Earthquakes-FC Dallas Preview

National Sports

FC Dallas head coach Luchi Gonzalez is treating Saturday’s showdown with San Jose Earthquakes as “a final” as the race for a playoff spot heats up.

The Western Conference rivals have an identical record of a win, loss and tie across their last three games and are separated by one point and one place.

Dallas have played a game more than their next opponents and are five points adrift of the top seven, placing added importance on this weekend’s match at Toyota Stadium.

“It’s a final,” Gonzalez said. “That’s kind of been the theme and I think we’ve acted on it in recent games and then we haven’t.

“We’re trying to find that consistency. We’ve had some really high moments in games, and then in that same game, we have some low moments where we lose our focus.

“So that’s something that we talked about and we’re very aware that we need a 90+ minute game where all 11 players are focused and engaged.”

Dallas lost 3-2 to Real Salt Lake in their last match, while the Quakes were beaten 1-0 by Colorado Rapids.

That ended San Jose’s 10-match unbeaten run and head coach Matias Almeyda now accepts it will take an almighty effort for his side to prolong their season into the playoffs.

“All games now are must-wins,” he said. “We played well in the last game, but it’s clear that you win football matches by scoring goals.

“It’s difficult when you’re not putting away your chances.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

FC Dallas – Jesus Ferreira

Ferreira has been in fine form for Dallas in recent weeks, even if his side have struggled for consistency. The attacking midfielder scored one and assisted another in the defeat to Real Salt Lake and has been directly involved in five goals in his last three games.

San Jose Earthquakes – Javier Lopez

Not helped by losing Jeremy Ebobisse early on, the Quakes managed just two shots on target in their loss to Colorado Rapids. That is the second blank San Jose have fired in their last four games and, as Almeyda pointed out, his attackers need to step up. Lopez has a respectable five goals from 20 starts this season, but he has had minimal impact on his last three appearances and is among those Pereyra was perhaps referring to.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– The Earthquakes are unbeaten in seven straight matches against FC Dallas (W4 D3), including a 3-1 home win on April 24. The seven-game run is San Jose’s longest current unbeaten streak against any MLS team.

– After going 18 straight home games without defeat, FC Dallas have lost two straight at Toyota Stadium, falling to Sporting Kansas City and Seattle. Dallas have not lost three straight home games in a decade, since August-September 2011.

– San Jose’s 10-match unbeaten run (W3 D7) ended with a 1-0 loss to Colorado on Saturday. Despite the unbeaten run, the Earthquakes have won just three times in their last 18 matches dating back to early May (D8 L7).

– Ricardo Pepi’s two-goal performance in his last MLS match against Austin in late August was the third multi-goal game of his career. Pepi is just the second player in MLS history to record three multi-goal games before turning 19 years old after Eddie Gaven, who did so in 2004-05.

– San Jose are the second-most fouled team in MLS, winning an average of 13.3 fouls per match this season. Eric Remedi, who was fouled six times by the Rapids last week, leads MLS with 80 fouls won this season, seven more than any other player.

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