MLS Preview and Prediction: FC Dallas vs Sporting Kansas City

Competition: Major League Soccer – FC Dallas vs Sporting Kansas City

Venue: Toyota Stadium – Sunday, April 17 – 19:00 ET (00:00 BST)

Match Odds: FC Dallas 8/11 – Draw 11/4 – Kansas City 15/4

Match Preview

FC Dallas host Sporting Kansas City at Toyota Stadium on Sunday night in a clash between two sides at the very top of the Western Conference.

FC Dallas impressed in the first outing of their double game week on Wednesday, winning 3-1 away against Portland Timbers in a tie that saw them net three times within the first half hour.

Oscar Pareja’s side are top of the Western Conference and lead the Supporters’ Shield standings heading into the weekend. Their home form has been impeccable and they have scored at least twice in ten of their last 11 outings in front of their own fans.

Dallas won the last meeting between the sides at Toyota Stadium 3-1 and will be hoping they can repeat that result this time around to remain top of the pile at this early stage of the campaign.

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Sporting Kansas City suffered a 2-1 defeat at home to Colorado Rapids in the first outing of their double game week on Wednesday evening in what was a surprise result.

They dropped from top of the West to second and now trail Dallas by two points heading into this tie. Peter Vermes will be ruing his side’s late lapse of concentration after they had levelled against Colorado before then throwing away a share of the points.

SKC will be feeling confident heading into this tie as they have won the last three meetings between the side’s in all competitions, scoring 13 times in those matches.

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Team News

FC Dallas have just two injury concerns heading into this tie as Alex Zendejas and Mauro Diaz are both expected to miss out. Carlos Gruezo is one caution away from suspension and will need to watch his step.

Sporting Kansas City have seven injury concerns. Justin Mapp, Soni Mustivar, Kevin Ellis and Chance Myers are all expected to miss out, while Brad Davis, Matt Besler and Paulo Nagamura are all doubts. Key players Dom Dwyer and Benny Feilhaber started Wednesday’s game on the bench but should both start from the outset here.

Key Points

FC Dallas’ form: W/W/D/D/W

Sporting Kansas City’s form: W/W/L/W/L

Key Stat: FC Dallas are unbeaten in their last 11 MLS matches at Toyota Stadium.

Key Player: Tesho Akindele – The Dallas forward has netted three in six so far this season including the third for his side in midweek and looks to be in good shape. He will want to add to his tally here and fire Dallas to success once more.

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Score Prediction

FC Dallas 2-1 Sporting Kansas City – FC Dallas look set to inflict a second loss in as many matches on Sporting Kansas City and remain top of the Western Conference. They are a real force, particularly at home, and have to be fancied above Sporting KC to take all three points on Sunday.

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MLS Fantasy 2016: What you need to succeed

By Jamie Dawe

Every year the MLS Fantasy minefield blows up anyone who hasn’t fully considered their team selection or their formation. Many people watch their team slide down the leaderboard for the first month while they helplessly panic behind their computer screens. However, there are a few key things you ought to know before you set up your team for this year’s competition.

The New Rules

There are now only 16 players on your roster (rather than 18), but each team still has the same $120.0 budget, meaning you can fill your side with more stars than ever in 2016.

Points are now scored for players who suffer four fouls in a game, for every 35 passes that are completed with 85% accuracy and also for every four shots taken in a game. In addition, defenders and defensive midfielders can score points for clearances, interceptions, tackles and blocks. This will make players like Osvaldo Alonso ($8.5) and Matias Laba ($7.5) even more attractive propositions.

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The Roster

Having two goalkeepers gives you room to have a week-in-week-out starting goalkeeper and also a young up-and-coming ‘keeper who may get game time later in the season. I wouldn’t recommend spending anymore than $11.0 of your budget on the two goalkeeper positions.

Having five defenders gives you the opportunity to splash out on a back five if you’re the kind of manager who likes banking on reliable centre-backs who rack up clean sheets, interceptions and the odd headed goal. Many prefer to use just three defenders, with attacking full-backs becoming increasingly popular too.

The limit of five midfielders now means that building a successful five-man midfield is significantly harder to achieve. However, the increased budget per player could mean that a spend of $45.0 on your midfield may not be terminal.

Four strikers gives you the chance to have at least one low priced striker to make room elsewhere for a big golden boot challenger. Cheap options like Dominic Oduro ($7.5) and Tesho Akindele ($7.5) could become great investments for the season.

The Formation

There’s only one formation I can recommend for the first weeks of the fantasy season and that’s a 3-5-2. In the unpredictable and occasionally maddening league which is Major League Soccer, the only position you can truly rely on is that of the central midfielder. Regardless of the match, quality of the team or the scoreline – passing bonuses are sure to be gained and so I see players like Dax McCarty ($9.0) and Tony Tchani ($8.0) as safe bets for early points. You could also try a 3-4-3 or 4-4-2 if one of your strikers/defenders is likely to play in a midfield role. In my view, any other formation would be complete anarchism before the tone for the season has been set.

