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MLS Preview: Sporting Kansas City at FC Dallas

Jun 22, 2013, 1:01 PM EDT

MLS Dynamo FC Dallas Soccer
  • SKC has just one win in five games, and just two in eight
  • Dallas has just one win in four league matches
  • Both teams are boosted by the return of important internationals

Two well-regarded teams that are springing leaks meet tonight outside Dallas, both hopeful of using a hot summer night in Texas as a springboard for something better going forward.

Sporting Kansas City still looks like a dangerous team, still blessed with heavy weapons in defense and in the attack. But the results lately just are not commensurate with the level of talent around Sporting Park. SCK has won just once in its last five contests, and just twice in its last eight.

Peter Vermes’ team was even eliminated from the U.S. Open Cup, dropping a match at home to Orlando City and therefore crashing out in its title defense.

FC Dallas hasn’t slipped nearly as much; Schellas Hyndman’s team remains atop the West for now, one point ahead of Portland and Real Salt Lake with one game in hand. But Dallas seems stuck in neutral with just one win in its last four league games, and that was close 1-0 win at home over San Jose.

Sporting KC should get a big boost as two of its most important men return the lineup after a month away. Center back Matt Besler, nudging ever closer to Omar Gonzalez as the first central defender picked for Jurgen Klinsmann’s national team, will presumably regain his spot alongside Aurelien Collin in the middle of SKC’s back line. Defense has not been the issue for SKC, which has allowed just 13 goals this year, tied with New England for best in the league.

And Graham Zusi, who was such an imposing factor in the second half of Tuesday’s win for the United States over Honduras, is also available once again for Vermes. Zusi led MLS in assists last year and finds himself among the leaders once again. Zusi’s absence gave Benny Feilhaber a big chance to assume a bigger role and demonstrate his ongoing importance around Sporting Park – but the results weren’t exactly encouraging.

(MORE: Zusi could make a Landon Donovan return to USMNT tougher)

FC Dallas has additional options too, starting with the availability of striker Kenny Cooper (pictured), who had a major family-related scare last week. Cooper’s father, himself a prominent professional player in Dallas three decades back, suffered a heart attack just before last week’s loss in Portland.

Panamanian international Blas Perez is available, as well, having returned from World Cup qualifier duty.

ADDTIONAL NOTES: With Brazilian midfielder Michel on the service, FC Dallas has become one of the league’s most dangerous teams on set pieces. … Sporting Kansas City has conceded just three goals (of 13). … FCD goalkeeper Raul Fernandez was outstanding in the loss to Portland with a season-high seven saves. … Dallas left back Jair Benitez is suspended. … This is SKC’s first league match since a loss to Montreal on June 1. … Dallas is 7-0-1 at home this year.

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