KANSAS CITY, Kan. – All the glamour and star power Major League Soccer can muster will be concentrated in Los Angeles this weekend, but the substance may just reside in a converted minor league baseball stadium in Kansas City.
With playoff aspirations hanging in the balance, FC Dallas and the Wizards will meet Saturday night at CommunityAmerica Ballpark in a matchup of the league’s hottest teams.
So while the media attention swirls around Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Juan Pablo Angel and Rafa Márquez, there will be significantly more at stake when the Wizards and Hoops take the field a night later.
“It’s a huge game for both teams,” FCD manager Schellas Hyndman told MLSsoccer.com.
And even that superlative statement is somewhat of an understatement.
Kansas City currently sit on the outside of the playoff picture but know all that could change with a favorable result against Dallas, which haven’t tasted bitter defeat since May 20. The Hoops, on the other hand, are simply looking to sew up a playoff spot in the season’s final weeks.
With five games remaining for the Wizards and four for the Hoops following Saturday’s match, both coaches know every second on the pitch is going to be critical if they want to find themselves well positioned for a run at the MLS Cup at the end of October.
“Every game we play right now, there are points out there,” Kansas City manager Peter Vermes said. “We have to get each one of them.”
That may be true for Kansas City, who have made up significant ground on the playoff pack in the past two months. But Dallas, on the other hand, find themselves in a much more secure situation. Hyndman seemed relaxed and confident in a phone interview on Friday, even going so far as to draw similarities between the two sides.
“I look at Kansas City and I see a team that is similar to where we were last year,” he said. “We had a really good run to try to get ourselves in the playoffs but just missed it. They’ve got plenty of time to put themselves in a great position. All of us just want to get to the playoffs.”
In the meantime, nobody is willing to yield an inch, either.
FCD will surely want to protect their blistering streak of 16 games without a loss while Kansas City have plenty of motivation as they compete for their playoff lives in front of what promises to be a boisterous home crowd.
As much as Kansas City respect Dallas and their prodigious streak, the feeling around the team reflects supreme confidence in their ability to perform at this critical juncture of the season.
“[FC Dallas are] having a great season, 16 games unbeaten at this point,” said veteran Jimmy Conrad, who made his 200th appearance for the Wizards on Wednesday. “They’re led by Kevin Hartman, who is unfortunately hurt. We were looking forward to putting a couple behind him and having a good time with Kevin.”
The Hoops will also be missing Brek Shea, Daniel Hernandez and George John, but recent history suggests that the absences shouldn’t slow Hyndman’s charges down too much. FCD have lost just twice this season and haven’t missed a beat after being beset by injuries recently.
But in the end, it all comes down to what is to come rather than what lies in the past.
“It’s going down into the final stages of the season,” Vermes said, “and we’re still competing for a playoff spot, which is gigantic for us.”