After suffering just the second loss of the season, Columbus Crew SC (9-2-3, 30 pts.) heads to Frisco to take on FC Dallas Saturday night at Toyota Stadium.
Dallas (5-3-5, 20 pts.) is coming off a 0-0 draw against Orlando City SC on Sunday, while the Crew fell to Toronto FC 3-1 in East Hartford, Conn.
Currently in fourth place in the Western Conference, FCD is just four points behind co-leading Seattle and Portland, while the Crew still top the East and the Supporters' Shield race, but the Black & Gold's lead has been trimmed to just two points.
Last week vs. Orlando City SC, Dallas couldn't capitalize on a man advantage for the final 20 minutes and settled for a share of the points with the Lions. The best chance for FCD came early when Santiago Mosquera denied by a fine close-range save from Orlando goalkeeper Pedro Gallese in the 10th minute.
"We need to play with more tempo from the back into the midfield to be dangerous. It was too slow," defender Reto Ziegler said after the match. "We definitely need to do better. It happens usually at home. I don't know if maybe we have too much confidence or we take too many touches, but we're going to do better against Columbus, I'm sure."
Dallas's Franco Jara leads the team with five goals, followed closely by Mosquera's four goals, while Michael Barrios leads the team in assists with three.
As a team, Dallas is very much middle-of-the-pack in a number of statistics.
Through 13 games, FCD has posted 19 goals (t-13th), 13 goals conceded (sixth-fewest), a passing accuracy rate of 81.34 percent (16th), 56 shots on target faced (14th-most), and have created 123 total chances (15th).
Although they are not topping the charts in any eye-catching fashion, Head Coach Caleb Porter said Dallas continues to be a club that, when clicking, is greater than the sum of its parts.
"They have good individuals but like I said, I think it's more about the collective. Luchi [Gonzalez] has done a good job of creating a culture. You can tell the team's bought-in and they play football," Porter said on Thursday to the media.
"They play out of the back, they press from the front, they're pretty well drilled tactically, and I think they're kind of an underrated team that's flying under the radar a little bit. I think they're a good team and it's going to be a difficult game. You have to be able to manage their build-up, you have to be able to deal with their pressure, and they fight and they work. They work for Luchi, you can tell."
Columbus and Dallas last met on March 16, 2019, at MAPFRE Stadium, with the Black & Gold earning a 1-0 win. Notably, Dallas hasn't earned a victory against the Crew since Sept. 6, 2015, as the Black & Gold are 2-0-2 since.
In last week's 3-1 loss vs. Toronto, Columbus led at halftime courtesy of a Chris Mavinga own goal, but conceded three goals in the second half to snap a six-match unbeaten streak. Having only two losses this regular-season, the Crew are currently 0-0-1 following defeat this year.
After Sunday's match, which didn't feature leftback Milton Valenzuela nor midfielder Darlington Nagbe in the Starting XI, Porter said it's a stepping stone opportunity, and one less-than-stellar half should not take anything away from the team's best start in Club history.
"Last game, I think it was a good step for us even though maybe we got humbled a little bit at that level playing against that caliber opponent," Porter said. "I think those are important games in the big picture of evolving into hopefully winning an MLS Cup. So, we got better through that game, even though it didn't feel good and it didn't look good in that second half."
Riding an almost unheard-of streak of nine shutouts in the first 12 matches this year, Porter admitted his team could use a wake-up call.
"I'll be honest with you, we really kind of needed that. We had been kind of, I think, pretty comfy, rolling along, everything’s smooth, and, every once in a while you need to get bloodied. I think getting bloodied and knocked down, makes you stronger and you know, and it humbles you, and I think through that feedback, you know, there are no failures. Just feedback. We're going to grow from it and get better for it. We'll be ready next time. No doubt about it."
Kickoff is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET on SportsTime Ohio and 97.1 FM The Fan, as well as ColumbusCrewSC.com/LiveAudio for the Spanish audio broadcast.