Threadbare Dallas Midfield Faces Tough Test in Second City

Whatever injury bug that has found its way into the Dallas locker room is on the verge of becoming a full-fledged plague. Oscar Pareja’s options are even further limited with the suspension of Michel heading into tonight’s game.

FCD’s ten match unbeaten run will be put to quite a test tonight with limited options in the center of midfield. The rest of the squad will in reality look very similar to last week’s XI. But the long list of center mids on the IR or still in recovery (or facing suspension) doesn’t inspire confidence: Moffat, Thomas, Michel, and Diaz will all likely not feature. Whomever will be Ulloa’s foil is the real mystery. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll see an extended appearance from Luccin, or let Acosta moonlight as a center mid, as he has in the past.

For FCD the stakes are high. Comparatively, they are much higher than their northern opponent’s. A ten game unbeaten run, including four wins in the past five matches, and an enviable attack have carried FCD into this moment. They sit third in the Western Conference and could go as high as the top with some favorable results going against the Galaxy and Sounders later today and tomorrow. Mercurial, ascendent, scrumptralescent – whatever you may call the past two months it all applies to FC Dallas. Pareja has moulded a team in his image backed by bona fide confidence.

But what of the Fire? I fired a few questions across the bow of OnTheFire writer Jon Denham (@Denham_Jon) to get a better flavor of the Fire’s season and situation.

If you could use any movie from the 80’s or 90’s to describe the Fire’s season which one would it be? Why?

I haven no idea how often you get this answer, but for me, it has to be “Dazed and Confused” (1993). Between the Jermaine Jones saga, the number of draws included in our overall record, and the transfers in and out over the last month or so, we’re having a hard time figuring out life right now. There was a bit of success in the US Open Cup this summer. Then we got smacked 6-0 by Seattle like those kids with the paddles in the movie. Dazed. Confused.

What has the team’s recent form looked like?

Not great. Disjointed most of the time. Reactive. The captain, Jeff Larentowicz, has been moved to center back and helped earn a shutout his first game back there. Since that triumph, it has been mostly “meh”. There will be small 5-10 minute stretches of decent footy from CF97. Then long stretches of defending.

Are there any positives for the Fire in 2014?

Collectively, I have a hard time thinking of a single one. Individually, Harry Shipp has been fun to watch in his first MLS season. He’s sneaky good. Looks like he should be delivering pizzas. Instead, he’s trying to combine with last year’s league MVP. Youngster Grant Ward (Tottenham loanee) has also been good, but can’t seem to get a full 90 minutes for some reason. Sean Johnson remains an important piece in the back.

Who should the uninformed observer direct their attention towards for the Fire?

For me, it has to be Razvan Cocis. He signed about a month ago and I like what I’ve seen for the most part from a central midfield role. He wants to play quickly and will combine with anyone around him who helps move the ball forward into dangerous areas. And Shipp, as I mentioned previously.

What would an ideal starting XI look like for Frank Yallop?

Great question. I’m not sure even he knows. He needs to assemble a back line that doesn’t include Bakary Soumare, but between the veteran’s salary and lack of a servicable replacement at center back, we’re still searching for answers. The team has been able to find goals. Preventing a “bad” one has been the real problem. The Fire will also press high up the field if given the chance.

What playoff hopes exist for Chicago?

Only the mathematically challenged and exceptionally naive see that happening. Remember, we can still count our wins on one hand at this point.

If I’m gleaning the right things from Jon, it seems like there are spurts of brilliance in what has been overall a frustrating campaign. Even the presence of Jermaine Jones would have been too little, too late for the Fire it seems. Many thanks to Jon for firing back some quality insight for tonight’s match.

If nothing else, tonight’s “Rookie of the Year Royal Rumble” will be the most intriguing part of the contest. Shipp certainly has some ground to make up on Akindele, but there seems to be enough time left in 2014 for either to make a stronger case.

(image courtesy of mlssoccer.com)

Cory Jensen

About Cory Jensen

Removed from his ancestral Texas, he longs for Whataburger, Peticolas, and a quality breakfast burrito.

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