FC Dallas-Whitecaps FC Preview
One point will send the Vancouver Whitecaps to the playoffs and match a franchise-record point total. Three will vault them to the top of the Western Conference and strike a blow to one of their main competitors for the Supporters' Shield.
Accomplishing the latter could require a bump in offense as FC Dallas visits Vancouver on Wednesday night, with an eye also on the top of the conference table with the clubs playing a home-and-home over the next eight days.
While Dallas (15-10-5) ended a two-match skid with Sunday's 4-1 home win over Houston, the Whitecaps (15-12-4) settled for a 1-all draw Saturday in San Jose after taking a first-half lead. Cristian Techera put Vancouver ahead in the 39th minute with his fifth goal in seven matches, but the club has managed one or no goals in five of the past six.
"It's a point, so we'll take a point. We know we should probably have got three," coach Carl Robinson told the club's official website. "We probably deserved three, with the chances and the mistake at the other end. But what can you do? It's gone now. You've got to focus.
"We'll brush ourselves down, we'll get ourselves back to Vancouver and we'll have a big game on Wednesday against Dallas."
The Whitecaps have one point out of their last three matches and are 1-3-1 in the past five, dropping them to third in the West with 49 points behind Los Angeles (51) and Dallas (50). Those two have clinched playoff berths, and Vancouver can do the same for the third time in its five seasons since moving to MLS, while at least matching last season's record-setting point total.
The stronger memory from that season is likely what followed as Dallas sent Vancouver home with a 2-1 home victory in the knockout round Oct. 29. The Whitecaps earned a measure of revenge with a 1-0 home win Aug. 22 for their second straight regular-season victory in the series - one that's grown in intensity.
"(We're) turning our minds to a game that is very important and really a series for me that tastes (like) playoffs," Dallas coach Oscar Pareja told the club's official website.
Pareja got two goals from David Texeira in Sunday's win, giving him three goals and an assist in his last four matches after managing two goals and two assists in his first 14, but attention has already shifted.
"Now until the end of our season, every game is a final for us," Texeira said. "These next two games are against our direct rival, Vancouver. We are going to try to win away and home."
He hasn't scored in two career matches against the Whitecaps, and Dallas hasn't scored in its last two trips to Vancouver. That figures to be all the more difficult to crack without Fabian Castillo as Dallas' leading scorer joins Colombia for World Cup qualifiers.
Dallas defender Bakary Soumare (concussion symptoms) and goalkeeper Dan Kennedy (strained knee) could also miss the match.
For Vancouver, defender Kendall Waston is on international duty for Costa Rica and defender Steven Beitashour faces a caution-accumulation suspension. Midfielders Pedro Morales and Nicolas Mezquida could sit out with hamstring injuries.
"It is what it is," Robinson said. "No point crying over spilled milk. ... We have enough quality in there that we believe we can go out and win that game."