FC Dallas takes their MLS record road unbeaten streak to Buck Shaw stadium to face San Jose in a game that will go a long ways to determining whether FC Dallas is a true contender for the Supporter's Shield.
San Jose Earthquakes
San Jose has been a very up and down team this season, winning five of their first eight MLS games before going a span of nine games with just one win. The Earthquakes are on another upswing, however, with three straight wins at home and three of their last four overall.
San Jose's run of good form has corresponded with arguably the two most impactful mid-season signings outside of Marquez and Thierry Henry. Brazilian Geovanni and Jamaican Khari Stephenson have re-energized San Jose and provided that attacking punch that they've been lacking almost the entire season. Stephenson, a strong, physical midfielder not unlike Atiba Harris has combined very well with Chris Wondolowski and Geovanni looks to certainly be up to the part as San Jose's #10.
There's a question as to whether Stephenson will be available as he picked up an injury in the Earthquakes game at Houston, but he's not on the injury report, so I'd expect him to play. Luckily for Dallas Sam Cronin, a rising star in midfield, will be out due to a red card picked up in the Houston game.
A look at Dallas, keys to the game and prediction after the jump
It's yet another week where FCD's lineup could be quite different from the week before. Everything out of FCD camp suggests that it will be Jackson and Loyd pairing up in the center of defense with the usually Jair Benitez and Heath Pearce on the outsides. Surely Daniel Hernandez and Atiba Harris slot back into the lineup in their normal spots while the other question mark is who will start at forward.
It's tough to find fault with Jeff Cunningham's game last Saturday because he got his goal, but if Milton Rodriguez is deemed healthy I think he starts given San Jose's not quite so imposing defensive back four as his strength will be better used. This one is probably a 50-50 decision though.
Keys to the game
-This is a game where David Ferreira needs to impose his will. El Torito had a great game in San Jose last year and with Cronin out, Ferreira should have a lot more space to roam and with Geovanni expected to shoulder the load of the offense, Ferreira shouldn't be hassled by the Brazilian.
-Daniel Hernandez can't let Geovanni out of his sight. It's a massive boost to FC Dallas having Hernandez back, and with a depleted back 4 it's up to Daniel to shut down Geovanni. The Brazilian is not a player with overwhelming pace, but given time on the ball he can pick a defense apart so it's imperative that the Texan shuts him down and doesn't pick up two yellow cards in the process.
-Brek Shea has to get forward. Shea had his best game as a pro against San Jose in June scoring both goals in the 2-0 victory and he needs to push forward with the same hunger tomorrow night. Matching up opposite Arturo Alvarez, a player notorious for his lack of defense(why Schellas traded him), was a big part of Shea's two goals in June.
-Deny passes to Bobby Convey on the left. Convey is in the middle of his best season in years for San Jose with 9 assists on the season and Atiba Harris must deny the supply to him. Much like Hernandez, it's great to have Atiba back because he offers a lot more defense than Marvin Chavez did and he'll have to be at his best to stop the Convey danger.
-A leader must step up in the back four. George John commented a couple of weeks ago that with Ugo Ihemelu out, he felt the need to step up and be the vocal leader. With both Ugo and George John unlikely to play, someone else must step up and lead the defense.
-Find a way to get Ruben Luna on the field. Luna is a total unknown to the rest of the league and he nearly bagged a goal on his debut last weekend. His strength and ball control was exceptional and whether FCD is leading or behind in the last 20 minutes, Luna needs to see the pitch.
San Jose is one of the better home teams in the league and they've got a stout defense. However, San Jose hasn't been able to keep both David Ferreira and Brek Shea off the scoreboard in games against Dallas this season or last. FCD has found it relatively easy to score on San Jose with six goals in their last three games against the 'Quakes and I think Dallas bags two more on Saturday to gain a massive three points.
2-1 FC Dallas