SBI MLS Playoff Preview: Real Salt Lake vs. FC Dallas

Fcdallas Saltlake

By TRAVIS CLARK

Real Salt Lake's reward for finishing with the second-best point total in MLS? An opening playoff series against FC Dallas, one of the hardest teams to beat in MLS this season.

It's a matchup of two similar teams — both favor a possession-oriented game, aiming to dominate the ball in search of that killer pass that unlocks the opposing defense. Each side boasts a South American playmaker (Javier Morales and David Ferreira), a top goalkeeper (Kevin Hartman and Nick Rimando) and an industrious defensive midfielder (Kyle Beckerman and Daniel Hernandez).

Two meetings this year produced mirroring results — each time the home side won by a 2-0 score. Real Salt Lake's home dominance has been well documented, a fact that will heap pressure on FC Dallas in Saturday's first leg at Pizza Hut Park.

Injuries will factor in this one. Hartman has yet to make an appearance since the infamous Thierry Henry incident, though is expected to start Saturday, while Ugo Ihemelu, Daniel Hernandez and Dax McCarty all missed significant time for Dallas as well. Compounding matters is the chance that Heath Pearce might miss Saturday's opener. For RSL, midfielder Will Johnson is questionable after suffering an injury in training this week.

Here's a closer look at the series:

REAL SALT LAKE vs. FC DALLAS

HEAD-TO-HEAD

July 17: FC Dallas 2, Real Salt Lake 0; October 16: Real Salt Lake 2, FC Dallas 0

WHEN

First leg – at Dallas, Oct. 30, 5:00 p.m., FSC

Second leg – at Real Salt Lake, Nov. 6, 10:00 p.m., ESPN2

KEY MATCHUPS TO WATCH

David Ferreira vs. Kyle Beckerman: The silky smooth Colombian playmaker was recently lauded as an MVP finalist, and is the engine of the Dallas offense. If Beckerman can clamp down on Ferreira, it would grind FCD's offensive threat to a halt, forcing the attack to stem from other parts of the pitch. To give an idea of how important the Colombian has been to Dallas, he's played 2,699 minutes this season — all but one of the regular season.

Javier Morales vs. Daniel Hernandez: While RSL isn't as reliant on Morales as Dallas is on Ferreira, the clash of these two in the center of the park should provide for enthralling theater. If Hernandez can't track Morales, the crafty Argentine will surely punish Dallas.

Alvaro Saborio vs. George John and Ugo Ihemelu: The battle between Saborio, and FC Dallas' central defenders — provided both are healthy and good to go — could be a decisive factor. The Costa Rican international led RSL in the goal-scoring department this year, and is going to be a handful for FCD to contain.

X-FACTOR

It hasn't been a great year for Robbie Findley. He failed to make an impact at the World Cup, and his goal-scoring totals were down this year to just five. Still, he has the speed and skill to stretch an MLS defense, and could be the difference maker for the defending MLS champions.

FC Dallas youngster Brek Shea has enjoyed a break out year, starting 21 games, and playing a key role out the left wing. But it appears that he'll be relegated to the bench for at least the first game in favor of Marvin Chavez, and hasn't started a game since getting sent off on September 16 against New York. His impact off the bench could prove to be a difference maker.

OUTLOOK

A low-scoring defensive-minded series seems likely in this one when comparing the two styles. An early goal would obviously chuck that out the window. Home battles will prove to be key — RSL is unbeatable at home, while FC Dallas just dropped a single game at home all year. If Dallas fail to take the lead at home this Saturday, they will be hard pressed to advance in this one.

Who do you think will advance from this series? Cast your vote here:

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Who did you vote for? Which Western Conference team will advance? Can Real Salt Lake make it two MLS Cups in a row?

Share your thoughts below.

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11 Responses to SBI MLS Playoff Preview: Real Salt Lake vs. FC Dallas

  1. JT says:

    Quick question, what’s wrong with Pierce. I know he missed the last game with yellow card accumulation. Did he pick up a knock in practice this week?

  2. Neruda says:

    Fairly evenly matched clubs but RSL brings stronger, more experienced D, especially with Sala starting in goal for FCD. Let’s go RSL.

  3. Charles says:

    Love the previews.

    Love the matchups, man this is going to be a great one.

    Let’s get it going.

  4. Hincha Tim says:

    I can’t say I agree with your assessment that it will be a defensive minded series. I think both teams like to attack, especially RSL. It might be low scoring because both teams have great defenses but I think at least RSL will try to attack.

  5. soccerroo says:

    I think he says it will be defensive beecause neither team gives up a bunch of goals. Dallas has played to a lot of tied games and I think that plays in their advantage. FCD wins at PHP and ties at Rio Tinto to go through.

  6. FootballLee says:

    RSL will hope for a tie at PHP. The the RIOT will be the factor at home. RSL wins the series 1-1 first leg. 2-0 second leg.

  7. Mattmatumbo says:

    Kreis said he’s planning on playing defensively, which the 4-5-1 worked out well the first time they met this season hahaha.

  8. Llama says:

    No way I see Kreis playing the defensive game. The man had the balls to go into Mexico city and swat a fantastic Cruz Azul team across the snout and play attacking soccer. Regardless of what the media is reporting I’m calling for an all out attacking side from RSL. If your believing that Kreis is gonna pack it in because of what some members of the media are reporting you simply don’t understand that Kreis never gives away a gameplan, especially a few days before a match. This is a coach that won’t release his lineup until the last possible moment. I’m calling this a 2-1 RSL victory.

  9. boosted335 says:

    here here!

  10. Vince Clortho says:

    This series (as well as the others) will be tentative until the first goal is scored. One a team has to chase then things will open up. Here’s hoping for a result in Dallas. GO RSL!

  11. Kriestian says:

    Kreis doesn’t tell the media his real tactics or lineup.