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How you doin'? FC Dallas.

One more time with my favourite Maicon Santos picture.
One more time with my favourite Maicon Santos picture.

Before Tuesday's all important CCL game, i caught up with Daniel Robertson of SB Nation's excellent FC Dallas blog Big D Soccer, where you can go to check out the Dallas view of the game.  We discus the Santos/Avila trade as well as both clubs recent form and more, so FC Dallas, how you doin'?

Waking the Red:  How important is this game to Dallas?  Beyond the suspended players, will they be resting anyone ahead of Saturday's game to try and sneak into the top 3 and avoid the wild card game?  How big will the absence of Benitez and Castillo be?

Big D Soccer:  Well it’s a very important game, obviously. I worry that Dallas will not come out with the same intensity as a Toronto team that has been focusing on this by itself for weeks, but I think Dallas is taking this extremely seriously. They did not rest anyone on Saturday, though the team has now won two games in a row so I don’t blame Schellas for wanting to build some good mojo heading into the playoffs. 

The absence of Benitez and Castillo will be important but not terribly concerning. Jeremy Hall will likely slot in at left back for FC Dallas and while that is a downgrade, with Brek Shea on the left wing things should be alright. Regarding Fabian Castillo, I doubt he would have started anyways so the only aspect of things his absence will hurt is if Dallas is behind in the second half and needs a goal. Dallas will likely start either Jackson or Marvin Chavez at forward with the other player starting on the right wing.

WTR:  At the time of the trade, Dallas fans seemed quite happy to have picked up Maicon Santos for Eric Avila.  How has Santos worked out so far?

BDS:  He hasn’t really worked out well for Dallas. I’m not sure how much of it is actually Maicon’s fault, but his run in the starting lineup coincided with the poor run of form for Dallas. It’s tough to put too much of the blame on him as he was thrown into the lineup and has basically had 0 good training sessions with the team due to fixture congestion, but things haven’t gone well for him. I am optimistic that he could play a valuable role in 2012 with a full pre-season to gel.

WTR:  What caused Dallas' big slump in September.  They've won 2 straight now, so is everything good again?

BDS:  It’s tough to say just one thing, but it was a combination of fatigue, poor play and bad luck. Dallas hit the post I think 6 times in September and once the goals quit coming, the team starts pressing. Schellas used a 10-day break without a game to give the players some time off to recharge and it seems to have worked. Look for Dallas to use a straight speed/counter-attack based approach tomorrow night. It’s how Dallas plays best and it’s what they’ve done in their last two wins.

WTR:  Do you have confidence that if Dallas and TFC tie, Pumas won't just lie down and let Tauro win by a small margin on Wednesday to make sure they both go through?

BDS:  Well you never know with these Mexican clubs, but surely Pumas will beat Tauro. They would not want to risk sliding down to the #2 seed in the group and risk playing a #1 seed on the road in the second round.

BDS:  What has the recent form of Toronto in the league been like? Are they just playing out the schedule or has there been some purpose to the matches?

WTR:  Results wise our league matches had lost purpose by April, but they definitely haven't been playing out the string.  There was a lot of new signings and trades In July and August, so it's been a process of figuring out what the first team is, who can play where and all that sort of thing that generally gets sorted out in the pre season.  Results have actually been going well, mainly due to Aron Winter finally showing some tactical flexibility by moving to a 3 Centre Backs defence to provide cover for the precarious Ty Harden/Andy Iro partnership.

That has meant we've become a lot tougher at the back, and depending on how far forward the full backs can get, it hasn't sacrificed too much of the offence.  Since last we played you in August, we've only lost 1 of 6 league games, and 2 of 9 all together, both of which saw us get hammered when we tried to go back to the flat back 4.

BDS:  How have Toronto fans taken to Eric Avila and Peri Marosevic? Do you see them as long term starters or sparks off the bench?

WTR:  Avila's been a great addition, and when available is an automatic starter in attacking midfield, bringing the sort of creativity, dribbling and passing skills we'd been missing there all year.  I'd be stunned if he's not back as a big part of the team next year.

Marosevic is a bit more hit and miss, he's played mostly on the Right Wing for us, as well as seeing time at Attacking Midfield where he may play on Tuesday with Avila being cup tied.  Our regular Right Winger Nick Soolsma is skillful, but a bit slow, so Marosevic bring a welcome change of pace when he plays.  He's scored a few goals for us as well which is very welcome, but he's a bit inconsistent, and I think he's a sub at best, and wouldn't like to gues at if he'll be back next year or not.

BDS:  Danny Koevermans and Torsten Frings arrived as heralded DP’s in mid-season. Have they lived up to the hype and do you see them as big parts in 2012?

WTR:  Yes, and yes.  Frings has played very well and vastly improves the team wherever he plays with his organisational skills and ability.  When played as a 3rd CB, which is where I expect him to line up on Tuesday, he's brought some much needed stability to the back, dramatically reducing our goals against.  When he's played in midfield we look a lot better going forward, Julian de Guzman for one looks much improved since the arrrival of Frings.  I've got to imagine that off the pitch, he sets a great example and he'll having a massive impact in finally turning us into a team with a professional winning attitude.

Koevermans has shown he's the best goalscorer we've ever had.  He seems to have been fighting to get fully fit as long as he's been here, he certainly doesn't look all that athletic and for long times you won't really notice him, but give him a chance in the box and he's lethal.  I think we'll be hoping to keep it tight, stifle Dallas, and then hope to take one of the small number of chances we'll create.  If one of them can fall to koevermans, I like our chances of pulling that off.

The only downside is their age, as both are in or approaching their mid 30's.  They should both have a huge impact in 2012 at least, beyond that, who knows?

BDS:  Who on Toronto that Dallas fans may not be too familiar with should we watch out for tomorrow night?

WTR:  After playing us 3 1/2 times already, there's probably few surprises on our squad, but I'll go with Ashtone Morgan.  A left back who's come from our academy to become established in the first team and just won his first cap for Canada, he's got great potential.  He shut down Dane Richards no problem when we played New York, and his speed and youthful energy mean he's a threat when attacking and supporting the Left Winger as well.  Joao Plata loves to cut inside from the left, so expect him to do that, with Morgan making the overlapping runs down the line to get croses in.