off a late goal by Laurent Ciman and has surged to second place in the Western Conference. LAFC won four of its first six road games before opening its new home.

LAFC coach Bob Bradley and company also made splashes this week before the MLS primary transfer window closed, acquiring playmaker Lee Nguyen from New England and Adama Diomande from Hull City. Depth has been a concern magnified by the facial injury to Costa Rican international Marco Urena, who is out indefinitely.

“They have been strong going away,” FC Dallas coach Oscar Pareja said. “The past game against Seattle, I see a little bit of weaknesses there. They score at the end of the game, and we could analyze that game a lot. So, certainly, like any other team, it’s going to give us some holes and some weaknesses we would like to exploit.”

Dallas has experience with opening up opponents’ new stadiums. Last year, FCD played against Atlanta United for its inaugural match Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The result was a 3-0 defeat in a dominating display by the Five Stripes.

“The mentality of the team has to be strong and see if we can win games away, which we have already proved,” Pareja said. “Second, don’t think too much about their party. It’s a field like any other field, with 11 players inside that you play against. So thinking that way and not so much of the party stuff.

“They’re definitely gonna be excited, have a lot of momentum playing in front of their home fans and home crowd,” midfielder Kellyn Acosta said. “[It’s the] second game ever to be played in that stadium. For us, it’s going to be exciting. We need to match the intensity and keep doing what we’re doing.”

Acosta was apart of the 18-man roster that traveled to the Bronx, N.Y., last weekend. He has fully participated in drills at training and believes he is ready to go. Acosta’s role as a connector on the team has been missed. Hayes did a quality job filling that gap, but his skill set excels in the defensive midfielder role. Gruezo was asked to be a box-to-box midfielder, but it again did not play to the strengths of the defensive-minded Ecuadorian midfielder.

“I’m ready to go,” Acosta said. “Ultimately, it’s Oscar’s decision on if he wants to play me and what the circumstances are. But I want to put that idea in his head, and if called upon, I’ll be ready to go out there.”

Acosta believes the group has analyzed last weekend’s errors and is ready to go to battle Saturday.

“Obviously, we had a disappointing result last week, but now we’re putting that behind us,” Acosta said. “We watched a little bit of film, saw the things that we could have tidied up a bit — so I think we’re moving forward from that aspect and trying to bounce back from the previous week.”

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