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 (4-9-7, 19 points) wraps up a two-game road trip as they square off against the league’s top club, the San Jose Earthquakes (12-4-4, 40 points).
This is the second meeting in just a matter of weeks between the two Western Conference rivals – the last meeting ended in a scoreless draw.
FC Dallas is finally over its long winless run thanks to a 2-1 win in Colorado last week. Fabian Castillo and Carlos Rodriguez helped lift FCD to their first win since mid-April.
San Jose is also coming into this match after a big win. Last Saturday they downed rivals Real Salt Lake 5-0. Chris Wondolowski added three more goals to his league leading mark with 17 goals currently scored this season. San Jose scored four of their five goals after RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman was sent off with a red card.
San Jose is currently 6-1-4 at home this season – with this lone loss coming all the way back in March to the Houston Dynamo in a game played at AT&T Park.
Wondo staying hot
Wondolowski may have struggled to put the ball in the back of the net against FC Dallas last time around but he wasted no time last weekend in getting back on the scoreboard.
What Wondolowski does best is find himself in good spots to score easy goals. He can score from outside the penalty box if you give him space and he can find creative ways to score inside the penalty box. Either way, keeping a tight grip on him won’t be easy.
But Wondolowski isn’t the only threat to score and he also can set up other people as he did last weekend when he set up a Simon Dawkins goal.
San Jose has many weapons in the attack including a former FC Dallas midfielder, Marvin Chavez. The Honduran mans the left flank, opposite of Shea Salinas on the right. The two add a speed element to the Earthquakes’ attack that is very dangerous and tough to maintain.
Rafael Baca and Alan Gordon are also big parts of the Earthquake attack. Gordon will sit up top with Wondolowski and win nearly every battle in the air. He is a relentless worker up top. Baca is arguably the unsung hero of this group and is smart on the ball and the calm presence in the attack.
Manager Frank Yallop also has good options off the bench in Khari Stephenson and Dawkins.
Defensively sound in the back
FC Dallas won’t see a ton of change in the San Jose defense from their previous meeting.
In the middle of the defense will be Victor Bernardez and Jason Hernandez. Both are big guys that impose their strength and toughness on opposing attackers. Brek Shea struggled against these two in the previous meeting as they both found ways to eliminate his passing lanes and open shot opportunities.
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.
Jon Busch should get a start in goal once again for the Earthquakes. He currently has five shutouts on the season – including two in a row.
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
As Dallas knows by now, beating San Jose won’t be easy.
The big thing will be to key in on Wondolowski and eliminate the amount of touches he gets in the offensive end of the field. By doing so it will put more pressure on the wings and Baca to do more in the attack.
Also, maintaining smart possession will be vital for the Dallas attack. If the center midfield group holds their own and keeps the possession edge in Dallas’ corner it will create positive chances on goal.
Dallas saw some success at spreading out the Earthquakes and using David Ferreira in the middle to distribute in the attack. If Dallas can go wide and create space in the middle for Castillo or even Andrew Jacobson, it could bode well for at least getting a point out of this game.