FC Dallas will cap its four-match homestand Saturday night against the Colorado Rapids in Frisco, Texas.
The Huntsmen played the Rapids four times last season, including the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, going 2-0-2. The last match, a 1-1 draw, was then Colorado head coach Pablo Mastroeni’s last match before he was sacked with a 6-12-4 record.
New coach Anthony Hudson came in after failing to get New Zealand to the 2018 FIFA World Cup. He’s implemented a 3-5-2 formation in Colorado with mixed results. The Rapids looked to have a result on the road against New England before giving up a free kick late and conceding the game-winner. They also were up 2-0 with a dominant display in their home opener against Sporting Kansas City before blowing that lead. But they outplayed the Philadelphia Union at home and won 3-0 with a hat trick from Senegalese forward Dominique Badji.
“We have studied their model and we have some ideas to counterattack that map,” Dallas coach Oscar Pareja said. “We’ll see. You know, the game plan is laid down already and we’ll see it with all the talent our players have and the energy implemented on the field.”
Seven of Dallas’ first 10 matches this season are at home. Winning at home is a must for teams that want to make the playoffs, as cross-country travel and commercial flights make away matches difficult in MLS.
“I don’t think anybody has the formula,” Pareja said. “From spring to the winter [we need] just to be good. We just try to be good every game, try to win it. And if you go three years ago, when we scored 60 points, we had a tremendous start. But we couldn’t get to our objective, which was winning MLS Cup.”
Kellyn Acosta returns to training
Kellyn Acosta returned to training last week after getting hernia surgery during the preseason.
The midfielder participated in some drills and trained off to the side, doing strength and fitness work with coach Fabian Bazan.
“It’s been good,” Acosta said. “I’m definitely excited. It sucks just being inside. Being with the team, kinda getting corporated with the drills and all that, I’m definitely happy about that. I’m inching closer, I’m not ready yet but I mean every day I’m progressing, I’m going in the right direction, and everything’s been positive so I’m happy with it.”
This is the first time the 22-year-old has been out with a lengthy injury, but while sidelined Acosta had the unique perspective of watching the game from above as a fan rather than a player on the pitch.
“I think sometimes you learn more from watching and being in the stands, watching the game you get an obviously different perspective than just seeing it on film,” Acosta said. “I can see it live, I can see the movements and positioning so I’m retaining a lot of information in that sense. I’m on the outside looking in. I’m looking at a fan perspective. But obviously, I know my teammates better than anyone else. It’s definitely a different experience in that sense because I’m usually on the field somewhat even in the field or on the bench.”
Dallas has lacked a linking player on the pitch, playing with two predominantly defensive midfielders in Jacori Hayes and Carlos Gruezo.
Gruezo is the more box-to-box mid but struggles in the offensive third and is not the same kind of player as Acosta.
“There’s several things,” Acosta said. “The coaches definitely attacked that during film. But yeah, I mean I’m the type of player that likes to be in between the lines and I think that could definitely benefit our team. I think we almost lack that in a sense. Different types of players have different types of qualities bring different things to the field. I like to get in between and connect the defensive line to the forward line, so I think maybe in that sense I could help out the team when I comeback. The energy, aggressiveness is all there. I think I have that. But I think that little aspect of the game, I think we could use.”
Mar 24, 2018; Frisco, TX, USA; Portland Timbers forward Fanendo Adi (9) is fouled by FC Dallas defender Matt Hedges (not pictured) during the first half at Toyota Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
With Acosta coming back, Pareja welcomes the difficult decisions he will have to make as a result of added competition in the midfield.
“The first job that we need to do is to get [Kellyn] to be able to be in that mode of being at the best and being able to compete for the position,” Pareja said. “Then after comes the questions that coaches do plan for the particular game. But the competition internally is very important. I think it’s a great thing to have and I believe we can have it in all these positions.”
Paxton Pomykal out with a meniscus injury
Paxton Pomykal had surgery this week on his meniscus to remove damaged scar tissue. He is projected to be out for four-to-six weeks. He is the third academy product who has had surgery this year, with Brandon Servania and Jesus Ferreira also out with injuries. Pareja described the injury crisis after training Friday.
“Paxton got kicked in Dallas Cup,” Pareja said. “Somebody came from behind and kick him hard and that hurt his meniscus. [Jesus] Ferreira was dragging an injury from two years ago [with] pain in the pelvis. We decided not to hold it anymore and not try to resolve it by strengthening. The doctor’s agreed with doing the sports hernia surgery. Brandon Servania came from college with a strange problem in his calves. This is something I have not seen before in my 30 years, I have not seen a player with that. It’s something he was dragging from before from two years ago and with professional training, it got more noticeable.”