When? Sunday, eptember 27 at 5.30 p.m. PT, 8.30 p.m. ET and 1:30 a.m. (28/9) BST.
Where? Toyota Stadium, Frisco, TX.
How can I catch the action? MLS Live on ESPN+, Fox 35 Plus, Fox Sports southwest for residents of the United States. This game is currently not scheduled for broadcast in the United Kingdom. Streams available via various betting apps. Please follow all terms and conditions of those applications when accessing their streams. The game is also available via radio locally (check local listings).
Oscar Pareja takes his Orlando City to FC Dallas this Sunday, in what will doubtless be an emotional occasion for the Colombian. The popular former FC Dallas head coach won the 2016 Supporters Shield and U.S. Open Cup with the Texan club; in the most trophy laden era in the club's history.
Orlando head into this game off of the back of an impressive, and perhaps somewhat fortunate, win over Sporting Kansas City. Dallas stumbled in their last game, falling 1-0 at that NFL Arena in Georgia. Prior to that game Luchi Gonzalez's team had strung 3 successive wins together. This will be a solid test for the Lions, with a number of interesting layers to it.
FC Dallas are led by Luchi Gonzalez, who is a former protégé of Pareja's at Dallas. Gonzalez was the academy director in Frisco, during Pareja's tenure as head coach. You also have players like Michael Barrios, who were bought to the club by Pareja. With fans being admitted by the Texas club currently, you would imagine Pareja is in-line for a warm reception from the Dallas faithful.
FC Dallas' style
Make no mistake, this is going to be a difficult game for Orlando City. FC Dallas are a good team, who utilise an aggressive style with exciting, attacking players like Barrios, Andrés Ricaurte and Franco Jara. They are a team that are pretty evenly matched with Orlando City, at least as far as the statistics are concerned. You'll see from the season statistics in figure 1, just how evenly matched these 2 sides are.
Figure 1 shows the season average statistics for FC Dallas and Orlando City.
FC Dallas are a team that like to manipulate possession of the ball, and they do it well. They are a side loaded with technical players, who are good on the ball. They are a team that are capable of moving the ball around in order to probe for openings. If you take a look at figure 2, you'll see some evidence of this. Against Atlanta, Dallas attempted 488 passes. As the away side.
There were 212 touches from their central midfield 3 in the game against Atlanta. Servania and Tessmann as the 2 defensive midfielders, and Ricuarte as the central attacking midfielder were integral to Dallas' ability to dominate the passing statistics in this game. I would be surprised if all 3 of these players feature against Orlando (more on that later), but Dallas possess plenty of depth in that area. They have a dearth of talent to call on, such as the likes of Bryan Acosta, Thiago Santos and Santiago Mosquera. All are very technical players, who are at their happiest when in possession of the ball.
I would expect a fluid approach from Dallas' midfield, with lots of intense interplay. By studying the pass map in figure 2 you'll see the different areas of the pitch where the 3 midfield players were able to get on the ball. The 3 midfielders in Dallas' interpretation of the 4-2-3-1 are crucial to the way this team plays. Their movement flows well as they attempt to draw opposition players out of position, which then enables their more creative players to find space and dictate the play. It will be vitally important for Orlando's own central 3 to apply pressure, and ensure they track their movements well.
Figure 2 highlights the pass maps for FC Dallas' central midfield 3 against Atlanta United.
FC Dallas head into this game without Paxton Pomykal (hip) and Kyle Zobeck (undisclosed injury). Aside from the two aforementioned players, Luchi Gonzalez has a fully fit squad from which to choose. Reggie Cannon is unavailable having recently left the club to join Portuguese side Boavista. Reto Ziegler should also be fit, having seemingly gotten over the muscle concern that kept him out of the game against Atlanta.
As for Orlando City, they remain without Dom Dwyer and Joao Moutinho. Uri Rosell will also sit this one out with an undisclosed injury. Rosell has been missing for the last 3 games. Sebas Mendez, you imagine, will continue to occupy the central defensive midfield role in the Spaniard's absence. Matheus Aiás continues to be absent.
Possible starting XI
I think we'll see heavy rotation from FC Dallas, particularly when you consider (like ourselves) they were away from home in midweek. I think you will see Jara come in for Jesus Ferreira and Mosquera deputise for Fabrice Picault. Thiago Santos could also start in midfield, with Bryan Reynolds and Reto Ziegler coming back in. Ziegler missed the game in Atlanta, with a slight muscle concern. He is expected to be fit for this one though.
Franco Jara is enjoying a good season for the Texan club so far. The former Pachuca striker is new to the league, but seems to have settled in well. He's been at some big clubs during his career. He's plied his trade for Olympiacos in Greece and Benfica in Portugal to name just a few. The Argentine has also won 4 caps for La Albiceleste, albeit the last one came in 2011. Still, 5 goals in 10 MLS outings is nothing to be sniffed at. His career record speaks for itself, Jara has scored 98 goals in 319 career club appearances. The Orlando City backline will need to be on their toes as far as Jara is concerned.
FC Dallas lost their last game against the 5 shites. Do I even apologise at this point? That Freudian slip is going to keep happening. Probably. With that defeat the Texan side snapped their 3 game winning streak, and subsequently dropped to 5-4-3 on the season. They currently sit in 4th place in the west. They are only 2 points from the western summit.
Orlando City meanwhile won 2-1 in Kansas City, to move back up to second in the east. The Lions are now 7-4-2 on the season. Orlando lead the league in goals scored, and will be looking to add to this total on Sunday.
Line-up graphic courtesy of chosen11.com