After extending their unbeaten run to 19 at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park, the Rapids are preparing for a multi-game road trip. The first stop will be the second of three trips to Texas when the Rapids head to Frisco to take on FC Dallas.

Dallas are under new management in 2022. After saying goodbye to Luchi Gonzalez, the club hired Nico Estevez as the full-time manager. The Spaniard previously coached in Spain’s La Liga on an interim basis and was on Gregg Berhalter’s staff at the Columbus Crew.

Through five games, Estevez has guided FCD to eight points accumulated from two wins, one loss and two draws. Some of their early season success can be attributed to their marquee off-season addition, America international Paul Arriola. The winger has a goal and an assist each in four games in red, hinting at the possibility of settling in quickly and leading this squad.

Next to Arriola is 21-year-old Colombian-born American striker Jesus Ferreira. He scored a hat-trick (and tallied an assist) against Portland in a 4-1 win last month, and, like Arriola, scored for the red, white and blue in World Cup Qualifying against Panama.

If Ferreira can stay consistent over 34 games, which is no guarantee for a young forward, FC Dallas will be a tough out against everybody. They unloaded Ricardo Pepi to the Bundesliga and already have a replacement lined up. Their academy and ability to develop players continues to be among the best in MLS.

But the Rapids have a job to do: Go to Texas and get a result. Here’s how they can do it:

Figure Out FC Dallas

So far at home, FC Dallas are 2-0-1. They opened the year with a 1-1 draw against Toronto before beating Nashville 2-0 and then Portland 4-1. Whenever a teams comes under new management, it can take a few weeks to figure out exactly what a team is doing because it may take themselves a few weeks to nail down their tactics. What we do know is they look pretty darn good when playing on their own turf. Maybe Portland isn’t as good as they were last year and maybe Nashville has taken a step back given they are in the middle of a lengthy road trip. In three home games, FCD have scored seven goals, but in two road games, they’ve been shutout. They’re clearly still looking for an identity. All that being said, FC Dallas could be legitimate contenders for a playoff spot under Estevez. The Rapids need to dictate the pace and flow of the match, being proactive instead of reactive. 

Test the ‘Keeper

FC Dallas have started the same goalkeeper in all five matches so far: 23-year-old Dutchman Maarten Paes. Dallas is the first club he’s been with that wasn’t Utrecht in the Netherlands, and already he’s posting career highs in the boxscore. Five games is a small sample size to be sure, but his 77.8 save percentage is nearly 10 points higher than any other season in his career. Per fbref.com, he’s in the 99th percentile among MLS GKs in crosses stopped percentage (16.2%), goals against (0.60) and post-shot expected goals per shot on target (0.42). He may not be able to maintain this quality over 34 games but there’s undoubtedly quality there. The Rapids will have their work cut out for them on set pieces, crosses and any shots on frame. But all it takes is one goal to unravel the confidence of a goalkeeper.

Get the First Road Win of ’22

Under Robin Fraser, the Rapids have been defined by their cohesiveness as a team, their set piece dominance and how difficult they are to play against no matter where the game is being played. You don’t win the West without being absolutely miserable to host for away games. I guarantee you every team sees the Rapids come into their building and they sigh heavily. By now, they know what they’re in for, and they know it’s a game they can easily lose. The Rapids nearly got the first road victory of the year away to Houston a couple weeks ago. Maybe round two in the lone star state will be when the dam breaks.