FC Dallas is facing two critical matches this week, though the degree of importance one can ascribe to either of them is up for debate.
On Wednesday, FC Dallas meet up against the Houston Dynamo in a heated rivalry match. Up for grabs is the honor (or burden) of advancing to the next round in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Some may see further US Open Cup matches as nothing more than something that wears out tired legs. Who needs David Ferreira or Michel picking up a knock in a match that doesn't help with playoff positioning or in the Supporter's Shield race? Logically, beating Houston only marginally benefits Dallas and carries with it the risk of injury to key players.
But logic is hard to come by in the world of soccer fans. Passionate fandom is rooted in irrationality, emotions, and heat of the moment reactions. Few things can match a Hoops' supporters elation when FCD notches a win against Dominic Kinnear and the hated Dynamo. There are many who would prioritize the USOC and defeating Houston over the points-critical game against Portland this Saturday. It doesn't earn us money, gain our team points, or any other material benefit. The thought of Houston winning on our our ground is more than some can bear.
After all, what's Portland but some city that's far away? Houston is right here, and they are constantly crowing about how much better their team has been and how many trophies they have won. Houston is in the way and need to be swatted down, but can you really say the Portland match is any less important?
The Timbers are a major obstacle in our quest for the Supporter's Shield, and a major thorn in the side of all Western Conference teams this season.
Portland is a different beast altogether from Houston. The Timbers have been a tough team so far, dominating possession and smothering their opposition's midfield. They don't rely on narrow playing-fields or incessant fouling to win. Their form hasn't been earth-shattering, but it has been consistently good throughout the year. FC Dallas could only barely hang on to get a point the last time these two teams met, and they were at home to boot. Many analysts rate Portland above FCD, and it's hard to make a case in favor of the Toros beyond pointing to the standings.
Now Dallas is faced with the prospect of travelling to the artificially-turfed home of one of the best teams in the league, mere days after squaring off against a group of vikings masquerading as a soccer team. How will the tired bones and roughed up bodies hold up?
A win against Houston, and a draw or better against Portland would force those who are reluctant to take Dallas seriously to reconsider their positions.
But can Dallas do it?