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Crossing the Touchline: Talking FC Dallas at Columbus Crew SC with Drew Epperley of Big D Soccer

Crew SC squares off with a Western Conference opponent on national television.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The talk this week surrounding Columbus Crew SC's match with FC Dallas focused on the players that wouldn't play in the game. The Black & Gold are without nine players who were called up for international duty this weekend, while Dallas will miss five of their own.

Once the game starts though it will be about the players available and getting a result.

Both teams are in need of points as they contend for an MLS Cup Playoff spot. Crew SC sits in third place in the Eastern Conference, one point behind the New York Red Bulls. After a good run of results, Columbus is in contention for not only the East but the Supporter's Shield as well, as the Black & Gold sit just five points back of the top spot in the league.

FCD is tied with Crew SC overall on points with 41 despite playing two fewer games. Dallas sits in third in the Western Conference after a 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake last week. Previous to that, it was tough sledding with three consecutive losses for the team from Big D.

To get a better feel for Sunday's Western Conference opponent, we reached out to SB Nation's Big D Soccer and Managing Editor Epperley to get a feel for what's going on in that part of Texas.

Questions for Big D Soccer

Massive Report: A few key players are out for Dallas. How will this impact what we see on Sunday? Who is the biggest loss of the group?

Big D Soccer: Easily the biggest loss is Fabian Castillo but that one is kind of a good and a bad thing. We're all extremely thrilled that Castillo earned a call up from Colombia but we're all just disappointed that it comes during this time of the season. Losing Castillo means there is going to be more pressure on Michael Barrios to put the speed on the wings that Dallas likes to use. Castillo usually balances things out nicely when he is there but FCD could get a little one-sided on Sunday if they aren't careful.

Aside from Castillo, losing Je-Vaughn Watson and Moises Hernandez will cause Oscar Pareja to juggle his defense up yet again. That could be a point for the Crew to take notice of here.

MR: Last week's 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake ended a slide of three straight losses for Dallas. What went wrong over that stretch and what was different in the RSL game?

BDS: Losing Mauro Diaz for a couple games was part of the losing streak but so was the club just playing some better sides like LA and Vancouver. FCD probably outplayed everyone in those three losses but the attack just wasn't getting it done. Guys like Blas Perez and Tesho Akindele hadn't scored in weeks, where as against RSL, Akindele was able to find the back of the net.

I think defensively, teams were figuring out how to attack Dallas with a little more pace than they were expecting. Chicago and Vancouver did an excellent job of using their pace at the Dallas defense, which while quick, isn't quick enough when under a ton of pressure.

MR: Dallas is five points back of the LA Galaxy for the top spot in the West and the league and have three games in hand. What are realistic expectations for this team by the season's end?

BDS: Given this month's schedule of three out of four games on the road, FCD has to find points where they can on the road and win their home games. I think most fans expect the team to make the playoffs but if the team stumbles any more at home, realistically they could be looking at finding themselves in fifth or sixth place given how tough the Western Conference is this season.

Personally, I think the club has the talent and the ability to make it into one of those top two seeds in the West. The games in hand help and there will be a lot of big matches in October at home that could help push them above some conference rivals.

To read Massive Report's responses to Big D Soccer's questions, checkout the article on their site.