Next up for Colorado Rapids is a tough clash against table-topping FC Dallas at Dick's with the Rapids looking to extend their unbeaten streak to six games - a run that seemed unlikely a month ago given the length of the injury list. For Dallas, they will be looking to stay top of the West after a blistering start to the season has left them with 27 points and only two defeats.
The key to FC Dallas' success is down to no individual in particular but their team as a collective. Goals for Dallas have been spread around whilst the team tends to be based upon a solid core of hardworking but unspectacular players like Andrew Jacobson and Matt Hedges. This approach has worked wonders for a Dallas outfit that wasn't predicted to pull up any trees in preseason and it poses a significant threat to the Rapids come Saturday.
Last time out Dallas avenged a 4-2 smashing at the hands of Seattle Sounders by sneaking past San Jose Earthquakes courtesy of a Fabian Castillo goal. It was a sluggish performance from the Texan team with the Earthquakes having the best of the chances but a performance and a half from Raul Fernandez secured all three points. For the Rapids, the last match (ignoring the US Open Cup aberration) was another pretty dominant victory over Chivas USA. To me, the Rapids seem to be the ones heading into Saturday's encounter with the momentum as although Dallas won last time out, they seem to be stuttering a little.
As mentioned before, the strong core of the FCD team seems to be the key to its success with the central defensive pairing of Matt Hedges and George John providing great stability. Since John's knee injury though, the Dallas defence has looked notably shakier with Hedges and London Woodberry not providing as much of a steady partnership. Michel and either JeVaughn Watson or Andrew Jacobson has been the partnership in central midfield with both mostly sitting back and playing a deep role in front of the defence allowing the more attacking players more freedom. Michel in particular has had a cracking start to his MLS career providing a threat with his left foot from set pieces.
In terms of striking threats, FCD is the most fearsome and deep frontlines in MLS.
To deal with them, the Rapids will have to be on the top of their game which means no repeat this time around from Marvell Wynne like his performance against Chivas. In fact, I'd like to see Shane O'Neill back in at centre-back because firstly, he never deserved to get dropped and secondly, with the physical presence of the Dallas striker being the focal point of FCD's attacking play, he is the best centre-back to deal with an aerial battle.
On top of that, the usual attention must be given to Ferreira because we all know how dangerous he can be if given time and space to engineer opportunities for others and himself. Either Nathan Sturgis or Pablo Mastroeni are going to have to do a job on him to man mark him out of the game like they have done so far this season with many other dangerous attacking midfielders.
Given the pace down the wings too with Castillo and Jackson it might be wise to shift out Wynne to rightback despite Brian Mullan's excellent start in an unfamiliar position. Both Castillo and Jackson have pace in abundance and could leave Mullan for dead if they start motoring whereas Wynne would be able to compete. Chris Klute on the other side has enough pace about him to keep up with both.
When thinking about potential opportunities for the Rapids going forward, the only weakness in the Dallas defence seems to me to be Woodberry (that is if Hedges isn't fit enough come Saturday). Aside from that, there seems to be little notable weakness which the Rapids could easily exploit. However, what can be said is that the way FC Dallas block up the centre of midfield means that Colorado have to look down the flanks when going forward. DeShorn Brown and Atiba Harris should have the beating of their respective fullbacks - Brown with his pace and Harris with his physical ability.
The Rapids will have to ensure they get enough bodies forward though as Dallas get men behind the ball and this is no Chivas USA with their three ‘defenders' and their half-hearted attempts at defending. FCD pose a completely different threat with the strength of their organisation and their abundance of attacking threats. If Colorado can keep a lid on players such as Ferreira and Jackson who create as well as getting the better of the central striker in the physical battle then they are in with a shout. They do have the momentum and altitude on their side which could be enough to help them overcome Dallas in a tight affair.