The Portland Timbers are still on the road following Saturday's 2-1 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps and this time they are headed southeast, getting set to take on FC Dallas this evening in a midweek match. To get a good look at the Timbers' opposition, we talked to Drew Epperley of Big D Soccer and he answered a few of our questions coming into tonight's match.
Dallas are on quite the skid currently, having lost their last three games with a combined score of 8-0. What is going on with the side and is there any indication that they will turn it around against the Timbers?
One of the biggest problems has been injuries and defensive rotation. While the team has a lot of depth across the field, the injury to Matt Hedges really sent the club in a bit of a tail spend as they had to juggle between guys like Zach Loyd, Walker Zimmerman and Maynor Figueroa in the center part of their defense. Truly, FCD doesn't have many true center backs and that problem became more apparent in the road losses to Vancouver and New York. Both of those teams exposed the middle of the defense in a bad way and forced the wings to pinch in a bit more and not get forward as much as they'd like to.
Last weekend in Toronto was better out of the defense and the team in general. Part of it may have had to do with a midfield duo of Kellyn Acosta and Victor Ulloa starting in front of the back four, or it may have had more to do with Mauro Diaz getting more minutes on the field again.
Dallas have been getting goals from all across their front line this season, just like last year, but is there a player that makes the whole Dallas attack work? Is there someone that opposing teams can take out of the equation to disrupt Dallas?
If Mauro Diaz is on his game, the entire offense works well. If he is limited in his distribution to the wings, it also will limit what goes forward to Max Urruti. That being said, this team does find a lot of ways to get goals without Diaz and that comes down to what Fabian Castillo and Michael Barrios are able to do on the wings. If they are able to get the ball in space, they do a really good job of exposing weaknesses in other team's back lines.
The Hoops' back line has been in flux for much of the season, with Oscar Pareja unable to settle on a consistent back four as he swaps out players and changes their positions. Why haven't Dallas been able to find a consistent back four and how has that lack of consistency in the back hindered them, if at all?
Like I mentioned above, it comes down to injuries and lack of good depth in the back. A lot of the fullbacks are midfielders that have converted over to the fullback spot. And some of the center backs are converted full backs. Pareja loves versatile players but it has started to create a problem where some players may not be settled enough in their roles.