FC Dallas punched their ticket to the playoffs on Sunday, but they won’t have to wait long to feel a playoff atmosphere.
Dallas and the Vancouver Whitecaps are separated by just one point in their battle for the top spot in both the Western Conference and MLS, but on Wednesday the two sides will open up a late-season home-and-home series that could decide it all. This schedule oddity resembles the Conference Semifinal and Championship format, but with Supporters’ Shield implications on the line, the consecutive Wednesday match-ups will feel like playoff games.
“Now until the end of our season, every game is a final for us,” David Texeira said. “These next two games are against our direct rival, Vancouver. We are going to try to win away and home.”
Supporters’ Shield aside, the games are also crucial when looking at playoff seeding. The teams that qualify in third through sixth place have to play in a Conference Knockout Round on Oct. 28 and 29 before turning around for the first leg of the Conference Semifinal on Nov. 1. The teams that finish in the top two spots advance directly to the Semifinal. As it stands now, Dallas sits in second, while Vancouver occupies the difficult third seed.
“There’s no time to rest,” head coach Oscar Pareja said after Sunday’s win. “[We’re] turning our minds to a game that is very important and really a series for me that tastes [like] playoffs.”
Heading into the last four matches of the season, at least four points in the two matches against Vancouver plus a win in one of their final two matches of the season would be enough to guarantee the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and ensure that the road to MLS Cup must travel through Toyota Stadium – where FC Dallas is 11-2-2 this season.
“For us it is just a great opportunity to tune up and get ready for the playoffs,” defender Zach Loyd said. “We're looking to head up there and get a result and come back home and get another one.”