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Preview: FC Dallas v Colorado Rapids (the MLS Cup Rematch)

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HOUSTON - MAY 05: Haha. Benitez face.
HOUSTON - MAY 05: Haha. Benitez face.

Hey guys, UZ is going to be off for today, so I decided that I would give you a taste of what I think is going to happen with the FC Dallas  game this Friday. I'm big on numbers, so here's what I think is going to happen by those numbers. Please note: these are based on very early season statistics, so they are going to look a bit skewed here. But they are still informative. I'm also going to take a look at an interview with Schellas Hyndman himself. 

Meet you after the jump for some intelligent footballing discussion.

Offense, the story the numbers tell:

At the beginning of the season, the Colorado Rapids sit at among the lowest for overall shots, at 15th with 28 shots overall. Not great but not the worst. Especially considering some other stats I'm going to throw at you, this is going to seem like quite an amazing thing.

FC Dallas, on the other hand, sits in 4th in the league with 45 shots overall. That's an impressive number of shots, to be sure. But it shouldn't appear as intimidating as the bare number would suggest. I'll tell you that in just a second.

Looking a little bit more at the offensive efficiency, the advantage bends clearly towards the Colorado boys. Out of 28 shots, 14 of them were counted as shots on goal. Then, out of the 14 shots on goal, Colorado got 8 goals. That's an incredible breakdown, and if that ratio stays the same, it means that one out of every two shots on goal will result in a goal. That's a statistic that can only exist in the early season, but it's encouraging. 

It becomes particularly encouraging when you look at FC Dallas. It's clear from the 45 shots overall that their offense is indeed doing something. But it doesn't appear that they are doing something right. Out of those 45 shots, only 13 were counted as shots on goal. They've got nearly twice as many shots as the Rapids, but not as many shots on goal. That's unbelievable. And when you count the goal count the goals? It gets absurd. 1 goal for 13 shots on goal and 45 shots overall. 

These speak to two things: the effectiveness and discipline in possession of the Colorado squad, and the ineffective and wasteful possession of FC Dallas early in the season. These are early season statistics, they're known to be whacky, but those are the numbers.

Schellas Hyndman himself even admitted in an interview with MLS.com that discipline was a problem with his squad. This may be due to the fact that he dumped off two of his big core guys (McCarty and Pierce) in order to bring in a lot of new young talent. If lack of discipline is Hyndman's complaint, he only has himself to blame.

Defense, the story the numbers tell:

Defensive stats aren't nearly as sexy as Offensive Stats, but they are important in determining how good an opposing defense is, and whether or not Colorado can get some shots in, while preventing Dallas from getting any. It seems highly unlikely, based on the numbers, that Colorado will be able to prevent Dallas from getting a single shot, but it appears very likely that they may well limit the number of good chances that Dallas has.

Colorado's defense only allowed 26 shots on goal, which puts them up near Chicago and RSL at the top of the league for fewest shots allowed. 

Dallas, on the other hand, is somewhere near the middle of the pack with 35 shots allowed on goal. Colorado has the defensive advantage going into this match, fairly clearly, on paper. 

A really interesting statistic that I came across was the stat that shows how many shots were allowed in the first half versus the second half. Colorado only allowed two more shots on goal in the second half than the first half. Dallas, on the other hand, falls apart defensively in the second half, in order to get more aggressive offensively. But it's a huge issue of cost/benefit, as they concede nearly twice as many shots as in the first half, while only tallying maybe 5 more shots for themselves--without a whole lot to show for it, just one measly goal.

The issue of fouls:

Both Hyndman and Smith are going to want to control their lads for this game. Hyndman in particular has been hurt by the lack of discipline on his side, and Smith has developed a loose cannon in midfielder Brian Mullan. While Brian hasn't been thrown out of a game just yet, he's racked up more fouls than anyone else on the team. Pablo is carrying a yellow card, as well as Anthony Wallace...

Dallas is going to be eager to assert themselves over the team that beat them in the MLS Cup Final. If they buy into the idea that Colorado were just brutes who bullied their way to victory, they may be tempted to start fouling early and often in order to establish a physical presence on the pitch. This will certainly turn the game in the Rapids favor, as Colorado has already shown they are more readily able to deal with a game that becomes chippy (Chivas USA) than Dallas.

I expect this will be a foul filled affair. Dallas will be eager to prove themselves and get out of their slump, and Colorado will see this as a chance to make a definitive statement on why they deserve to be MLS Cup Champions and ranked with the class of the league.

Conclusions

It's hard not to be excited about this game, for a lot of reasons. Rapids fans should look towards this game with optimism, albeit also with a bit of caution. Dallas has never been a pushover team, and in spite of their record they remain a talented bunch. This score is hard to call simply for the reason that this could be the match where Hyndman gets through to his men and they start putting up goals. 

However, Gary Smith knows the way to prevent Dallas from getting shots on goal, he knows the way to win, or at least pull out a draw on the road.

My guess is that the Rapids win, 2-1. Colorado comes out firing, and nets two. Dallas pulls one back late... but it's not enough.

 

Rapids 2-1