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MLS Preview: FC Dallas at Philadelphia Union

Jun 29, 2013, 7:45 AM EDT

Philadelphia Union v Chicago Fire Getty Images
  • Philly’s Jack McInerney is tied for the league scoring leadership with 10 goals
  • Half of Dallas’ starting back line is out
  • The Union is 7-1-1 in all competitions since mid-May

About to face the best young striking prospect in Major League Soccer, this is a bad, bad time for FC Dallas to miss its rock in defense.

Jack McInerney vs. George John would have stood among the league’s best matchups this week. The man they call “Jack Mac” has 10 goals, and at 20 years old he is easily the youngest of the three men tied atop the league scoring leadership.

John is the FC Dallas center back who guides young Matt Hedges alongside him and helps faithfully steer a back line that has been better this year than most expected. Except that he’s out for this weekend’s trip to PPL Park outside Philadelphia. Kickoff is set for 5:30 p.m. ET (NBC Sports Network) as Schellas Hyndman’s team faces John Hackworth’s steadily emerging young side.

Dallas has recently tumbled out of the top spot in the West. And it tumbled out of the U.S. Open Cup earlier this week at home, the Portland Timbers’ latest victim. Still third in the West and just a point off the lead, FCD remains in good shape heading into the second half of MLS 2013. Then again, who wants to waste all that early success?

So it looks like second-year starter Matt Hedges and well-regarded rookie Walker Zimmerman will need to deal with the Union’s rising attack. See, it’s not just McInerney (pictured on the right), whose finishing has lost its edge lately, but who continues to put himself in good scoring spots.

It’s also Conor Casey, who has now rallied past that big Achilles injury do his part in forming such a nifty one-two scoring punch around the team’s suburban Chester ground. And don’t look now, but is that hard-working Union attacker Sebastien Le Toux leading the league in assists? Yep … seven of them.

Zach Loyd will also apparently miss the match; like John, he remained back in Dallas as the team traveled Friday.

Jair Benitez is back after serving a one-game suspension. That improves the midfield more than the defense; Versatile Brazilian utility knife Michel was at left back for last week’s 2-2 draw with Sporting Kansas City but will presumably re-occupy his holding midfield spot.

Hackworth’s Union is 7-1-1 in all competitions since mid-May, and the latest win is among the team’s best moments of 2013. An emphatic 3-0 win over New York (a rival, no less) was a real confidence builder for a team that includes other promising prospects, 22-year-old center back Amobi Oguko foremost among them.

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