After our key matchups breakdown, here is BSN Rapids' projected starting XI for each team leading up to Saturday’s contest.
Note: alternatives are listed in parenthesis.
Goalkeeper: Tim Howard
Defense: Marc Burch, Jared Watts, Axel Sjoberg, Mekeil Williams
Midfield: Sam Cronin, Michael Azira, Dillon Powers (Jermaine Jones)
Forwards: Shkelzen Gashi, Kevin Doyle, Marco Pappa
Pablo Mastroeni will have Eric Miller available again at right back, meaning he could opt to bench Marc Burch and switch Mekeil Williams back to left back. The right back spot, with the threat of Fabian Castillo coming down the wing, is maybe the most delicate position in this match, for the Rapids defensively.
While Miller is a promising player, who’s versatile and has an educated foot, he’s also been mistake-prone and had some costly tackles and cards thrown his way. With Castillo’s elusiveness and constant danger taking on defenders, Miller is a risky play. Williams’ mobility and size to push Castillo around seem like a better matchup for the Rapids. The veteran Burch is also less mistake prone than Miller and can give
The veteran, Burch is also less mistake prone than Miller and can give good push on offense as well, providing overlap and some dangerous crosses. It might not be your ideal starting XI, but for now and against this opponent, it’s the defense that makes the most sense. Jared Watts is faster and better on the ball than Bobby Burling, who was on the bench last Saturday. Burling should be available and 100-percent fit by now. However putting Burling in, in such a sensitive match with him having missed significant time seems like too much of a gamble. Against a speedy passing team like Dallas, you want more mobility and can neglect the aerial game a bit, making Watts the logical choice.
From the midfield on up, the projection is much easier. Micheal Azira and Sam Cronin have started every MLS game this season, and they’re not going to watch this big game from the sideline. Marco Pappa and Shkelzen Gashi have been regulars on the wing since getting back from the break, and I don’t expect that to change at all. There’s a chance Pablo opts for Marlon Hairston’s speed and keeps Pappa on the bench as a weapon for the second half.
The central attacking midfield position is the only real question mark. Dillon Powers has started there since the break as Jermaine Jones has been listed day-to-day for two weeks now and hasn't yet been made available as a substitute. It’s unlikely Jones has recovered enough to start this week, so Powers is the likely starter.
Kevin Doyle as the starting central forward is close to a guarantee.
Midfield: Carlos Gruezo, Mauro Diaz, Kellyn Acosta
Forwards: Michael Barrios, Maximiliano Urruti, Fabian Castillo
Oscar Pareja has used a mid-week lineup and a weekend lineup most of the season, as his team has had a packed schedule with MLS, U.S. Open Cup, and CONCAF Champions League engagements. However, surprisingly, Pareja decided to put his weekend lineup on the field in this week's Open Cup game against Houston, this past Wednesday. That makes predicting the Dallas lineup a bit harder at this juncture. It’s possible that after the 5-0 embarrassment at Seattle, Pareja has decided to stick with his "A" Lineup and not mess around anymore. Or maybe he’s decided to put in the B Lineup this weekend, knowing that a win in Colorado is going to be hard to come by (I highly doubt this).
Assuming the former Rapids skipper is as invested in this as he should be, this would be his projected starting lineup. Regardless of which formation Pareja favors (4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1), these should be the starters.
The only question mark on the back line is at right back—where the goat of the Seattle game, Maynor Figueroa, is a possibility with Ryan Hollingshead playing in his absence and seeming to be the logical alternative. Despite the recent struggle, Figueroa has started 19 of Dallas’ 22 games and will likely start.
Though we didn’t talk about them much in the game preview, the holding midfielders for Dallas are outstanding. Especially Kellyn Acosta, who is one of the most talented and promising young American midfielders in circulation. Acosta can cover tons of ground and is developing a well-rounded game, especially as a tall holding midfielder he’s really developed recently.
The attacking players are Dallas’ strong point. Diaz, Barrios, Castillo, and Urruti are shoe-ins to start barring any unforeseen issues.
Stay tuned to BSN Rapids for all the latest updates on game lineups and other Rapids news for the big game this Saturday.