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Real Salt Lake at FC Dallas - 3 questions playoff style

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So while it isn't a huge post, I thought I would take a few minutes to put up the 3 questions I exchanged with the SB Nation's newest MLS blog Big D Soccer and their writer Daniel, so here are the questions I put to him:

1. Congrats on FCD getting back into the playoffs, in the final 3 weeks of the season Dallas faced playoff bound teams and couldn't get a win, going 0-2-1 with 6 goals allowed and just 3 goals for, what happened?

A. The easiest answer is just that FCD's defense is not as dominating as it was earlier in the year. FCD has given up 11 goals in their last 7 games while you'd have to go back 20 games before that for the same number. The main reason for this is the ridiculous Kevin Hartman injury. Dallas has given up almost a full goal more per game this season with Sala in the nets. While Sala and Hartman are similar in their shot stopping abilities, Hartman's ability to organize the defense is second to none and his return for the playoffs will be a huge boost.

There's also the fact that two of those three games were on the road against the top two teams in the league while Dallas was working Ugo Ihemelu, George John and Daniel Hernandez back into the lineup. The RSL game was a tough defeat for FC Dallas that one could easily argue would not have happened had Hartman been in goal, while the LA game was clearly played at a slower pace for a Dallas side with nothing to play for and looking to avoid injury.

more after the jump:

2. Jeff Cunningham still leads FC Dallas with 11 goals, yet he has been relegated to the bench and only played more than 45 minutes in one of the teams last 7 matches. While Brek Shea has 5 goals and 4 assists, has only 103 minutes in the teams last 7 matches, what do you think is behind the decision to not go with two of the teams more productive players during the run up to the playoffs and do you expect both the be relegated to the bench for the playoffs as well?

A. The months of July, August and September were a dogfight between Jeff Cunningham and Milton Rodriguez for the starting forward position in Dallas' 4-1-4-1 formation and Rodriguez won out. Hyndman has talked about the fact that theres almost no difference between the two players, but he prefers Cunningham's speed off the bench while defenses are worn down and it's clearly worked late in the season. Kind of if it ain't broke don't fix it mentality.

Brek Shea has been relegated to the bench because of the great play of speedy Honduran Marvin Chavez. If you remember, Shea got that ridiculously dumb red card in the New York game, got suspended for two games and Chavez took his opportunity. Chavez work rate is arguably higher than Shea's and his speed gave RSL all sorts of problems. Looking back on the game a couple of weeks ago, Dallas' best chances were directly from the hard work of Chavez in the midfield.

I expect both Cunningham and Shea to be on the bench for FCD on Saturday with Rodriguez and Chavez starting

3. Real Salt Lake has never gotten a result in Dallas, some call it the "Kreis Kurse" what do you think is the reason why RSL has never been able to break through in Dallas (or Frisco)?

A. Well at first it was simply the fact that RSL was awful in their first few seasons while Dallas was very good 2005-2007. In 2008, I remember the home game distinctly as Dominic Oduro had his shining moment in MLS, coming off the bench to score twice including a stoppage time game-winner. 2009 away in Frisco was the game that turned RSL's season around, IMO. They got absolutely walloped if I remember correctly losing 3-0 and it would be the last bad game RSL would have en route to the championship.

The reason RSL does poorly in Frisco is because they always seem to change the way they play here. One of the hallmarks of Schellas Hyndman during the 2009 season was that he made FCD stick to the same formation no matter who or where they played and it's now paying off. Salt Lake has been the same way, but for some inexplicable reason, Kreis will drop a forward and play defensively here. I'm not sure if it's a mental thing or what, but that can't instill a lot of confidence in your team to change the way you play because of another team.

The smartest thing Kreis can do, coming to Frisco this weekend, is to play exactly the same way he's played the team all season. Dallas is not scared of playing at home against RSL in the least bit(for obvious reasons) and Kreis playing to draw or lose by a goal will almost certainly result in a multi-goal loss while going right at Dallas and trying to force FCD to play the way RSL wants to play would be a much better option.

Some great answers to the question, so Daniel sent a few questions my way and I tried to keep my responses short, as I am still trying to get back to full form.

1. RSL led the league in both goals for and goals against. There's obviously not a lot of holes on this team. What is the biggest weakness FC Dallas can exploit?

A. I think FC Dallas exposed a weakness that RSL has in clearing the ball out of the area when it is very crowded, we have seen a number of times in both MLS and CCL play this year when there are a lot of bodies in the area it is harder for them to clear the ball and harder for Rimando to see it. To me that is the scariest thing, we saw the Dallas goals, we also saw the late come back by Cruz Azul in the 5-4 loss in Mexico City. RSL has also had issues this year with early goals, not often in MLS play, the 3 times in MLS play they let in a goal in the first 15, they had to battle back to get draws in those matches.

2. Javier Morales has been a real thorn in Dallas' side throughout his RSL career. What is the key to stopping the talented Argentine?

A. Javi has had 2 goals and 4 assists in his 7 matches against FCD, and when he is on (his passing is sharp and his vision is clear) there is little you can do to slow him down. I think the key for Dallas will be if Daniel Hernandez is healthy or not, because to me it is clear that Dax simply can't handle him on his own. Javi had to be pulled early in MLS Cup and that still sticks with him as he feels he let himself, the team and the fans down and he is more driven than ever to help the team get back to and win MLS Cup again.

3. Tell us one player who may not be a big name but could have a huge impact in this playoff series?

A.  I think the guy that could be the real surprise of the playoffs is Paulo Junior, he has been electric for RSL every time he has hit the pitch. He joined RSL towards the end of the season on a loan from Miami FC, and has turned heads ever since. He has a great mix of speed and the touch and creativity that one expects from Brazilian strikers. He has been battling a slight groin strain which may limit his minutes but he you see #23 hit the pitch you might want to move forward in your seat and pay attention

There you go a good round of 3 questions to get the RSL vs. FCD playoff series kicked off the right way.