Getty Images

Match Preview: FCD at San Jose

The basics

FC Dallas (10-2-10, 40 points, third in West) at San Jose Earthquakes (9-7-5, 32 points, sixth in Western Conference) at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

All-time record: Earthquakes lead 19-15-7

TV info

9 p.m. CT, Fox Sports Southwest Plus; MLS Direct Kick, MatchDay Live

*DFW cable providers: 

DirecTV Ch. 680
Dish Network Ch. 448
U-Verse Ch. 754 (1754 HD)
Time Warner Ch. 960
Charter Ch. 300
*Note: Verizon FIOS does not carry FSSW Plus

Game intro

When you’ve lost only twice in 22 matches, you will always have a target on your back. So FC Dallas are no stranger to playing the role of the hunted. San Jose, however, have more of a reason than most teams to take down the MLS’ hottest side, since Schellas Hyndman’s squad simply dominated the Quakes in the teams’ first meeting this year.

Brek Shea ran rampant before scoring a brace within the space of three minutes during the second half, and Dallas’ verve exposed communication problems in the San Jose defense. It was a low point of the season for the Quakes, who have rebounded with three wins in their last four matches, with huge contributions from newcomers Geovanni and Khari Stephenson, who may not be available after coming off due to injury against Houston last weekend.

San Jose Earthquakes

Another week, another red card. San Jose will have to do without second-year player Sam Cronin, who came over in a midseason trade from Toronto and quickly established himself as a natural holding midfielder, but saw straight red last week for a studs-up challenge late in a 2-1 victory at Houston.

San Jose coach Frank Yallop said Thursday that he plans on bringing in Brad Ring to fill the holding role rather than moving Brandon McDonald from center back. That’s likely because Yallop wants to keep McDonald’s speed on the back line against a formidable Dallas attack.

If Stephenson is unavailable, it poses a potential domino effect for Yallop. Geovanni, who started as a withdrawn forward in Houston and provided an assist and a game-winning goal, could slide back, but the team wants him to focus on his offense, rather than playing box to box.

Another option could be a 4-5-1 with Geovanni and leading scorer Chris Wondolowski, who has a strong ability to backtrack, both in the middle, flanked by Arturo Alvarez and Joey Gjertsen. That would get Wondolowski, who was shunted to the left wing to make room for Geovanni, more into the center of the action.

Bobby Convey will return from a one-game suspension, most likely at left back while Ramiro Corrales (sprained left MCL) continues to mend.

FC Dallas

Colombian forward Milton Rodriguez is listed as questionable with a left shoulder sprain, but he was back at training on Wednesday and “looks fine,” in Hyndman’s estimation. Rodríguez had started seven matches in a row before sitting out last week due to the injury, but it wasn’t like Dallas really suffered because of it – Jeff Cunningham made his first start since June 5 and scored his 129th career MLS goal in a 1-0 victory over Toronto.

Whoever winds up playing on San Jose’s back line will have their hands full with Dallas playmaker David Ferreira, who can score (six goals, second on the team behind Cunningham’s eight) or pass (team-high nine assists) with equal aplomb. He tore up San Jose’s defense in the teams’ first meeting. A repeat performance would spell doom for the hosts.

Piling on in terms of available talent, FC Dallas also get dangerous right winger Atiba Harris and defensive stalwart, captain Daniel Hernandez, back from yellow-card suspensions.

Heroes and villains

Geovanni vs. Hernandez: Regardless of whether Dallas' captain plays at his usual spot of holding midfielder or moves to fill in at center back (a possibility if George John isn’t able to answer the call because of his left hamstring strain), Hernandez will undoubtedly be tasked with helping to keep Geovanni, the Quakes’ first Designated Player, under wraps.

Geovanni certainly seemed to catch Houston’s defenders unaware last Sunday, sprinting past a couple of Dynamo before delivering the ball on a platter for Stephenson to punch it home for San Jose’s first goal.

“I don’t think Geovanni is the fastest player, but he has a quick first step, so you come rushing in and he’ll just push it by you,” Stephenson said.

Stat that makes you go “Hmm”

If you’re going to Buck Shaw Stadium, don’t be late getting back from the concession stand after intermission. Dallas have been more than doubling their opponents’ output in the second half this season, scoring 20 goals and allowing just nine. The Quakes, meanwhile, have been outscored 7-3 in the first 15 minutes after the break.

FC Dallas Video Preview:

Get Microsoft Silverlight