FC Dallas-United Preview

The Associated Press

FC Dallas is off to another fast start, posting a seven-game mark identical to last year's as it has again raced to the top of the MLS standings.

The difference this year is Dallas appears to have an improved offense, which the club hopes will allow it to avoid a repeat of the rest of 2013.

Dallas tries to keep pace with last year's squad for the best start in club history when it visits D.C. United on Saturday night.

As with this season, Dallas got off to a 5-1-1 start in 2013 to lead MLS through seven matches. The club won its eighth game and went on to post an 8-3-2 record through 13 games, but it failed to sustain that level of play.

Dallas scored only 11 goals in its first seven games last year, which proved to be a bad omen for the rest of the season. It went 3-10-8 to close 2013, a stretch in which it was shut out seven times, and missed the playoffs for the second straight year.

The club has a league-leading 17 goals in seven games in 2014, thanks in part to a new weapon. Eight goals have come on set pieces, including both scores in a 2-1 home victory over Toronto on Saturday.

After entering as a second-half substitute, Blas Perez notched the winner in the 88th minute after a free kick - Dallas' fourth score in the 84th minute or later this year. Perez, tied for the team lead with three goals, sat out a 3-2 loss at Seattle on April 12 due to a hamstring injury.

Matt Hedges headed in the team's first goal in the 36th minute Saturday off one of Dallas' franchise-record 16 corner kicks.

"We're one of the best set piece teams in the league and (coach) Oscar (Pareja) says he thinks we're one of the best in the world at it and I can't say I disagree with it," Hedges told the team's official website. "... It helps us win a lot of games. When the offense isn't clicking, we can always try to get a set piece and that's a dangerous weapon."

United (2-2-2) have posted shutouts in two straight wins at home after winning three matches there all of last season. They haven't recorded three consecutive clean sheets at home since Aug. 2-30, 2008.

However, D.C. comes off a disappointing 1-all draw with Columbus on Saturday. United, who suffered a 3-0 home loss to the Crew in their season opener March 8, surrendered the equalizer in the 90th minute even though Columbus was playing a man down.

Fabian Espindola scored United's goal in the 31st minute.

"This is a good measuring stick for us because of how recent the (first) game was against them," Olsen told the team's website. "I thought tactically we were very good tonight, I thought the guys did everything we asked them to do and I think we're frustrated.

"This is a team that has been as good as any in the league and we came in here and I thought we had a good game plan but at the end it still hurts."

D.C. received some bad news Wednesday, as midfielder Chris Pontius is expected to miss at least another four to six months after undergoing surgery on his left hamstring. Pontius, who hasn't played since Oct. 27, had surgery on the same hamstring in November.

Dwayne De Rosario has 13 goals and seven assists in 30 career matches against Dallas.

FC Dallas has gone 3-1-3 in the last seven meetings with United, including a 2-1 home victory in last season's lone matchup May 11. Je-Vaughn Watson scored the tiebreaker in the 77th minute off a corner kick.

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