Both teams need the points.
Philadelphia Union head to Texas this weekend to play a Dallas side that is winless in six straight games and dealing with a slew of injuries. Schellas Hyndman’s team hasn’t won since a 2-1 home result over expansion side Montreal on April 14.
Dallas now sit in sixth place in the Western Conference with 12 points and a 3-6-3 record.
The Union have yet to beat FC Dallas in four tries. Dallas won the first matchup 2-0 in Frisco last season with goals from Fabian Castillo and Brek Shea. Philadelphia earned a 2-2 draw at PPL Park on the strength of two Sebastien Le Toux penalty kicks.
Shea will not be available for Dallas on Saturday. The rising American star was suspended three games and fined by MLS after he kicked a ball at an assistant referee following a disputed call against Columbus last week. That means his spot in left midfield could be filled by left fullback Jair Benitez.
Blas Perez was the key offseason acquisition for Dallas. The Panamanian international is doing well so far this season with three goals and three assists in 10 total games. The forward is a big body with good skill in and around the box. He’ll occupy defenders and create room for teammates, and he's also good enough with his feet to create chances for himself.
Striker partner Castillo is a strong complement to Perez. Castillo has a goal and an assist this year in nine total games. He’s smaller and faster than Perez and finds ways to effectively use space and continuously run off the ball.
Look for the Brazilian Jackson on the right flank, with Daniel Hernandez and former Union man Andrew Jacobson in the central midfield.
Dallas is still without the services of 2010 MLS MVP David Ferreira. Hyndman expects to have his playmaker back next month. They are also without Ricardo Villar, who played well in Ferreira’s spot earlier this season. Villar is dealing with a foot injury.
Jacobson isn’t a pure playmaker like Ferreira or Villar, but he will play a bit higher than Hernandez in a formation that essentially runs like a 4-4-2.
Dallas will be without defensive starters Ugo Ihemelu and Zach Loyd.
Loyd has arguably been Dallas’ most consistent player this season. He leads the team in minutes and games played but will serve a one-game suspension for a red card challenge against Columbus last weekend.
Ihemelu is recovering from a concussion and is not expected to return on Saturday. He’s missed the last two games.
That leaves Hernan Pertuz, George John and Matt Hedges as the natural choices to play on the backline. Hedges, a rookie, would pair John centrally. Pertuz can play either fullback spot, but it's unclear whether Benitez will move up to midfield or if he'll remain on the backline. Pertuz would cover for Loyd's right back spot if Benitez stays put.
Starting goalkeeper Kevin Hartman should make his return this week. Back spasms kept the veteran netminder out of the last few games. Ex-Union goalkeeper Chris Seitz made four starts in his place.
Keys to the Game
Philadelphia have historically not played well at FC Dallas Stadium, formerly Pizza Hut Park. In two games in Frisco, the Union were outscored 5-1 and have struggled to create scoring chances.
Dallas’ injury problems have played a huge part in the limited productivity of their offense. Hyndman’s team has scored just three goals in their last six games, compared to eight goals in their first six games. They put three shots on target against Columbus and five on target against Seattle, but only managed one goal in those two games. The prior game against Colorado ended in a 2-0 shutout loss after back-to-back red cards for Hernandez and Perez.
The Union will look to continue their improved offensive play against Dallas’ reconfigured backline. Philadelphia created 21 attempts on goal and earned the season’s multi-goal game on Sunday. The Union need a road win to snap a three-game losing streak.
Preview: Union vs. FC Dallas