Guest columnist Drew Epperley is the founder and editor of WVHooligan.com. His blog covers everything MLS and U.S. Soccer. You can follow him on Twitter @WVHooligan.
FC Dallas (3-9-6, 15 points) wraps up a three-game home stand as they host one of the league’s hottest club, the San Jose Earthquakes (11-4-3, 36 points).
The cardiac kids as some are calling them; San Jose has found an impressive way to come from behind late to snag three points. Most recently, against Real Salt Lake and against their California Classic rivals Los Angeles, San Jose was down going into the second half before late goals lifted them to three points.
San Jose is, however, coming off a tough loss. On Tuesday night, the Earthquakes lost 2-1 to the Portland Timbers at JELD-WEN Field. They did come close to leaving the Rose City with a point, but a late Alan Gordon miss kept San Jose out of the win column.
Quakes in the attack
The attack lives and dies with striker Chris Wondolowski. His team-leading 14 goals also leads the league, putting him on pace for another Golden Boot award.
Wondolowski is a pure goal scorer that finds himself in good spots in and around the penalty box. He can score from distance or barely get a touch on the ball to put it in the back of the net.
Up top with Wondolowski is Stephen Lenhart. The wild-haired striker also knows his way around the goal and typically is the muscle up top for the Quakes. Lenhart is a player that will frustrate opposing defenders with his ability to get in and around the defense.
Manager Frank Yallop has a couple options on the bench at striker including Gordon, who has found the occasional late goal that has lifted this club to victory this season.
Midfielders Rafael Baca or Tressor Moreno sit behind the two strikers in a diamond midfield. Baca is a craft player that has really made some strides in the last season or so with the Quakes. Moreno was expected to be a big part of the San Jose attack this season but has failed to make the impact that some thought he would.
On the right wing is a guy all FC Dallas fans will be familiar with, Honduran Marvin Chavez. The 28-year old spent three seasons in Dallas, scoring eight goals for Schellas Hyndman’s club. So far he has been kept off the score sheet in San Jose but has contributed a team-high seven assists.
Opposite of Chavez is Shea Salinas – another speed option on the outside like Chavez.
Yallop also has good options off his bench with guys like Khari Stephenson, Brad Ring and Simon Dawkins.
San Jose’s improvement defensively
San Jose was a leaky side in the back during 2011. Whether it was blame on injuries or poor form, the defense just couldn’t get it done.
A lot has changed since last year as players are healthy and the back four has come together nicely.
In the middle of the defense are two physically tough defenders in Victor Bernardez and Jason Hernandez. Both are big guys that impose their strength and toughness on opposing attackers.
On the flanks are Justin Morrow and Steven Beitashour, two of the most underrated fullbacks in Major League Soccer. Both have appeared in every game this season for San Jose.
They all sit in front of keeper Jon Busch or his backup David Bingham.
Yallop also has quality backups in place for his defense. Ike Opara is a strong option off the bench and has appeared in several games this season in a pinch for Yallop.
Keys to three points
Beating San Jose this season has not been an easy thing for most clubs. They’ve shown a natural ability to stay in games to the very end and are always dangerous around goal thanks to Wondolowski.
FC Dallas will need to spread out the Quakes and try to hope that the travel from playing in Portland midweek will tire their legs out a good bit. San Jose has yet to play in some high temperatures this season, which could play into Dallas’ hand.
The biggest thing FC Dallas has to remember when playing a team like San Jose is to never let up for one second. Dallas cannot take the foot off the gas pedal at all in this game –playing a full 90 minutes is what they need to get three points.