Saturday, May 12, 2012
Preview: FC Dallas at Columbus Crew
By ESPN.com news services
FC Dallas has been shut out in two straight matches, part of a lengthy victory drought since its best stretch of the season.
That mirrors what's happened to the Columbus Crew.
Meeting for the only time this season, Dallas and Columbus will each try to snap a five-game winless streak Saturday night at Crew Stadium.
"It's going to be two desperate teams looking to get a result," Columbus goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum told the club's official website. "They're a very dangerous team and very potent offensively."
That hasn't been the case lately, as Dallas (3-5-3) has scored just twice -- both on penalty kicks by Brek Shea -- since its last victory, 2-1 over expansion Montreal on April 14. That was the team's second consecutive win after defeating New England 1-0 on April 5.
Dallas is 0-2-3 since those victories, but the team has reason for optimism heading into Saturday. Daniel Hernandez and Blas Perez will return from red-card suspensions, and Shea likely will be back in a starting role after being a second-half substitution Wednesday due to turf toe.
"I think the biggest thing we can do is to come together as a team and continue to believe in one another," defender Zach Loyd told Dallas' official website following Wednesday's 2-0 loss to Seattle. "For the next game, we'll have Daniel back, we'll have Blas back, and we will have Brek back in the lineup, so I think we're going to see a huge improvement with the team. Hopefully going forward we can see better results."
FC Dallas' last single-season, six-game stretch without a win was an 0-3-7 slide July 2-Sept. 10, 2005.
The Crew (2-4-2) are trying to avoid their first winless skid of that length since going 0-1-5 from Aug. 27-Sept. 28.
Columbus is 0-3-2 since winning back-to-back matches to close March.
"I've been very happy with the last three games, to be honest with you," coach Robert Warzycha said after Sunday's scoreless draw at Portland. "We were unlucky last week (a 1-0 loss to Vancouver), but overall, we're playing pretty good, pretty solid and steady games. We're making progress."
The Crew, though, have been shut out in three of their last four matches and have scored six times all season. With midfielder Dilly Duka and forward Olman Vargas questionable due to injuries, Columbus could get a boost Saturday if midfielder Chris Birchall makes his debut. He was signed this week after making 18 starts during Los Angeles' run to the 2011 MLS Cup.
Both sides could be without their captains as Dallas' Ugo Ihemelu and Columbus' Chad Marshall are dealing with concussion symptoms. Rookie Matt Hedges will likely get a second straight start if Ihemelu can't go, while Eric Gehrig could get the call again if Marshall is a scratch.
Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, a native of Athens, Ohio, made five saves in a 2-0 home win July 2 to end the Crew's four-game point streak in this series. Hartman's teams have not won in 13 consecutive games in Columbus since the Galaxy's 4-2 win there May 17, 1998.
Warzycha was playing for the Crew at the time.