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Three things to watch for against FC Dallas: Set pieces, substitutions, and consistency

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Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Through all the hubbub around Landon Donovan, the US Men's National Team, and other such interesting things, it seems almost like we've forgotten that we do have a game tomorrow — against a team we've got an interesting connection to.

Jeff Cassar, for example, played at Dallas not once but twice, and he was an assistant there until Jason Kreis ripped him from the club (tampering charges for everyone!). That's the big one, and probably the one that plays any sort of role. Maybe it'll be motivation — who knows.

Anyway, without much further ado, let's go over what we watched for last week, and what we should be watching for this week.

Do we start on the right foot without a valuable trio?

Yes. That one's easy. Next question.

In all seriousness, we started very much on the right foot and faltered a little bit in the second half. It's not a perfect way to go about things, but it's not so bad.

Can we vanquish our rivals?

Yes. Another easy one. We never really looked like not winning, which brings all of us no small amount of joy.

Can we continue to deal with speed?

Actually, yes. There wasn't much we had to worry about here. Our big problem — and this is something we knew about going in — was set pieces. Distressingly so, but, well, it is what it is, I guess.

What to watch for this week

Can we play a consistent 90 minutes?

Through the season so far, we've very rarely put together a strong, credible performance that lasted longer than 45 consecutive minutes. We've been good in the intervening moments, but we've typically either had a great first half or a great second half, with not a whole lot of room for variation.

What will our substitution patterns look like?

Jeff Cassar received some (probably unjust) criticism for his substitutions last weekend, making all three subs in two-minute intervals in the second half. It worked, though, and he justified his actions after the fact. I might agree with his reasoning — he didn't see how any player on the bench would shift our gameplay in the ways we needed shifting. We had plenty of attacking options on the bench, but nobody who can come in and settle the game down at this point in their careers.

What that game, for me, needed was a player like Cole Grossman coming into the equation. He was already in there, so that really was not going to happen. We need a calming influence once again, and maybe Cassar has been sussing that out in training.

Set pieces: Can we, you know, work on them?

Jeff Cassar said earlier in the week (somewhere, and I can't remember where) that the team would be spending considerable time on set pieces in the build-up to FC Dallas. That's important, because they're really great at them and we're really, well, not.

These are fixable problems, but they're not new problems. It takes time to get into the mode of defending set pieces. Let's hope we're there come Saturday.