When FC Dallas visits the New England Revolution on Saturday, it won't just be an ordinary MLS side coming to town. Instead, it'll be one that boasts a 5-0-2 record at home, 23 points through 13 games and a youthful core with speed to burn.
The goals have come in bunches for head coach Oscar Pareja's side, and a rundown of its attack reveals why. Mauro Diaz, an Argentinian playmaker, pulls the strings in midfield; the Colombian-born duo of Fabian Castillo and Michael Barrios blaze down the wings; Mauro Rosales, a 35-year-old attacking midfielder, offers a veteran presence; and Tesho Akindele and Maxi Urruti are proven goal-scorers.
To put it lightly, Dallas can get at teams in myriad ways, and it's a defining reason as to why many chose them as MLS Cup favorites. With a full week of training ahead, the Revs are aware of the impending dangers, but aren't languishing at their prospects.
"A quick attack team where, if they do get space, it’s punishable," head coach Jay Heaps said of Dallas. "They take you to the goal and you’re getting the ball out of your net. It’s got to be the same type of philosophy we had on Saturday [in the 2-0 win over the Chicago Fire], but even tighten screws defensively, not give any room if possible. But they are a very good attacking team and a team we have to be very concerned about."
To properly deal with Dallas, the Revs will hope that their defensive core returns to full health. Chris Tierney, Jose Goncalves and Donnie Smith are all nursing injuries and missed last weekend's victory, although Heaps does expect that they'll be in contention for roles on Saturday.
Due to their respective ailments, London Woodberry and Kelyn Rowe lined up as outside backs, and Andrew Farrell and Je-Vaughn Watson partnered as center backs. Regardless of who's available for selection against Dallas, goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth urged there will be plenty of familiarity amongst the squad.
"We’ve got to know what we are getting ourselves into," Shuttleworth said of Dallas' speed. "Obviously, we’ll watch a lot of video on them. They’ve scored a lot of goals this year. The biggest thing for us is picking up good spots and staying organized as a group, and trying to prevent as much danger as we can before we get into it."
On the other side of the coin, New England will spend the week searching for ways to expose Dallas' own defense, which will be without center back and captain Matt Hedges. Heaps explained, however, that Hedges' absence won't provide an advantage, as Dallas just blanked the Seattle Sounders, 2-0.
As a result, New England's likely attacking core of Juan Agudelo, Diego Fagundez, Kei Kamara and Lee Nguyen are searching for increased synergy this week in training. They have a combined 12 goals and seven assists in 2016, but goals will be hard to come by against Pareja's side.
Simply put, the Revs have a tall task ahead of themselves, as the second match of a three-game home stand is against one of the league's best.
"I think, for us, we have to be diligent and smart in how we get in behind their defense, how we get service," Heaps said. "How we create chances is going to have to be tighter and maybe a little bit better than it was Saturday night, a little bit cleaner around that final third, a little bit more selfish. I think we had chances to shoot and we passed, and I want us to be a little bit more lethal in that final third."