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Behind Enemy Lines: Previewing D.C. United Vs. FC Dallas With Big D Soccer

FRISCO, TX - JULY 16:  Brek Shea #20 of the FC Dallas dribbles the ball against Daniel Woolard #21 of the D.C. United at Pizza Hut Park on July 16, 2011 in Frisco, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
FRISCO, TX - JULY 16: Brek Shea #20 of the FC Dallas dribbles the ball against Daniel Woolard #21 of the D.C. United at Pizza Hut Park on July 16, 2011 in Frisco, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Ahead of D.C. United's 2012 national television debut against FC Dallas, we exchanged a few questions with Daniel Robertson of Big D Soccer. The results of our conversation are below.

B&RU: Give us a quick rundown on the FC Dallas injury situation. When will David Ferreira be back? Will Schellas Hyndman give Brek Shea the rest that he deserves?

BDS: The injury/international absence situation isn't quite as dire as it was against Kansas City on Sunday, but there are still plenty of issues in the attack. David Ferreira is listed as out for this game and he won't play. He's still probably a few weeks away and his maddeningly slow recovery is something giving all FC Dallas fans a bit of an ulcer. The other big injury question is dynamic winger Fabian Castillo. The Colombian picked up a leg strain on a challenge from Thierry Henry (imagine that) in the first game of the season and hasn't been seen since. He was upgraded from out to questionable on Tuesday's MLS injury update so he could play, that is something to watch.

FCD will get back both Brek Shea and Carlos Rodriguez from international duty, but I would be a little bit surprised if either of them starts, though both will likely make the bench. One of Dallas' biggest problems in the first three games is poor second half play, so bringing these two off the bench to occupy the wings for the second half wouldn't be the worst idea.

Even with George John back in the starting lineup, Dallas gave up two goals and a penalty kick attempt to Sporting Kansas City. Is there trouble on the horizon for what's been one of the best back lines in the league?

I think they just need time to gel again really. Schellas has tried to fit Ugo Ihemelu, George John and Hernan Pertuz all on the field at the same time and they're all three center backs so it's been a little wonky. Eventually you'll likely see Jair Benitez moved back to left back and one of the three CB's will be dropped to the bench. I don't think many people in Dallas are worried about the defense too much. They were actually pretty decent against the amazing Kansas City attack, both goals game in the last five minutes of each half.

If Ferreira, Castillo, and Blas Perez can all get on the same page, what are your overall expectations for this team?

Man, that's a big IF and we're all waiting for it. There hasn't been one game yet, pre-season or regular season, where Blas, Ferreira, Castillo and Shea have all been on the pitch together, but you've got to think when they do finally get out there, it will be devastating. The guy to watch out for, if you're the DC defense, on Friday will definitely be Panamanian forward Blas Perez. He's a huge, strong forward who will sit deep and hassle the back four, but also come into the midfield to receive the ball. He's played a big part in all four of Dallas' goals this year with 1 goal, 2 assists and he drew the foul that led to the free kick goal in Kansas City. The DC backline will have their hands full with this guy and you'll probably hate him before the night is over.

Name one player we might not be familiar with who could make an impact.

For FC Dallas, D.C. fans should watch a kid named Bryan Leyva. He's a 20 year old who was FCD's first homegrown player way back in 2009, but is just now breaking into the first team due to the injuries and such that we've talked about. He's kind of an Andy Najar lite as he's a small, shifty winger that can be electrifying on the ball but will drift out of games for 20 minutes at a time as well. Leyva started the last two games and could get one more starting chance on Friday before Shea and Castillo return to the wings.

BDS: D.C. United have just one point from three games, but those were three pretty tough ones. Is there any level of panic in DC or are you still feeling good about where this thing is headed?

B&RU: Yeah, both actually. There's a small but boisterous portion of the fan base that is already questioning Branko Boskovic's ability to play at an MLS level. And worse, there have even been whispers about Ben Olsen being in over his head. That's a club legend, bro!

Most of us still have tons of confidence in this team though. The attacking trio of designated players - Boskovic in the midfield, Hamdi Salihi up top, and Dwayne De Rosario roaming wherever the hell he wants to - didn't get any time together on the field in preseason due to Salihi's late arrival and minor injuries to the Boskovic and DeRo. We knew going into the year that it was going to take this group of players some time to gel, and it certainly didn't help that United opened the season with two matches against the two favorites to win their conferences.

One insignificant goal from three games isn't getting the job done offensively. What needs to improve in the United attack and how badly is Maicon Santos killing the offense?

You definitely called that one. So far, we've had the FCD version of Santos, rather than the TFC version that scored 6 goals in 15 starts before being traded.

We're eagerly waiting for the attack to develop some chemistry. That's really what's been lacking so far. The talent is clearly there with this group, but they're not anticipating each others' runs. They're not reading the game the same way as their teammates are reading it. That will come with time. Andy Najar and Chris Pontius are among the top pairs of wingers in the league, and sooner or later they will regain that form. If they do, and if De Rosario plays even half as well as he did in 2011, and if Salihi's scoring touch turns up, watch out.

What is the general formation that DC plays and where do you see their weaknesses that FC Dallas could attack?

United has utilized a fairly flat 4-4-2 in all three games so far this season, and that's what you should expect to see Friday night. United gave up three goals to the LA Galaxy two weeks ago due in part to some disorganization along the back line, so that's an angle FC Dallas may want to exploit, although they'll find that rather difficult with big center back Emiliano Dudar in top form. Dallas could also wind up with some nice free kick opportunities, as Marcelo Saragosa (who has been starting in place of Perry Kitchen at central defensive midfield) has given up fouls in dangerous spots each of the last two games.

If I was attacking against the D.C. defense, I would also turn the pressure on high in the final five minutes of each half. United had a draw all but wrapped up in Week 1 against Sporting Kansas City before CJ Sapong scored after the clock had already passed 90, and the Galaxy took their first lead a week later just before halftime. For whatever reason, that appears to be when this team is at its weakest. If I recall Dallas's match against the Sporks correctly, I think that might be something you're fairly familiar with...

Tell us about a D.C. player that may not be familiar to FC Dallas fans but could play a big role on Friday....

FCD fans shouldn't be too excited about the news that Bill Hamid will be out of the lineup for this game. That's because we've seen no dropoff with the emergence of Joe Willis, easily one of the best backup goalkeepers in the league. The 6'-5" Willis has shown excellent shot-stopping ability and positioning. He won't be easy to beat.