2016 were historic seasons for both the New York Red Bulls and FC Dallas. 2017, on the other hand, is becoming more and more forgettable. With both teams heading into September on skids, and missing key players due to World Cup qualifying, neither one will be coming into this game with their full compliment. Nonetheless, the two teams need three points in order to stay in contention for an increasingly tight playoff race.
We spoke with Drew Epperley, Managing Editor of Big D Soccer, to get some insight as to what has been going on with the reigning Supporters’ Shield and U.S. Open Cup winners as they prepare to welcome the Red Bulls to the Lone Star State.
Q1. Like a whole bunch of Western Conference teams, FC Dallas appears to be struggling. What's the root of the problem and how can Oscar Pareja turn it around?
Drew E.: The recent struggles for FC Dallas are pretty well documented at this point but the short end of it all is that FCD got hit with a perfect storm if you will of bad things all at once. Their strong defense began leaking in goals that they once weren't doing. The attack dried up for a few games. Injuries to key guys started creeping back in. Players dealing with national team duty on and off were showing signs of mental fatigue as well as the physical side. And maybe, just maybe, Oscar Pareja was thinking a little too hard about some of his lineup choices.
No matter which way you spin it, all of those things happened all at once during this last six game stretch.
Q2. This match comes smack in the middle of World Cup qualifying, so both of our sides will be missing key players for this one. With Matt Hedges and Kellyn Acosta out, who can we expect to see filling the void on Saturday?
Drew E.: Thankfully this is something that FCD has dealt with all season long. For Kellyn Acosta, we'll see someone like Victor Ulloa come into the lineup and almost be his like-for-like replacement. For Matt Hedges, we've seen a lot of rotation in the defense this season but I would imagine that a guy like Atiba Harris will be called to fill in this role.
Outside of that we also may be missing Carlos Gruezo for this one as he'll too be gone on World Cup duty with Ecuador on Thursday. There is no official word as to whether or not he'll be back in time for Saturday's game. If he isn't, look for Carlos Cermeno or rookie Jacroi Hayes to get minutes in his place.
Q3. In just a few short weeks the Red Bulls will be heading over to Sporting KC for the US Open Cup Final. As the reigning title-holders, what advice would you give our club for coming away with a win and a trophy?
Drew E.: Last year was a bit wild going on the USOC run like FCD did. The best advise I can honestly give any fan that is dealing with a potential title win, is to just enjoy every possible moment that you can. Last September's win for FCD was truly one of my favorite moments since I've been covering this team and this league. It was special for everyone associated with the team and the fans as well.
Jesse Gonzalez; Hernan Grana, Atiba Harris, Walker Zimmerman, Aaron Guillen; Michael Barrios, Victor Ulloa, Carlos Cermeno, Roland Lamah; Maxi Urruti, Cristian Colman
Injuries: QUESTIONABLE - Mauro Diaz
International Duty: Kellyn Acosta (USA), Tesho Akindele (Canada), Maynor Figueroa (Honduras), Carlos Gruezo (Ecuador), Matt Hedges (USA)
Thank you very much to Drew for the interview. And please, head over to Big D Soccer for Once A Metro’s answers to their questions.