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Revs look to extend unbeaten streak to five, host undefeated FC Dallas

New England has lost their last seven matches vs FCD, including two at home.

MLS: New England Revolution at FC Dallas
FC Dallas forward Maxi Urruti has a brace vs New England in each of the past two years
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The last time New England defeated FC Dallas, there was a guy on the Revs’ bench who, during his MLS debut one month earlier, had scored his first professional goal. Although he didn't take the pitch against the team originally known as the Dallas Tornado, the Revs’ first-ever Homegrown player — Diego Fagundez — has, as they say, come a long way.

What he saw that September 2011 night from the pine was Steve Nicol pacing the sidelines, second-year starter Chris Tierney at left back, and Matt Reis posting yet another clean sheet in his illustrious career. He also witnessed captain Shalrie Joseph score the game-winner in New England’s 2-0 win at Gillette Stadium.

Two months later, following a horrendous season, Nicol was replaced by Jay Heaps. Fast-forward to 2018, and Reis and Joseph are now coaching, Tierney is on that same bench, and Diego Fagundez leads the Revolution in scoring with three goals. And New England has a chance to end years of misery at the hands of the team that has had their number since 2012.

Breaking Down FC Dallas (1-0-3, 6 pts, +3)

FC Dallas is looking to rebound after a disappointing 2017 that saw them miss the playoffs for the first time under fifth-year head coach Oscar “Papi” Pareja. The club had sky-high expectations following back-to-back 60-point seasons and first-place finishes in the Western Conference, not to mention their first Supporters’ Shield and US Open Cup championship (a 4-2 win over New England) in 2016. Last season started with the club falling just short of a CONCACAF Champions League final appearance, then waltzing through the first half of their MLS slate into first place. However, a number of factors such as fixture saturation, injuries, and subpar years from key players led to a second-half swoon, sinking their 2017 campaign.

During the offseason, Pareja overhauled his backline while bolstering the attacking arsenal in his 4-2-3-1 formation. Most notably, longtime FCD center back and US international Walker Zimmerman was shipped to LAFC in exchange for allocation money. The club brought in former Swiss World Cup center back Reto Ziegler, Bulgarian international left back Anton Nedyalkov and Homegrown right back Reggie Cannon to join one of the top center backs in MLS, US International and team captain Matt Hedges. This new starting back line is already clicking, having allowed only three goals in four matches this season. Additionally, Nedyalkov often pushes up the field, and he’s already contributed an assist for Pareja’s squad.

Homegrown Jesse Gonzalez — who recently became a Mexican international — earned the number 1 goalkeeper jersey after an outstanding 2017 campaign, sending veteran Chris Seitz packing to Houston. However, a knee injury to Gonzalez opened the door for longtime New York Cosmo Jimmy Maurer to start the first four games of the season, and he’s already posted a shutout in relief. Gonzalez did make the bench for the club’s most recent match, so it may be just a matter of time before he gets back between the sticks.

The FC Dallas attack has featured an impeccable triumvirate nearly unmatched in the league for the last couple of seasons. Clinical finisher Maxi Urruti has been a Revs killer since his arrival, scoring a brace in the US Open Cup win in 2016, and then another in last year’s come-from-behind 2-1 victory. Dynamic playmaker Mauro Diaz, coming off an injury-plagued 2017, is as dangerous and creative as they come when given any time and space. The River Plate product — still not at 100% this season — has 21 goals and 38 assists over the past five years with FC Dallas. The attack usually goes through Diaz, whose precise passing is almost indefensible. Finally, right winger Michael Barrios is a constant threat to any backline with his blazing speed. The Colombian’s improved crossing led to his best year with 14 assists and 3 goals in 2017.

Although Belgian international Roland Lamah — brought in to replace Fabian Castillo at left wing before last season — contributed 11 goals and 3 assists in 2017, the club acquired 23-year-old Colombian Santiago Mosquera as a young Designated Player to add more versatility to the attack. Ironically, the former Millonarios man hasn’t quite found his footing, so Lamah remains the first-choice left winger and actually leads FC Dallas with 3 goals this season. Young Paraguayan Designated Player Cristian Colman was acquired last season to add depth at forward behind Urruti, but he struggled to find his form. Nonetheless, he did score a late equalizer against Colorado on Saturday as a second-half substitute and may have started to turn the corner.

