Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas will meet for the second time this season on Friday night, with the Claret-and-Cobalt heading to Texas in search of its second-ever win at FCD. Friday's game will kick at 7:00 p.m. MT and will be nationally broadcast on NBC Sports Network.
Here are a few storylines to watch ahead of the match:
RSL looking to stay atop the west; continue six-game unbeaten run
The Claret-and-Cobalt has emerged from its mid-summer slump, now going unbeaten in its last six games for a 4-0-2 record. RSL is also currently riding a three-game win streak in the month of August, defeating Colorado Rapids 2-1 on Aug. 2, downing D.C. United 3-0 on Aug. 9 and topping Seattle Sounders FC 2-1 on Aug. 16.
The win over the Sounders last Saturday moved the Claret-and-Cobalt to the top of the Western Conference and inserted RSL into the Supporters’ Shield race with an with a current 11-4-9 record and total of 42 points. RSL is currently tied for first in the league on points with Sporting Kansas City, but the MLS Cup foe has the slight edge with one more win than the Utah club to break the deadlock.
Real Salt Lake has a difficult end to the season with 10 games remaining – six on the road and four at home – all against competitive Western Conference teams. A win on Friday in Dallas will surely help keep the Claret-and-Cobalt in the conversation for both top spots, especially with Seattle only one point behind RSL and only nine points separating RSL and fifth-place Vancouver Whitecaps FC, who occupy the final playoff spot.
Will RSL be able to quell Dallas’ dangerous attack?
The Claret-and-Cobalt will have its hands full on Friday, when it takes on what some argue is the most dangerous attack in MLS. FC Dallas has been on a roll of its own, going unbeaten in its last nine games and winning three straight. Dallas enter Friday’s match coming off a 5-0 thrashing of San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium last weekend. MLS rookie striker Tesho Akindele notched his first professional hat trick and forward Fabian Castillo recorded a brace in the 5-0 demolition. The Hoops’ attacking duo has been on fire lately, as Akindele has scored six goals in Dallas’ last six matches and Castillo has five goals and three assists in their last six.
RSL’s back line will have to be particularly aware of the dangerous duo, whose speed and confidence will be especially difficult in a hostile and sweltering environment on Friday.
Can RSL beat the odds in Texas?
RSL has struggled historically in Texas, recording its first-ever win in the Lone Star State last year. The Claret-and-Cobalt defeated FC Dallas 3-0 on July 13, 2013 at Toyota Stadium, a win that also marked the club’s 100th regular season victory in MLS. The Claret-and-Cobalt continued to make history in Texas this year, defeating Houston Dynamo for the first time at BBVA Compass Stadium with a 5-2 win on May 11.
Even though RSL has had recent success in Texas, the Claret-and-Cobalt won’t have history on its side as RSL posts a 1-11-2 record at Dallas across all competitions. In 12 regular season matches at FCD, RSL has only recorded nine goals while allowing 21. Despite RSL’s poor all-time record in Texas, the Utah club should be at full strength when the two sides meet on Friday, although the status of midfielder Javier Morales is still TBD. RSL was able to pull off last year’s 3-0 win with an unfamiliar lineup as Captain Kyle Beckerman, defender Tony Beltran, goalkeeper Nick Rimando and forward Alvaro Saborio were all unavailable due to international duty. Let’s hope a confident and healthy Real Salt Lake can work some magic and make it two in a row on Friday.
The last time Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas met in Texas, RSL won its first-ever match in the Lone Star State with a 3-0 rout on July 13, 2013. The victory also marked the Claret-and-Cobalt’s 100th regular season win in MLS. RSL MF Javier Morales, MF Ned Grabavoy and FW Olmes Garcia provided the goals in a match that was missing multiple key players – Captain Kyle Beckerman, DF Tony Beltran, GK Nick Rimando and FW Alvaro Saborio were all unavailable due to international duty.
Get pumped for Friday’s match by reliving all the action from last summer’s historic win.
Ahead of Real Salt Lake’s clash with FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium on Friday (7:00 p.m. MT, NBC Sports Network), check out MLSsoccer.com’s latest MLS Now segment. Andrew Wiebe takes a closer look at Dallas’ potent attack after the Texas side demolished San Jose Earthquakes 5-0 at Buck Shaw Stadium last weekend. FCD rookie striker Tesho Akindele notched a hat trick while forward Fabian Castillo ran rampant over the field, recording a brace, to improve the Hoops’ undefeated streak to nine games. The Claret-and-Cobalt – which has only beat Dallas once in Texas – will have its hands full on Friday if the speedy duo remain in their impressive form.
Is FC Dallas’ attack the most dangerous in MLS?
Everything you need to know about Club Tijuana ahead of tonight's friendly. Special thanks to Kim Tate for putting this together.
