You've been hearing for a couple weeks now about how big this game is Saturday evening for FC Dallas. No doubt that the task at hand is a tough one. Schellas Hyndman and his team head west to face the league-leading San Jose Earthquakes in a must-win game.
A game that could decide if Dallas stays in the playoff hunt for another week, or sees the dream of post season glory go down the tube once and for all.
Daniel talked yesterday about the previous two meetings with the Quakes. A 0-0 draw in Frisco and a 2-1 loss at Buck Shaw Stadium.
The skinny on San Jose
What the Quakes do well is pretty obvious. They play fast and furious up front with Chris Wondowloski, Alan Gordon, Steven Lenhart and Simon Dawkins. That quartet has combined to score 50 goals this season. Yes 50! That means that group has combined to score more goals that all but ONE other club in MLS this season (they've tied New York but LA has scored more for those wondering).
That is an insane number. Heck, Wondo has scored more alone than Chivas USA has scored all season.
Those four combine so well and they feed off one another. Dallas could be in luck though as it is being reported that San Jose is thinking about resting Dawkins for this game. Dawkins picked up an ankle injury against Seattle last week and could be sitting this one out as a precautionary move by Frank Yallop.
Still, even without Dawkins, San Jose has a three-headed monster up front that will be tough to contend with.
Thankfully however, Dallas done well this season against Wondo and company. Hernan Pertuz and Matt Hedges helped Dallas push for that 0-0 shutout back in July at home and the two will likely start together in the center of the defense tomorrow evening with George John out with an ankle injury of his own.
Dallas will also need a big game out of Julian de Guzman too. His ability to close down passing lanes out of the midfield will be huge. San Jose has a couple of unsung heros in the midfield in guys like Ramiro Corrales and Rafeal Baca. Keep and eye on Baca, the little guy is a very underrated player in my book and is one that is really the engine that keeps this San Jose team going offensively.
Quakes in defense
Believe it or not, the San Jose defense isn't that great. They're good, don't get me wrong. They've allowed 36 goals this season, just two less than FC Dallas. Good but again not great.
Central defenders Victor Bernandez and Jason Hernandez are big imposing players that do well in the air and on the ball. They gobble up passing lanes and will put a body on guys like Andrew Jacobson and David Ferreira. But neither have had to deal with a healthy Blas Perez this season. If Dallas wants to get any sort of mojo going offensively, they need to work through Perez early and often and get him chances on goal. Perez is a physical player up front that will cause issues for Hernandez and Bernandez.
On the wings San Jose has two of the most underrated fullbacks in MLS. Justin Morrow and Steven Beitashour will cause problems for Brek Shea and Jackson Goncalves. That is why a fresh Fabian Castillo or even Ricardo Villar off the bench late in the game will be huge. Dallas needs Shea and Jackson to run these two ragged, and find ways to get Zach Loyd and Jair Benitez involved as well. When Dallas attacks from the wings, good things happen.
The one is simple, just keep winning. I think Hyndman put it best when he talked about bringing the four D's to the field: determination, dedication, desire and discipline. As long as FCD brings those items to the table on Saturday they will stand a good chance to bring home some points, even against a good San Jose team.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, Dallas is a very tough matchup for San Jose. Even as good as the Quakes have been this season, no other club in MLS has put more shots on goal against San Jose as Dallas has. No other club has also picked up more free kick and corner kicks against San Jose as Dallas has. The chances have been there in the past and they will be there on Saturday, this time Dallas just has to finish them.
This is an entirely more focused FCD squad than the one San Jose saw twice in July. Time to get the job done.