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The Must Haves

The increased budget per player has opened up teams to have three or four massive stars in their starting XI. This is why players like last year’s top points scorer Sebastian Giovinco ($11.5) are definitely worth having in your team for the start of the season. Another player along these lines is Ethan Finlay ($10.5), who will also benefit from the new passing bonus points.

However, this doesn’t mean that the most expensive players are always going to be the highest scoring. Strikers like Innocent Emeghara ($9.0) and Maximiliano Urruti ($8.5) are sure to get more playing time this season and they are both proven goalscorers. In defence, Dallas’ No. 1 Jesse Gonzalez ($6.0) might be worth an investment as FC Dallas have four home games in their first six. This home start makes Zach Loyd ($7.5) a steal at this value. On the cheaper side, Josh Saunders ($5.0) may suddenly have a less porous defensive line in front of him as NYCFC have dramatically bolstered their defensive options this offseason. Four home games in the first five won’t hurt either.

The Risks

A few players picked in this year’s SuperDraft may go straight into the starting lineup of some MLS sides. For example, Joshua Yaro ($6.0) and Brandon Vincent ($5.0) are bound to get plenty of playing time. Jordan Morris ($8.5) joining Seattle Sounders was possibly the biggest deal of the offseason and it’s anyone’s guess whether he’ll hit the ground running, or whether he’ll take more time to progress. The Colorado Rapids’ biggest offseason signing was Shkelzen Gashi ($9.0), who had been the top scorer in the Swiss Super League for the last two seasons. Whether he can single-handedly turn around the Rapids’ dreadful scoring record, I don’t know. The Rapids also have talented defender/midfielder Marlon Hairston ($5.0) returning from injury, but he might not be thrown straight back into the Starting XI from the outset.

The No-No’s

DC United goalkeeper Bill Hamid ($6.0) will be out for at least the first three months of the season and should be ignored. MLS Cup winners Portland have a new left back in Chris Klute ($7.0) but he could easily miss the first games of the season with a knee injury. Nigel De Jong ($9.0) is a new presence in the LA Galaxy midfield, but he is not known for his scoring exploits and is rather more known for racking up yellow cards, so I personally would wait and see if the new scoring system favours him. Also, for his price and his position as a forward in a fantasy squad Giovanni Dos Santos ($11.0) is probably worth a miss until he settles into his new role on the right side of in the Galaxy side.

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The Best Bench Warmers

Cameron Porter ($5.0) should gain significant value if he gets the playing time he was in line to receive before his horrific injury at the beginning of the 2015 season. Along these same lines, Andre Blake ($5.0) could be a starting ‘keeper for Philadelphia this year – and if he’s given the chance – he could become the best bargain ‘keeper in the league. Hadji Barry ($5.0) could also be given the chance to prove himself in a faster, more fluent Orlando City attack – and if he plays to his potential, his price will skyrocket very quickly.

This is just a brief overview of what can be an extremely in-depth game. However, if I were to tell you anymore of my secrets, there would be no point in picking your own team…

All I can do is wish you luck and may the fantasy force be with you!

Who do you think is an absolute must-have in MLS Fantasy 2016?

MLS Fantasy Tips: Gameweek 4 Picks

With the weekend approaching, it means more MLS matches, and with the international break in full swing, this is probably the time to bring in some replacements for your MLS Fantasy team that aren’t away with their national sides.

All 20 MLS teams will be in action for Week 4 but international absentees make picking a team a little more challenging.

We take a look at some worthy replacements for the usual stars that could make the difference this weekend:

1. Tyler Deric: $4.9m (Houston Dynamo) – Colorado Rapids (H)

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Tyler Deric has been a breakthrough player so far this season and barring that unfortunate moment against Orlando, he has been one of the Dynamo’s best players.

Having only conceded two goals in three games, Deric looks a good bet for a clean sheet this week at home to a Colorado side that are yet to be involved in a game with a goal. The Rapids have not scored a goal in 420 minutes of MLS action now so Deric will be confident of keeping his second clean sheet of the season.

2. Kei Kamara: $8.0m (Columbus Crew) – New York Red Bulls (H)

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With an injury to Red Bulls left-back Roy Miller and centre-back Ronald Zubar a doubt for this fixture, this might be the time to throw Kei Kamara into the team. Playing for a Columbus side that was brilliant at home against Toronto, he will be a huge threat in attack.

Coming off a bye week should make him hungrier than usual, and if you’re looking to replace Robbie Keane or Blas Perez for the international break, Kamara is a great option at $8.0 million.

3. Tesho Akindele: $8.1m (FC Dallas) – Seattle Sounders (H)

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As usual the last pick is for the gamblers among you. Tesho Akindele is expected to play up top this weekend, deputising for the missing Blas Perez.

Akindele is up against a very good Seattle Sounders team, however, they haven’t been great recently and lost 3-2 to the San Jose Earthquakes last time out. Star man Clint Dempsey won’t feature and so Akindele could be in for some big points this weekend.

Who do you think will be the standout MLS Fantasy performer this weekend?

5 young MLS stars to watch out for in 2015

With just the MLS Cup Final to play and the 2014 season close to completion, we take a look at five MLS prospects that have lit up the league this season and look set for bright futures.