A gaping hole in the midfield was created when US international Kellyn Acosta underwent sports hernia surgery in late February. The Homegrown veteran remains on the shelf, having only recently returned to light training. He probably won’t be available for the New England match. His box-to-box role has been superbly filled by second-year Wake Forest product Jacori Hayes, who’s already assisted on a goal this year. Ecuador international and former VfB Stuttgart midfielder Carlos Gruezo — the first-ever Ecuadorian to score in the Bundesliga — rounds out the center of the pitch at holding mid. He’s excelled defensively, but he’s had trouble connecting passes to start the attack and could actually be the one Acosta replaces upon his return.

Despite its proven past and nearly unlimited potential, the FC Dallas attack has limped out of the gate this season, scoring only six goals in four matches. Three of those came against 10-man Seattle, while an RSL own goal accounted for another. Urruti, in particular, has been generally ineffective as a number nine. He’s provided great defensive work in Pareja’s pressing system, but he’s often failed to remain in favorable striking positions —his top priority. As a result, he’s been unable to consistently find the back of the net.

Their undefeated record notwithstanding, FC Dallas has been scuffling since week one. A late own goal by Real Salt Lake saved them from an opening home loss in their 1-1 draw. That was followed by their lone win, a 3-0 victory over the 10-man Sounders. The last two matches also ended as 1-1 home draws against Portland (who were down a man for the final fifteen-plus minutes) and, most recently, Colorado (substitute Colman's late goal knotting the match). Six points out of a possible 12 from four home matches is not a recipe for success, and it could have been worse if not for solid defending thus far.

Breaking Down New England (3-1-1, 10 pts, +5)

The Revolution are coming off their second straight victory over a club reduced to 10-men after a first-half red card. Montreal midfielder Saphir Taider earned his ejection after a dangerous challenge to Luis Caicedo in the 15th minute. Teal Bunbury scored his second goal of the season soon thereafter, and the 4-0 rout was on, highlighted by both Andrew Farrell and Wilfried Zahibo opening their respective MLS accounts on either side of halftime. Farrell’s goal was long-awaited and thus particularly memorable, coming in his 164th appearance in a Revolution kit.

First-year manager Brad Friedel used the same starting lineup for the second consecutive match, with only a minor tweak to the formation. Midfielder Scott Caldwell was pushed up higher, leaving Zahibo as the lone holding mid in a 4-1-4-1. Bunbury was again up top, with Cristian Penilla, Fagundez, Caldwell, and Caicedo across the midfield. The back line remained Gabriel Somi, captain Claude Dielna, Jalil Anibaba, and Farrell, with Matt Turner earning his second clean sheet in goal. With the Impact down a man and missing newly-injured star Ignacio Piatti — and New England keeping up the high pressure — the Revs’ defensive third was rarely troubled.

Kelyn Rowe, Krisztian Nemeth, and Juan Agudelo again came on as second-half subs, helping to keep the action in Montreal’s defensive half of the field. Agudelo and Rowe assisted on New England’s third goal of the match and third of the season for team leader Diego Fagundez. In a sign of how much New England’s lineup has evolved, Agudelo actually leads the Revs in scoring over the past three games against FC Dallas (including the US Open Cup final) with three goals (followed by Lee Nguyen with two, each via penalty kick).

Analysis

With FC Dallas struggling to score, it's difficult to conceive their employing a risky build-from-the-back approach against a high-pressing Revolution squad. It seems they'd opt to go over the top for Diaz or the wings, or even Arruti — who often ventures near midfield —and challenge the high New England line. As we’ve seen a lot this year, Somi and Farrell have been heavily involved in the Revs’ attack, an approach which FC Dallas may try to exploit on the counter with their outside speed from the likes of Barrios. FC Dallas also likes to press throughout the attacking half, and they’ll probably try to create turnovers when the Revs are working out of their defensive end.

Match Facts

FC Dallas is playing their first MLS road match after opening the season with a four-game homestand. Their competitive fixtures actually started in late February in the CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16, a home-and-home series vs Tauro FC.

This is the 44th regular-season game between these interconference clubs, and their only meeting this year. New England leads the all-time series 23-17-3, holding a 12-7-1 edge in Foxborough .

Overall, New England is 9-0-2 in their last eleven matches at home.

How to Watch

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 14
Venue: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass
TV: NBC Sports Boston (Boston), TXA-21 (Dallas)
Radio: 98.5 The Sports Hub (Boston), fcdallas.com/radio (Dallas)
Streaming: MLS Live