Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas will meet for the second time this season on Friday night, with the Claret-and-Cobalt heading to Texas in search of its second-ever win at FCD. Friday's game will kick at 7:00 p.m. MT and will be nationally broadcast on NBC Sports Network.
Here are a few storylines to watch ahead of the match:
RSL looking to stay atop the west; continue six-game unbeaten run
The Claret-and-Cobalt has emerged from its mid-summer slump, now going unbeaten in its last six games for a 4-0-2 record. RSL is also currently riding a three-game win streak in the month of August, defeating Colorado Rapids 2-1 on Aug. 2, downing D.C. United 3-0 on Aug. 9 and topping Seattle Sounders FC 2-1 on Aug. 16.
The win over the Sounders last Saturday moved the Claret-and-Cobalt to the top of the Western Conference and inserted RSL into the Supporters’ Shield race with an with a current 11-4-9 record and total of 42 points. RSL is currently tied for first in the league on points with Sporting Kansas City, but the MLS Cup foe has the slight edge with one more win than the Utah club to break the deadlock.
Real Salt Lake has a difficult end to the season with 10 games remaining – six on the road and four at home – all against competitive Western Conference teams. A win on Friday in Dallas will surely help keep the Claret-and-Cobalt in the conversation for both top spots, especially with Seattle only one point behind RSL and only nine points separating RSL and fifth-place Vancouver Whitecaps FC, who occupy the final playoff spot.
Will RSL be able to quell Dallas’ dangerous attack?
The Claret-and-Cobalt will have its hands full on Friday, when it takes on what some argue is the most dangerous attack in MLS. FC Dallas has been on a roll of its own, going unbeaten in its last nine games and winning three straight. Dallas enter Friday’s match coming off a 5-0 thrashing of San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium last weekend. MLS rookie striker Tesho Akindele notched his first professional hat trick and forward Fabian Castillo recorded a brace in the 5-0 demolition. The Hoops’ attacking duo has been on fire lately, as Akindele has scored six goals in Dallas’ last six matches and Castillo has five goals and three assists in their last six.
RSL’s back line will have to be particularly aware of the dangerous duo, whose speed and confidence will be especially difficult in a hostile and sweltering environment on Friday.
Can RSL beat the odds in Texas?
RSL has struggled historically in Texas, recording its first-ever win in the Lone Star State last year. The Claret-and-Cobalt defeated FC Dallas 3-0 on July 13, 2013 at Toyota Stadium, a win that also marked the club’s 100th regular season victory in MLS. The Claret-and-Cobalt continued to make history in Texas this year, defeating Houston Dynamo for the first time at BBVA Compass Stadium with a 5-2 win on May 11.
Even though RSL has had recent success in Texas, the Claret-and-Cobalt won’t have history on its side as RSL posts a 1-11-2 record at Dallas across all competitions. In 12 regular season matches at FCD, RSL has only recorded nine goals while allowing 21. Despite RSL’s poor all-time record in Texas, the Utah club should be at full strength when the two sides meet on Friday, although the status of midfielder Javier Morales is still TBD. RSL was able to pull off last year’s 3-0 win with an unfamiliar lineup as Captain Kyle Beckerman, defender Tony Beltran, goalkeeper Nick Rimando and forward Alvaro Saborio were all unavailable due to international duty. Let’s hope a confident and healthy Real Salt Lake can work some magic and make it two in a row on Friday.