Saturday night’s matchup in Commerce City, Colorado will feature a meeting of the top two teams in the Western Conference as first place FC Dallas visits the Colorado Rapids.
Leading the Rapids by three points in the standings (having played three more matches than Colorado), FC Dallas will seek their 13th MLS win on Saturday night against a Colorado team that is unbeaten this season at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
This will be the first league meeting between Dallas and Colorado this season, although the two teams met in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 in Frisco, a match Dallas won 2-1 in extra time.
Despite not being fancied to do much this season in MLS play, manager Pablo Mastroeni has guided the Rapids to 37 points and a 10-2-7 (W-L-D) record behind the stingiest defense in the league.
After finishing bottom of the Western Conference last season and 19th overall in the league, Colorado’s resurgence is the result of timely scoring and brilliant goalkeeping.
Former Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath recorded six shutouts in his 16 starts this season for Colorado, allowing just 11 goals while claiming nine wins. However, it is now former Everton goalkeeper and current United States international Tim Howard that has grabbed the starting spot from MacMath.
Howard has started the last three matches for Colorado, going 1-0-2 (W-L-D) with two shutouts recorded.
The back four ahead of Howard is another strong point for Colorado, as they have conceded just four goals at home all season. Swedish defender Axel Sjoberg has not missed any match time since mid-April and at 6′ 7” tall, presents an imposing presence in defense.
Plano, Texas native Dillon Powers is in his third season with the Rapids and provided the game-winning assist in last week’s 1-0 home win over Sporting Kansas City.
Guatemalan midfielder Marco Pappa has made a sizable impact in first year with Colorado since being traded to the Rapids from Seattle this past off-season. Pappa has two goals and four assists in 12 matches this season, with his most recent goal coming in a 2-1 home win versus Chicago on June 18th.
Irish forward Kevin Doyle leads the Rapids with four goals and has been an integral part of their current 14-match league unbeaten run.
At 12-6-4 (W-L-D), FC Dallas lead MLS in both wins (12) and points (40) heading into the weekend slate of matches.
However, Dallas head into Saturday’s crucial match amid rumors of a transfer deal for forward Fabian Castillo that would send the Colombian to Turkey, jeopardizing his prospects of being included in the match day lineup.
Castillo scored the winning goal in the 90th minute of Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal win at Houston, so even if he is available for the match, his fitness may not be at full-strength.
Goalkeeper Chris Seitz started against Houston on Wednesday after Jesse Gonzalez was in net for Dallas’ 3-1 home win over Chicago last Saturday. One would expect Seitz and his six MLS shutouts to get the start again on Saturday.
Defender Matt Hedges was rested mid-week and will be fresh for the match, and he will be joined at center back by either Aubrey David or Walker Zimmerman. David, on-loan from Saprissa, has impressed in three appearances with FC Dallas.
Midfielder Mauro Diaz has four assists in his last four matches for FC Dallas. Fellow midfielder Kellyn Acosta has appeared in every FC Dallas match since March 26th and has five assists this season, a new career high for him.
With Castillo’s future in Frisco in doubt, forwards Michael Barrios and Maxi Urruti will be expected to step up in terms of offensive production. Urruti has already stepped up mightily of late, notching two goals and an assist in his last three matches. Barrios for his part still leads FC Dallas with six goals scored.
Television coverage for tonight’s match will be found on channel TXA 21 at 8 p.m. English radio coverage will be provided by 100.7 FM The Word and Spanish coverage via 1270 AM Amor Celestial.