Friday, April 16, 2010

Red Bulls Preview: Sizing Up FC Dallas

After a pretty disappointing loss in L.A. last week, the Red Bulls return to Harrison for some home cooking, as they face FC Dallas in a 7:30 kickoff at the Cathedral of Football.

Like the Red Bulls, FC Dallas missed out on the playoffs last season, though they did manage to pull things together for a pretty remarkable run at the end of the season that had them banging in goals left and right - many of them courtesy of 2009 Golden Boot winner Jeff Cunningham (pictured).  In the end FCD fell tantalizingly short of a playoff spot, but Schellas Hyndman, who I expected could be in trouble early last season after run-ins with several high profile players, lived to fight another day.  The sale of Kenny Cooper, which many thought would create problems, had the opposite effect.

One player who will not be lining up for the Hoops on Saturday is RBNY fan fave Dave van den Bergh, having finally been waived after twisting in the wind for several months.  Despite providing a number of assists for the club, the Dutchman didn't enjoy quite the same success in Big D as he had in New York and was seen as surplus to requirements.

A new arrival this season is MLS veteran and peroxide addict Kevin Hartman, who wasted little time finding a new home after being cut loose by Kansas City.  He should be starting between the pipes on Saturday, and provides tons of experience at the back.  Another fresh face to look out for is 2010 first round draft pick, defender Zach Loyd.  You have to wonder if the Red Bulls might be able to exploit his inexperience.

Other than Hartman, players to keep an eye out for on Saturday include hardworking midfielder Dax McCarty, who seems to have sorted out his issues with Hyndman and enjoyed a pretty strong 2009 season.  Fellow US international Brek Shea, meanwhile, may be having his own issues with Hyndman, after being left out of the 18-man squad that managed a 2-2 draw with Columbus last weekend.  It's an open question we will see him suit up on Saturday.  Conversely, Mifdielder Eric Avila, one of Dallas' 8 million Generation Adidas signings, is off to a strong start in 2010, netting the equalizing goal against the Crew.

MLS observers have been waiting for a while for Dallas' crop of youngsters to break out.  Could this be the year?  The Red Bulls, who have had trouble dealing with pacy attackers like Steve Zakuani and Chukwudi Chijindu over the first three games, could be in for a bit of a challenge with the Hoops.  On the other hand, Dallas' away record is less impressive than their home form.  People like to joke about the poor attendance at Pizza Hut Park, but if you look at the numbers, FCD is very hard to beat at home.  Away, and playing for the first time in Red Bull Arena, it could be a different story.

While this is a winnable game for the Red Bulls, they'd be foolish to underestimate Dallas, especially as an attacking threat.
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