About the Club:
Full Name: Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente
Nicknames: Xolos, Xolos de Tijuana, Los Perros Aztecas (Aztec Dogs), Club Tijuana
Founded: January 10, 2007
Stadium: Estadio Caliente (33,333 capacity) - Tijuana, Baja California, MX
Owner: Grupo Caliente
Manager: Cesar Farias (Venezuela)
League: Liga MX
Plays two tournaments per year: Apertura (Summer-Fall) and Clausura (Winter-Spring)
Located about 10 minutes south of the USA-Mexico border, Club Tijuana is a young Liga MX club on the rise having survived three years in top flight since their promotion in 2011. Proximity to the world's busiest border gives them an edge, allowing them to market their club easily to United States soccer fans and grants more convenient access to a wide market of youth soccer talent in southern California. The Xolos currently field the most Mexican-American talent within all of Liga MX, with eight U.S. National Team players across their first team and U-20 squads -- Joe Corona, Greg Garza, Paul Arriola, Alejandro Guido, John Requejo Jr., Amando Moreno, Fernando Arce Jr., and Anthony Rodriguez.
The game against Real Salt Lake could see a mix of regular starters and younger players, as Xolos are preparing for their week five game of the Apertura against Chiapas on Friday at Estadio Caliente.
Head coach Cesar Farias has been with the club since early 2014, formerly managing both the first team and U-20 national team squads in Venezuela. He is the first and only manager to have led Venezuela's national team to the semifinals of Copa America in 2011, after qualifying the U-20's for the first time in history to the U-20 World Cup in 2009. He managed the national team from 2007-2013, and joined Club Tijuana this year for his first-ever managerial job in Mexico.
The most familiar to RSL fans is Corona, who has played with Nick Rimando and Kyle Beckerman on the U.S. Men’s National Team. Corona scored Tijuana's important first goal in top flight and has continued to be an integral part of the Xolos midfield since before the team was promoted.
Tijuana's number one in goal is Cirilo Saucedo, who has been with the team since 2011 and has one cap for Mexico. His mother is a United States citizen and at one point the U.S. had been in touch with his agent about playing for the Americans. When Saucedo isn't starting, Xolos use their backup, Gibran Lajud, and also recently acquired Dilan Nicoletti, who won the U-17 World Cup with Mexico in 2011.
Tijuana's back line typically plays with a flat back four, and consists of Garza on the left, Argentine center backs Hernan Pellerano and Javier Gandolfi beside each other, and Isreal Jimenez on the right. Gandolfi wears the captain's armband for Xolos and Jimenez won an Olympic Gold medal with Mexico in the 2012 Olympics. Alternately, Farias could use a combination of players including Elio Castro, Alejando Molina, Juan Carlos Nunez, and Oliver Ortiz. Also, Requejo Jr. could come off the bench as an attacking sub if he travels with the team. The 18-year-old from California committed to UCLA before signing with Xolos in May, and is a very attack-minded left back player, similar to U.S. and former Xolos player Edgar Castillo.
Xolos have a lot of depth in midfield with Corona, having been around the longest, and he varies in starting and coming off the bench. Cristian Pellerano (older brother to Hernan) was the team's leading goal scorer in the 2014 Clausura with seven goals, and plays centrally -- usually between Richard Ruiz and Juan Arango. Ruiz is fast and technical and 34-year-old Arango played under Farias with Venezuela. Others who could likely see time at Rio Tinto Stadium are youngsters Edgar Villegas, Javier Salas, Arce Jr., and Guido. Javier Guemez is an undisputed starter for the first team in league play as a defensive midfielder, but it's uncertain whether Farias will rest him, among others, ahead of their game on Friday.
Up top, Xolos rely on Argentine-Italian Dario Benedetto, who was second in goal scoring last tournament with six goals. With the game coming up on Friday, however, Farias could elect to start Arriola in an attacking role with either Daryo or Alfredo Moreno - two players who made their returns to the club after stints elsewhere. Dayro is Colombian and Alfredo, a Mexican citizen, goes by the nickname "Chango." Another option up top as a starter is newcomer Henry Martin, who has two first team starts for the club already and scored a goal in Cup play for Xolos in Copa MX.
In what looks to be a decent MLS-Liga MX matchup, U.S. teammates will face each other and even Carlos Salcedo will go up against some familiar players from his days with Mexico's U-21's. The real battle could be in midfield, with Beckerman and Pellerano up against each other assuming Pellerano sees time. Corona, Ruiz, Villeagas, and Arango can cover a lot of space so either combination of players will contribute to the fast-paced aspect of this game. And in goal, Rimando and Saucedo are both excellent 'keepers -- it would be interesting to see how many saves each is forced to make with both sides possessing equal levels of talent in their attack.