FC Dallas-Real Salt Lake Preview
FC Dallas has confessed to doing a little scoreboard watching as it tries to chase down the Supporters’ Shield and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
On the verge of elimination, Real Salt Lake is only focused on its own performance.
Western Conference-best Dallas will try to move past its struggles in Salt Lake City with a chance to move ahead in the race for the league’s best overall record Saturday night.
Dallas (16-10-6) broke a tie with Los Angeles for first place in the West and drew even with the New York Red Bulls in the Supporters’ Shield standings Wednesday. Shortly after the Red Bulls lost to Toronto, Dallas defeated Vancouver 2-0 as Mauro Diaz scored and had and assist on Michael Barrios’ goal.
"We knew coming into the game how important it was. We even had the New York game (on TV), watching it closely. Once we saw (New York lost), I think it gave us an extra boost," defender Zach Loyd said. "We want to try to finish as high as we can in the West so we can have that home-field advantage in the playoffs."
With two matches remaining, Dallas can clinch first place in the conference for the first time since 2006 and earn an automatic berth to the semifinals with three points at Rio Tinto Stadium. A loss or a tie means the club will need some help this weekend.
Dallas has gone just 1-7-3 in its last 11 road meetings with Real Salt Lake (11-13-8), which is 11-3-6 at Rio Tinto across all competitions this season.
RSL had won six of seven at home – including U.S. Open Cup and Champions League play – before its playoff hopes took a major hit in a 1-0 loss to Portland on Wednesday.
The club, which takes on Municipal in Champions League action Tuesday, can be eliminated from MLS playoff contention for the first time in eight seasons Saturday with either a loss or tie in this game or a Portland win or tie versus Los Angeles on Sunday.
"We need to leave (Wednesday) alone – it’s over – and mathematically we’re not out," coach Jeff Cassar said. "I know with the character we have in our locker room we’re going to approach out last games the right way."
Javier Morales, who has a team-high eight goals, has scored four in his last six home games. RSL, though, has been blanked five times in its last nine overall.
It could have a tough time breaking through against goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez and a Dallas defense that is coming off back-to-back shutouts. Gonzalez had four saves Aug. 29 when Tesho Akindele and Fabian Castillo scored in a 2-0 home win over RSL.
Diaz is trying to help make up for the absence of Castillo, the team’s leading scorer who is away with Colombia for South American World Cup qualifying. Diaz has totaled five goals and five assists in his last 10 games while the team has gone 7-2-1.
Dallas midfielder Kellyn Acosta (hamstring) and defender Bakary Soumare (concussion) are questionable, while RSL midfielder Luis Silva is probable with a left calf strain.