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New York City FC hosts FC Dallas on Tuesday night as they look to get back to winning ways.

For this edition of 'The Away End' presented by Berkeley College & Rennert International, we spoke to Drew Epperly, FC Dallas man and managing editor at FC Dallas blog Big D Soccer.

Hi Drew, thanks so much for agreeing to speak to us. How long have you been a fan of FC Dallas?

For me, it all started when I visited some family of mine in the summer of 2005. Ironically, that was the same time that Toyota Stadium (then Pizza Hut Park) opened up for the first time. I had been to some MLS games in some of the early years of the league but knowing that I was planning to move to Dallas after college, it was easy for me to dive in and become a follower of the club.

What’s been your favorite moment supporting/covering the team?

Easily the 2010 and 2016 seasons stand out as the best time to cover the team. In 2010, FCD reached their first MLS Cup and then in 2016 the team won a double with the US Open Cup and Supporter Shield trophies. I think if I had to pick between the two, it would be 2016. The night that they won the USOC title is still one of my favorite soccer memories.

How would you evaluate the 2021 season for FC Dallas so far?

This season has been in a way, an extension of 2020. There is a lot of promise and good things with the young talent but nothing seems to be coming together completely enough for this group to really push themselves to the next level in the Western Conference. In years past, this club has been saved time and time again by their defense while the offense struggles to find their way.

This year has been a bit of the opposite as Ricardo Pepi has found a way to emerge as a goal scoring threat every time he is on the pitch. But the defense has been hit by injuries, suspensions at times and just poor form altogether. When you aren't able to start the same back four consistently from game-to-game, mistakes tend to creep up quicker and teams are finding ways to easily beat them.

From a tactical standpoint, what strengths should Ronny Deila and his team be wary of heading into the game?

When the attack is working through Jesús Ferreira and Szabolcs Schon all the way up to Pepi, they're tough to slow down.

As much as Luchi Gonzalez wants to play out of the back and have a slower build up into the attack, what has worked has been a bit more direct on the wings with Schon, Paxton Pomykal and Jader Obrian that sees them find Pepi in the penalty box. When Pepi has time and space on the ball, he's going to be tough to stop.

Are there any areas where you think FC Dallas can improve in?

It is still defensively on set pieces. Because of the injuries and constant change that I mentioned above, the defense has really struggled to defend set pieces this season. A good scout will pick that out quickly and find a way to expose them.

If you were to identify Dallas’ danger-man, who would that be?

Right now it is 100% down to Ricardo Pepi. As much as I would like to throw Jesús Ferreira in the mix there, Pepi has the touch right now that is finding the back of the net no matter who he is playing for (club, All-Star team or national team).

And finally, for any fans thinking of making the trip to Dallas in the future, are there any particular attractions you’d suggest checking out?

Dallas has a lot of things to offer folks who want to make the trip. While the stadium is a bit north of the city (a slightly sore subject for those around here), I will say that the food and brewery scene in Dallas is great. I would suggest visiting places like Peticolas Brewery (a big soccer-loving brewery), or Pegasus City (their downtown location is really cool for those who want to explore that).

Outside of that area, there is always the Six Floor Museum that is worth a visit for those history buffs out there. Thanks again for allowing me to answer some questions ahead of tomorrow's game!

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