In preparation for the Colorado Rapids-FC Dallas match I exchanged questions with our friends over at Big D Soccer about the match, expectations and how we thought it would go. Here is my part of the exchange:
Burgundy Wave: So that Fabian Castillo. He is pretty good. What makes him so special?
Big D Soccer: Fabian's physical assets include his speed, dribbling, and finishing. His finishing, especially, has improved since Oscar Pareja rejoined FC Dallas. Fabian and Oscar have common ground since both came from Colombia to the United States to play for Dallas in MLS. Pareja has been a valuable mentor to Fabian, and I think he has been key to fine tuning Fabian's skill set.
Castillo joined FC Dallas as a young DP in March 2011. We've seen Castillo struggle with consistency. There have been so many lost chances where he dribbles and dances through countless defenders only to lose the ball in the final third. His awareness is improving. Lately, we've seen more instances of him shooting or crossing the ball where he may have lost it back in 2012 or 2013. And he is still only 22 years old. As Fabian continues to gain experience and develop his mental game, we have a very strong player developing for FC Dallas, who is contracted until 2019.
BW: Dallas looks to have rebounded from a slight dip in form with a victory over Toronto this past weekend. What worked last weekend that was missing the previous 3 weeks?
BDS: We learned that Zimmerman is still very much a work in progress. Zach Loyd and Matt Hedges are an exponentially stronger centerback pairing. Chris Seitz has been a little shaky the past couple of games as well. There have been defensive lapses and also a slow transition to get some of the depth players into rotation. Je-Vaughn Watson is still a bit rusty from missing preseason, and new players like Kyle Bekker and Michael Barrios haven't quite jelled.
The 4-0 blowout to the Rapids was a wake up call. In the past couple of seasons with FCD early hot streaks, there has been a game to temper expectations. Last year, we lost to Chivas USA - the year before I believe we lost to DC United. This year, however, there was a 4-0 home blowout to a team that hadn't won in months. I think this was the best possible loss; if you're going to lose, lose big. So the entire week after, the team was focused on regaining their form. This week in Colorado will be no different. The team isn't for vengeance but redemption.
BW: What do you feel the ceiling is for this team? They have a good record, but just one win against a (current) playoff team. Where do you think they end up?
BDS: This team will make the playoffs. I think they fall into 3rd or 4th place in the West. FC Dallas has the desire and ability to make a deep cup run in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup tournament. It will be a real struggle through the summer and fall losing a number of players to their international teams during the Gold Cup and Olympic Qualifying. FCD's technical director, Fernando Clavijo has some work to do shoring up the midfield and defense with some player acquisitions. We heard that Clavijo was in England last weekend for a scouting trip. That's not FCD's typical bag for foreign players, but I can see how strong enforcer types may come cheap from the British Isles.
As for the MLS Cup Playoffs themselves, FC Dallas will be looking to build on last year which saw the team eliminated on away goals to Seattle in the quarterfinals. The core group of players is still intact and will be hunting for vindication that they can stay undefeated through the playoffs for another year.
Predicted Formation: Seitz, Harris, Loyd, Hedges, Hernandez, Ulloa, Michel, Castillo, Hollingshead, Akindele, Perez
Predicted Score: 2-2 draw.
You can see my answers over at Big D Soccer.