These young stars are already key players on their teams but will only improve as time goes on and they could be set for huge campaign’s in 2015.

1. Diego Fagundez – New England Revolution

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At 19 years of age, Fagundez has become one of the brightest talents in MLS over the past two seasons having made a breakthrough with the New England Revolution. He has had limited game time since the arrival of USMNT star Jermaine Jones at the franchise.

But he should be set for a great 2015 campaign, and hopefully we will see him at some point in Sunday’s MLS Cup Final.

2. Fabian Castillo – FC Dallas

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Castillo is an explosive winger who is comfortable on either wing. His exceptional dribbling skills have left defenders dazed all season and adding ten goals to Dallas’s tally has made him a great asset for the team.

At just 22, we’re expecting big things from the young man.

3. Tesho Akindele – FC Dallas

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Major League Soccer Rookie of the Year, Akindele, has been superb since breaking into the team. Blas Perez is still the first-choice forward but with eight goals in 29 appearances Akindele has showed great promise.

He and Castillo could make Dallas even more of a force in MLS next season.

4. Gyasi Zardes – LA Galaxy

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The most prolific of our five picks, Zardes has become a key player for the Galaxy this year, and has been a valued partner for MLS MVP Robbie Keane. Netting 16 goals this term has made him a huge asset for LA and he should only improve heading into next season.

Can he finish off a great year with an MLS Cup winners medal on Sunday?

5. Joao Plata – Real Salt Lake

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At 5’2 he’s the shortest player in MLS history, yet he has an abundance of talent. Plata is a compact, yet explosive forward that is comfortable on either foot. He has finally settled in MLS after his stint at Toronto FC and looks at home with Real Salt Lake.

He netted 13 goals in 28 appearances this season and is huge threat for RSL. There is more to come from the Ecuadorian.

Who do you think is the best young talent in MLS right now?

FC Dallas’ Tesho Akindele named as MLS Rookie of the Year

FC Dallas forward Tesho Akindele has been named as the 2014 MLS Rookie of the Year, beating Chicago Fire midfielder Harry Shipp and DC United defender Steve Birnbaum to the award.

The 22-year-old enjoyed a fantastic campaign as he scored eight goals and picked up three assists through the 2014 regular season and MLS Playoffs.

Dallas have run a social media campaign supporting Akindele for the past few months with the hashtag #VoteForTesho. The campaign was an outtake of the classic US comedy Napoleon Dynamite starring Tesho Akindele and teammate Matt Hedges.

The support for the forward clearly worked and his impressive form through July and August saw him score six goals in six games – incidentally when nearest rival for the award Harry Shipp‘s form dipped.

Shipp looked like he was going to run away with the award after his incredible start to life in MLS but the FC Dallas man has beaten him to the award in the end.

Akindele was selected with the sixth pick of the 2014 MLS SuperDraft and wasn’t disheartened by the fact that he only saw 15 minutes of action through Dallas’ first ten league games.

He went on to become a star and became the youngest Dallas player to ever score a goal in the playoffs when he netted against the Vancouver Whitecaps in the Western Conference knockout round.

Akindele is delighted to have picked up the award and will now be focused on getting FC Dallas back into the playoffs next season.

“It’s honestly one of the best days of my life. It’s such an honor and I couldn’t be happier,” he said upon learning of his award.

Video to celebrate Tesho Akindele’s Rookie of the Year award (via MLS on YouTube):

Do you think Tesho Akindele deserved to be named MLS Rookie of the Year?

Fabian Castillo highlights importance as FC Dallas see off Vancouver

The 2014 MLS playoffs got underway last night as FC Dallas played host to the Vancouver Whitecaps at Toyota Stadium, with Dallas progressing thanks to a 2-1 victory.

It was an intense game as expected, with 42 fouls over the course of the game resulting in seven yellow cards and one red, as Sebastian Fernandez was sent off after the final whistle for his actions towards referee Mark Geiger.

Tesho Akindele opened the scoring for the home side in the first-half, but Erik Hurtado’s deflected shot tied the game in the 63rd minute, before a controversial penalty was awarded to Dallas ten minutes from time.

Kendall Waston was adjudged to have deliberately handled the ball, despite his arms being by his side, and Michel confidently tucked away the resulting spot-kick, much to the disbelief of the Whitecaps players and fans alike.

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That was enough to seal the win for Dallas, but the performance of winger Fabian Castillo is what was the most encouraging thing to take forward.

The 22-year-old was excellent all night and he attempted an impressive seven dribbles – some feat considering the team only attempted nine in total, including Castillo’s seven.

Fabian Castillo showcases dribbling ability against Vancouver Whitecaps (via MLS on YouTube)

The exciting Colombian ended the regular season with ten goals and three assists, and if he can find his best form in the playoffs, Dallas has a real chance of going all the way to the MLS Cup.

He had more shots than any other teammate last night with three, and is certainly the main threat in this strong FC Dallas team.

They now prepare to host the Seattle Sounders in the first-leg of the Western Conference semi-final on Sunday night.

How important is Fabian Castillo to FC Dallas?