Without trying to sound overly dramatic, this may be the toughest game of the season for the Quakes. The team is playing away from home, and road games are always difficult. It’s Dallas’s home opener, which makes it more difficult. The last time they played each other, Dallas shut out San Jose 5-0 at Buck Shaw, the most lopsided “Away” victory in MLS for 2014. Last season, Dallas finished with 55 goals (4th highest in MLS) and nearly defeated the Seattle Sounders in the playoffs; this season, FC Dallas is a retooled team with championship aspirations. Add all those factors up: this game will be tough. In other words, it’s the perfect match-up for the Quakes.
The Quakes had a good preseason. Their only loss was to Houston, the first game of preseason, in which a majority of the match was played by their secondary players and/or trialists, and without Wondo. Since that game, they have shown improvement in each of the games they played, culminating in a 3-2 defeat of the Galaxy. They have looked good, but is this team for real? We will get a good glimpse of the answer on Saturday.
Defensively, Dallas begins their season with former Chivas goalie Dan Kennedy, a seasoned goalie with a ton of experience. Former Quake Atiba Harris will probably be playing in front of Kennedy on the defensive line, along with Matt Hedges, Moises Hernandez, and Zach Loyd. If Kennedy has an off-night, the Quakes could have a big upset at Toyota Field.
Offensively, Dallas is a triple threat. Fabian Castillo is a dynamic midfielder who will control the ball when Dallas is on the attack. They also have a healthy Mauro Diaz, another midfielder who put up seven goals in March last year, and earned player of the month honors. These two players combined with 2014 Rookie of the Year forward Tesho Akindele, who scored seven goals in 26 appearances including a hat-trick in San Jose, make Dallas’s offense very potent and very versatile.
In order for the Quakes to win, they will have to limit Castillo’s speed on the attack, set up shots on goal within the box through aggressive dribbling and one-touch passing (any crosses should/will be corralled by Kennedy), and drop JB Pierazzi as a defending mid to deal with the triple-threat of Dallas. Look for Shea or MPG to stick to Castillo like white on rice when Dallas has the ball. Also look for Koval to press forward to set up Wondo if MPG or Shea are leading the counter attack. The Quakes should have more than a few scoring opportunities given the revamp of the team this year and Dom’s knowledge of FC Dallas from his days in Houston, but if Kennedy is on his game, I doubt we will score more than two goals.
I expect the Quakes to use a 4-1-3-2 formation with Pierazzi as the defensive mid. I expect Shea and MPG to be the controlling midfielders, with Koval as the forward/attacking midfielder. After a brilliant preseason, I would expect Jahn to be starting with Wondo at forward as Emeghara continues to get into match shape. Given Dallas’s speed, I would not be surprised if Sanna Nyassi is in the starting XI in place of Koval.
Notable Quakes Injuries: Clarence Goodson, Innocent Emeghara (available to play, probably won’t start), Jordan Stewart.
Score Prediction: 2-1 Dallas
- Jack’s in Japantown, San Jose.
- Wicked Chicken near Santa Clara University
- The Commonwealth Cafe and Pub in Oakland