FC Dallas' Schellas Hyndman has struggled with disappointment and frustration over his team's lack of finishing and discipline. The Hoops have played 6 of their first 9 games of the season at Pizza Hut Park but have managed to come away with only 11 points and a 2-2-5 record. Dallas is 0-2-1 on the road with the only points coming from a 1-1 draw in Philadelphia.
They managed to create chances against Los Angeles last week but were still held scoreless in a 1-0 loss at home. Defensively they have been fairly solid with Kevin Hartman replacing Dario Sala as the starter in goal. The back line features George John and Ugo Ihemelu as the center backs. Rookie Zach Loyd has started the majority of the time on the ride side while Jair Benitez has filled in on the left when Heath Pearce is away on National Team duty. Pearce, who should be available after not making the World Cup cut, has also played some midfield during the first nine games.
Hyndman has used the flexible 4-5-1 formation that has become popular in MLS this season with Brazilian David Ferreira acting as a withdrawn forward and central playmaker. Ferreira had a huge second half of 2009 fueling Dallas' late resurgence but he has yet to find that same form in 2010. Diminutive Dax McCarty and Daniel Hernandez fill out the central midfield with McCarty serving as more of a supporting attacker. Talented young attacker Brek Shea starts on the left side. Shea has thankfully ditched the heinous hairdo that he sported through most of 2009. Atiba Harris has started every game on the right side but Hyndman has experimented with Harris up front and Jeff Cunningham at rid might during training this week.
Cunningham leads all Dallas scorers with four goals although three of them have come from the penalty spot. Cunningham has been pulled from each of Dallas' last two matches in the 63rd minute. There seems to be some underlying issues between Hyndman and Cunningham as the coach has seen fit to point out his disappointment with the team's finishing after subbing the forward.
Eric Avila, Marvin Chavez, Jason Yeisley, and Anthony Wallace are the main substitutes on the bench with rookie Bryan Leyva beginning to earn time with his debut against Los Angeles last week.
From the Fire's end, Carlos De Los Cobos has hinted at a return to the 4-4-2 formation featuring both Collins John and Brian McBride in the starting eleven. De Los Cobos has also indicated that the four man midfield will consist of Patrick Nyarko and Baggio Husidic. The other two starting spots will come down to either Justin Mapp or Mike Banner on the left side and a choice between Logan Pause and Marco Pappa to complete the eleven. Banner is listed on the injury report but did train on Wednesday. De Los Cobos said that Banner will play if he is healthy. The Fire coach has decisions to make with regard to defensive responsibilities if the central midfield pair consists of Husidic and Pappa. For this reason I would expect that Pause gets the nod over Pappa.
Dasan Robinson will likely return to the right back spot since Tim Ward will be out for several more weeks. Pause played right back against Legia last Saturday so it's possible that De Los Cobos could continue to explore this option as well.
This game is the first of three consecutive MLS home games for the Fire. The next two are winnable matches against Philadelphia and Colorado. It's time for the Fire to start making a move in the Eastern Conference by capitalizing on home games against struggling teams. A failure to gaining maximum points tonight will certainly raise more questions for De Los Cobos and Frank Klopas.
Prediction : Fire 2 FC Dallas 1 - This game is important for obvious reasons but it's also necessary to regain some respect against a Dallas side that has captured the Brimstone Cup every year since 2002.