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.
The final four games are here for FC Dallas (9-12-9, 36 points). The all-or-nothing motto continues to ring true for Schellas Hyndman and company as they head west for a big late season match on Saturday night against the San Jose Earthquakes (18-6-6, 60 points.)
San Jose has already locked up a playoff berth and is looking to inch closer to a Supporters’ Shield trophy as well.
The two clubs have already played twice earlier this season with San Jose winning a close 2-1 battle at home in July just two weeks after a scoreless draw in Frisco.
The Quakes have not lost a game at Buck Shaw Stadium since last summer.
San Jose is currently 10-1-4 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.
Quakes, Wondo pushing for history
Chris Wondolowski continues to push towards history this season. His 22 goals have him in the lead for most goals this season in Major League Soccer. But he isn’t stopping at 22 by a long shot. Wondolowski is pushing towards Roy Lassiter’s MLS single-season record of 27 goals.
What is also impressive to note is Wondolowski has also set up seven goals this season, good for third-best for San Jose.
Wondolowski will have to find a way to get more involved early against FC Dallas. So far this season Dallas has done well at keeping the league’s top scorer at bay and has not allowed him to score a single goal.
San Jose does a good job of creating chances for Wondolowski thanks to the hard efforts of Alan Gordon or Steven Lenhart. Both strikers are a treat alongside Wondolowski and together the three have combined for 42 goals this season.
San Jose manager Frank Yallop has more than just the three up top that can get the ball in the back of the net – Simon Dawkins also has eight goals of his own this season.
After those four it is a steep drop off in goal scoring but that also means there are plenty of players producing in the attack in other ways. Honduran midfielder Marvin Chavez leads the team with nine assists on the season.
Defensive midfielder Ramiro Corrales has eight assists and two goals to his name as well.
San Jose does a great job of setting up the attack from all over the field, with either the wings producing or the hard work of the players up front. Needless to say - there is not a single player for Dallas to zero in on come Saturday - everyone is a threat.
Defensively sound in the back
There shouldn’t be a big change in the back for Dallas for when it comes to San Jose’s defense.
One thing Dallas can hang their hats on however is the fact that no other club in MLS has gotten more shots on goal and earned more corner kicks against this San Jose defense then they have.
The defense comes down to their big two in the middle. Victor Bernardez and Jason Hernandez are both imposing defenders but neither have played Blas Perez this season. Dallas will want to involve Perez as much as possible early on to test these two in the back.
On the flanks are Justin Morrow and Steven Beitashour, two of the most underrated fullbacks in Major League Soccer. Dallas will need Brek Shea and Jackson to have big games on the wings to keep these guys from getting forward into their own attack.
Jon Busch should get a start in goal once again for the Earthquakes.
Keys to three points
Dallas knows the task at hand. Keep winning and the playoff dreams for this season will be alive and kicking. A loss won’t be the worst thing, but it would dampen the likelihood of a post-season trip.
The mission is clear as the team is finally healthy though – get the attack going early and force San Jose to chase the game. The Quakes are an excellent team at coming from behind so Dallas will have to stay alert at all times, especially late in the game.
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 in the attack it will open up lanes for Perez and Ferreira to link up together.
Most importantly, Dallas must continue to echo the four D’s that Hyndman has been preaching these last couple of weeks: determination, dedication, discipline and desire. If they bring those four things to the pitch on Saturday, they will stand a good chance at bringing back some points to Frisco.