As the players walked off the field at FC Dallas Stadium on Wednesday night, the men in red and white found themselves in a situation they are not too familiar with during the past couple of years: A five-game winless streak.
The loss to Seattle on Wednesday capped a tough stretch for the Toros, a time during which they have drawn two and lost three. Suspensions and injuries have ravaged the side, leading to a less than ideal selection of players to fill the starting XI during a series of games against some the league's top clubs. With a mere two points out of a possible fifteen in their last five contests, FCD have dropped to sixth in the standings, with the LA Galaxy and Chivas USA hot on their heels with two games in hand.
Today FC Dallas travels to Crew Stadium in Ohio, where they have a chance to regain some momentum against an equally struggling side in the Columbus Crew. The Crew sport the same points total in their last five games as Dallas does and the two teams do not just mirror each other points-wise. They are also both also struggling to score from the run of play; Dallas and Columbus have been shut out twice in a row.
Luckily for FC Dallas, two very important cogs in their machine will be returning from suspension. Blas Perez and Daniel Hernandez will be available for selection with both almost certainly getting a start, while star winger Brek Shea is still questionable for Saturday while he recovers from a case of turf-toe. Shea managed to log 20 minutes at the end of Wednesday's match, but it remains to be seen if he is comfortable enough to return to a starting spot.
If Shea does manage to feel healthy enough to start, his return would provide better service to Perez and would also free up space in the middle as the Crew defense will be concerned with keeping him in check.
Columbus has an important injury of their own, with club leader and veteran Chad Marshall suffering from concussion-like symptoms after being hit in the head during a practice session last week. Due to Marshall's history of concussions, the Crew are more likely than not to be careful with him and allow him time to rest.
Up for grabs during this game is the Lamar Hunt Pioneer Cup, a trophy dedicated to American sports legend Lamar Hunt. Lamar Hunt was one of MLS's major investors and a pioneer in the American soccer scene and his company, The Hunt Sports Group, still owns both FC Dallas and the Columbus Crew. Due to the new MLS match format, which resulted in a more conference-focused schedule, this season there will only be this one match between FCD and the Crew. This means this game is the only one that will be used to decide the winner of the Pioneer Cup.
The match will be broadcast on Fox Sports Southwest and will take place at 6:30PM CDT. Mark Followill, the voice of the Dallas Mavericks, will be on the call for FC Dallas.
For all the latest news and discussion be sure to check out Big D Soccer's excellent and informative game-day coverage.