Another match for the New York Red Bulls against FC Dallas, another edition of three questions with Big D Soccer before the match Saturday night. Not a lot has changed since the two teams last met July 22 at Red Bull Arena. The Red Bulls continue to struggle and still have not won since July 6 against Toronto, and supporters are upset with club management, this time around the treatment of season ticket holders as opposed to the Red Bulls not taking the U.S. Open Cup seriously.
Dallas, on the other hand, has won seven times since July 22 across all competitions. Yes, that is more victories than the Red Bulls have in league play all season, and that includes a historic first for Major League Soccer as Dallas became the first MLS club to win a CONCACAF Champions League match playing away in Mexico. Instead of basking in Dallas' Champions League success, Big D Soccer not only took the time to swap questions, but even asked us a BONUS question which we hope you'll take the time to read.
1) FC Dallas made waves in August becoming the first MLS club to win a match in Mexico in the CONCACAF Champions League. How do you like their chances to make a deep run into the knockout stages of the tournament?
Dallas is in great shape in the tournament with 6 points from their two toughest games of the group at Pumas and at Toronto heading into Wednesday's home game against Tauro FC which should be a walk over. It's been great for Dallas fans getting to experience the excitement of the CCL for the first time and I think Dallas is set up to make a real run in the tournament. Schellas Hyndman has stressed time and again that Dallas is a team that plays the same whether at home or on the road which sets them up to do well in a knockout phase. There is also the huge fact that David Ferreira should be back and ready to go for the knockout round next spring as well as Maicon Santos, a player who is currently ineligible for the tournament.
2) George John was apparently set to leave Dallas for the EPL but the deal broke down at the last minute. What went wrong? Is the club likely to sell him during the off-season?
No one really knows exactly what happened, but the rumor is that John failed a physical due to a nagging ankle problem he had. I'm not really sure how true that is, there is also the possibility that a team withdrew a bid for defender Christopher Samba that possibly make George John not needed. However, Blackburn has said that they are keeping interest in the player so there could be a new bid for him this summer. I think Dallas will either offer John an improved contract offer in a bid to lock him up long term or they will sell him. It really has to be one or the other as having him for one more year then leaving on a free really benefits no one.
3) After falling out of favor in Toronto, Maicon Santos was traded to Dallas where he has already contributed two goals in five appearances with sixteen shots in his two last matches alone. How have Dallas' game plan and attack changed since he joined? Do you see him as a short or long-term addition to the club?
Prior to the acquisition of Maicon, Dallas was missing one piece and that was the #9 forward that can hold up the ball, get the rest of the team involved and finish chances. They finally got that player in Maicon. He's a real hot-button issue with Dallas fans as it seems kind of split down the middle on people who hate him because he doesn't finish 75% of his chances and the people who love him because he does everything that Dallas needs from the forward position.
Dallas hasn't really changed their game plan at all, it's really more that Santos fits what Schellas needs from his forward much better than Marvin Chavez or Fabian Castillo could. I believe Santos should be a long term addition for FC Dallas and he seems to have fit in well in his first month here through tough circumstances. I'm excited to see what he can do with the team given a full off-season to acclimate.
On to Big D's questions for Once a Metro:
1) Zero wins in the last eight games. That's just not going to cut it for a team with so much potential. What does New York need to do this weekend to turn things around against Dallas?
This weekend isn't a good one for Red Bulls to begin to salvage something from their remaining games. They will be missing at least three out of their four starting defenders (Miller, Solli, and Marquez), and Tim Ream has been listed as questionable for Saturday night. For a team whose lifeless defense has been conceding far too many goals and even made Vancouver look like FC Barcelona for stretches of play, maybe some new players in the mix will at least inject some energy into the starting eleven. It pains me to say that an MLS record 16th tie this weekend against Dallas would be an accomplishment for New York. If whatever lineup manager Hans Backe puts together is able to contain Dallas, however, it might just spark the missing regulars and send a message that playing tough defense and making the playoffs is actually possible.
2) How is it that a team with a +4 goal differential has won just 6 of 27 games this season? It doesn't really seem that NYRB has been terrible at any phase of the game but the results just aren't there
The Red Bulls have conceded 38 goals in 28 matches - 5th worst in the league. The crazy thing is that twenty-eight out of thirty-eight goals have been conceded in just eleven of New York's twenty-seven games played. In other words, New York conceded 75% of their total goals allowed in just 40% of their matches. Big losses against Colorado, Seattle, and Real Salt Lake were offset by big wins against MLS minnows Toronto FC (5-0) and San Jose (3-0), and a 4-0 thrashing of DC United at RFK earlier in the season. Besides that, the club has virtually tied every single game it's played in a league record fifteen times.
The team started the season really well until they got handled at home against Chivas and fell apart from there with Tim Ream calling out his teammates for being "cocky without having won anything," which was almost as entertaining as Frank Rost yelling at training this week about MLS being a "pussycat league." Injuries and international duty have particularly hurt the Red Bulls, but those problems have been exacerbated by a shocking lack of depth from the bench and reserves.
3) How has our old favorite Dax McCarty been getting on since moving to New York? Do you see him as a long-term signing and possible captain candidate in the future?
Poor Dax - he represents such failed personnel decisions that many supporters were more than eager to jump all over him at the first sign of a slow or shaky start in New York. Recently, our friends over at Empire of Soccer argued Dax is shouldering too much blame and should get more of an opportunity to show what he is capable of.
I have seen flashes of the Dax McCarty that I really admired for a few seasons but so far he has largely been a disappointment. The guy used to be tireless - causing havoc in the midfield breaking up plays and creating chances on the counterattack. Now it seems like he's rarely involved, which is either because of his performance, how Backe is using him on the field, or a combination of the two. To be fair, McCarty has often been paired with worthless Mehdi Ballouchy or Joel Lindpere who really belongs on the wing as he and New York's first choice central midfielder Teemu Tainio have only been paired together five times since McCarty was acquired in late June. And in those five matches, New York is modestly unbeaten at 1-0-4.
4) Bonus question: We know Marquez, Henry, Agudelo and Dax but who is a name Dallas fans may not be too familiar with that could play a big role in Saturday's game?
Luke Rodgers. He did not play against Dallas on July 22 since he's been held out due to a lingering foot injury in recent months. He did come off the bench for a ten minute appearance against Vancouver last weekend and it sounds like he may get additional time in Dallas. While he probably won't start or go the full ninety minutes, he's exactly the type of player who can cause major problems for any defense and will be keen to score his first goal since returning from injury. If Backe also continues to use Agudelo off the bench, that's a lot of second half attacking potential for any team to handle.
Thanks to Daniel at Big D Soccer for swapping questions. Good luck to FC Dallas in the CONCACAF Champions League - Saturday night on the other hand...