The Portland Timbers are familiar with a long winless streak during the 2014 season. Theirs just happens to have concluded six weeks earlier than the one FC Dallas just endured. Now, after a 3-2 defeat of Colorado Rapids over the weekend, Dallas visits Portland for the only time this year. To find out whether Saturday's win was an outlier or a harbinger of renewed success, we turn to SB Nation's Dallas blog, Big D Soccer. Brian Wachholz gave us a few minutes to answer our most pressing questions:
1. When we last spoke (ahead of the March 29 game), FC Dallas was on a roll and undefeated. Now they're coming off their first win since mid-April. Should we expect to see a team on the mend or the one that did not win for nearly two months?
This team is on the mend, but still nowhere close to the strength you saw back in March. Injuries have absolutely ravaged this roster, and these aren't squad players on the trainer's table. It's our first eleven suffering the brunt of the injury bug. Last week, Drew Epperley wrote on our website:
"As of June 6, FC Dallas players have missed 74 games due to injury. Another five games have been lost due to suspensions. Six players have been ejected through the first 15 matches this season. The club record for red cards in a season is seven, which occurred during the 2008 season."
The win against Colorado provides a welcome glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. However, the World Cup break can't come soon enough for FC Dallas. We expect to have many of these players back healthy in July including Mauro Diaz and George John.
2. Both starting center backs - Matt Hedges and Walker Zimmerman - were removed before the second half due to injury over the weekend. Will either of them be available on Wednesday, and if not, who will start in the middle instead?
Zimmerman is likely out for a little while. I wouldn't expect to see him again until after the World Cup break. Zimmerman has done well on the field when he's been healthy for FCD, but it seems like he has been injured more often than not. It was his hamstring on Saturday. I expect FCD to keep him rested through the next several weeks to see if he can reach 100% for the end of season playoff push.
Hedges, I wish I had more information. He also had hamstring trouble on Saturday. I don't know the extent of it. Oscar Pareja will be keen to rest him though if it seems like something that could worsen playing in Portland this week. Better for him to miss this game than the next several through the end of summer.
Stephen Keel will report for centerback duty this week. Zach Loyd or Moises Hernandez will pair with him. Moises has played as a centerback under Oscar Pareja. Even though Zach usually plays right back, he edges Moises a little bit in experience in the middle of defense. OP will have to weigh his options including who would play RB if Zach takes the center with Keel.
3. Before the weekend, Dallas had not scored two goals in a game since April 19 while the Timbers have scored at least two in five straight and scored three in four of the past seven. Will Portland be able to simply outscore Dallas, given recent form?
Portland will want to focus on offense, yes. This FC Dallas team has a grand total of one shutout so far this year. With the top three centerbacks possibly out injured this week, I don't expect the team to improve upon that statistic in Portland.
However, you are well aware that nothing is simple in this game. FC Dallas is unpredictable right now. With a constantly changing lineup mitigating for suspensions and injuries, it's difficult to predict who will be the first eleven on the field Wednesday. Blas Perez has been hot and cold, mostly cold, so far this season, but it only takes one goal to open the flood gates and put him on a goal scoring tear. Fabian Castillo will be riding high after an impressive performance this past weekend and a goal nominated for GOTW. I think it will be a competitive game. The pressure will be on Portland to score if Dallas can get a goal.