With two home wins and a draw at Sporting Kansas City to start the season, FC Dallas is hot. To learn more about how that fast start could play out on Saturday against Portland, we turned to Brian Wachholz of SB Nation's Dallas blog, Big D Soccer. As we do every week, we posed a few questions, which you'll find below:
1. What is the biggest difference between the Schellas Hyndman-led teams of the past with this year's Oscar Pareja team?
Considering we've only just begun our journey into Pareja's plan, this is a difficult question. However something he recently said in an interview with our local media has stuck out as jarringly different and a positive new development:
"If we want to have consistency in the lineup, I will chose to say that it's consistency in the formation or the idea. The personnel is changing all the time and the players see that. This is a roster of 30 and my philosophy is that we're all involved. This isn't about 11 players, it's 30 players' commitment."
Schellas Hyndman was dependent on his top 11-15 players, and the homegrown, draft, and young players didn't see as much rotation through the lineup. This made injuries and international call-ups a strain on the system. OP seems to be prioritizing formation and philosophy more so. I think this bodes well for North Texas youth who will come through the academy as well as players on the team today sitting in roster slots 16-30. On opening day, 2 homegrown players were in the starting XI.
2. Will Hendry Thomas' suspension affect Pareja's set up against Portland? Or will Michel simply slot in?
Yes, Hendry's Thomas' suspension will impact the game. The heart breaker, though, is that FC Dallas has lost not only Thomas for this weekend, but Adam Moffat and Andrew Jacobson were both injured last weekend as well. Those three guys are the top of the FCD defensive midfield depth chart. I don't think that we'll see Michel; he struggled with turnovers when Schellas would force him into that position last season. It seems like Oscar has different plans for Michel. It would be more likely that we could see someone like Victor Ulloa or Peter Luccin while Thomas rides this one out.
3. Fabian Castillo has given the Timbers trouble in the past. After a fast start to this season, any reason to think he won't be in form this weekend?
Unfortunately for the green and gold faithful, no. We are just seeing Fabian get started. The past couple of seasons, we have seen glimpses of what Castillo can become. We compared him to Luis Mendoza, the really fast kid in the 90's classic sequel D2: The Mighty Ducks. Like the movie character, Castillo would tear down the field of play with lightning speed and fancy footwork, but inevitably he'd bobble the ball away or run out of bounds past the endline. In 2014, we are seeing much much much less of that. Castillo seems to have caught up to his feet. He's making those split second decisions and the smart passes, leading to many more goal scoring opportunities.
My understanding is that Oscar Pareja played a large role in transitioning Fabian to MLS when he first arrived in 2011. Both are from Colombia, have played in the national team, and have had to make a big adjustment coming to North Texas. Pareja is someone who Castillo can look up to and receive mentorship. I think OP coming back to FCD will be the key to unlock Fabian's full potential.
Bonus: expected XI; known injuries
Chris Seitz, Jair Benitez, Stephen Keel, Matt Hedges (c), Kellyn Acosta, Peter Luccin, Victor Ulloa, Fabian Castillo, Mauro Diaz, Je-Vaughn Watson, Blas Perez
Raul Fernandez, George John, Zach Loyd, Andrew Jacobson, Adam Moffat