Texas Derby holds added significance for Dynamo, FC Dallas

Everything is bigger is Texas, and the latest contest in the Texas Derby between the Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas is no different — except for the fact there will be even more on the line when the two Lone Star State rivals square off on Wednesday at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

The Dynamo and FC Dallas are among a group of seven teams in MLS’s Western Conference that are separated by just seven points as the season heads into its final quarter. Wins, and the points that come with them, are crucial, not only to assure a spot in the postseason, but to decide the pecking order for the playoffs and to build momentum.

Houston (10-8-7, 37 points in 25 matches) is looking to find a way to win on the road — it’s just 1-8-4 in 13 road games this season. The Dynamo head to north Dallas on the heels of a 2-1 loss at Vancouver on Saturday in which coach Wilmer Cabrera raised eyebrows with his decision to leave leading scorer Erick Torres, midfielder Ricardo Clark and forward Vicente Sanchez back in Texas.

The loss snapped a six-match unbeaten streak for the Dynamo, which was the longest unbeaten streak for the club since 2012. Cabrera obviously was looking ahead to Wednesday’s match against FC Dallas while employing the tactic that suggests his squad will be better served by managing minutes ahead of the stretch run.

“It’s just a process to continue growing and resting some players that have been hurting and playing a lot of minutes,” Cabrera said after Saturday’s game. “We have three really tough games in front of us, so those players will be ready to play on Wednesday.”

The Dynamo are just three points off league leaders Sporting KC and Seattle coming into Wednesday’s matches. Houston hasn’t made the playoffs since 2013 but looks well on course to do so this season.

Against FC Dallas, the Dynamo will face a team that may be desperate to reverse course after going 0-3-1 in their last four matches. Houston goalkeeper Tyler Deric said his side understands what it will up against at Toyota Stadium.

“We’re looking forward to playing against a Dallas team that is going to want to come out and turn their season around,” Deric said. “We know the position they’re in. They’re going to be desperate to come out and get three points, especially at home.”

Houston will be without defender A.J. DeLaGarza and midfielder Juan David Cabezas, who will each serve yellow card accumulation suspensions.

FC Dallas (9-6-8, 35 points in 23 matches) is mired in a four-game winless skid that’s prompted a worrying slide down the Western Conference standings to fifth place. FCD heads home after a 2-0 loss at first-place Sporting Kansas City on Saturday in which things could have been a lot different except for breakdowns for the visitors at the end of each half.

“We have to keep working,” FC Dallas coach Oscar Pareja said. “We’ve had some times when things haven’t gone our way but we understand what we have to do to turn things around. We have a responsibility to get points and there are a lot of games to play and points to be won. We just have to keep our heads about us and work to get ready for our rival.”

FC Dallas failed to score in its last two home games and four of its past seven league home matches. It last went three consecutive home matches without scoring from Aug. 20 to Sept. 14, 2011

“We haven’t been scoring goals and we need to get back to that,” FC Dallas forward Tesho Akindele said. “We are at the point where everyone knows we need a win and everyone is going to give 100 percent to make sure that’s accomplished.”

The bragging rights to El Capitan, the Civil War-era cannon awarded to the yearly series winner in the Texas Derby, is up for grabs on Wednesday. After a 0-0 draw in May and a 1-1 draw in June, this meeting will be the rubber match in deciding where the cannon resides for the next 12 months.

A win by either side would capture the series and a draw would see the cannon stay in Houston because if teams are tied on points, they would also be knotted in goal differential. There was no U.S. Open Cup matchup this season to break a tie break, so El Capitan’s fate falls to the previous season’s winner.

While any fixture against between the two sides is always a big occasion, this match has much higher implications than El Capitan.