7:30 pm CT (MSG)
Victory a week ago at home against the Los Angeles Galaxy pulled the Dallas Burn back into the four playoff places in the Western Conference, and in the incredibly tight division every point is more and more vital. They play host to a MetroStars squad which has just one win in six matches but are still firmly ensconced in second place in the Eastern Conference, with the possibility of securing a playoff spot this weekend a point from the match at the Cotton Bowl.
REFEREE: Terry Vaughn. SAR (bench): Chris Strickland; JAR (opposite): Steven Taylor; 4th: Hilario Grajeda
MLS Career: 43 games; FC/gm: 31.3; Y/gm: 3.8; R: 13; pens: 12
Games involving Burn: P7 W0 L5 T2; FC/gm: 25.7; Y/gm: 2.6; R: 2; pens: 5
Games involving MetroStars: P7 W3 L1 T3; FC/gm: 30.1; Y/gm: 4.6; R: 2; pens: 4
INJURY REPORT: DALLAS BURN - DOUBTFUL: MD Ramon Nuñez (L knee); PROBABLE: MD Ronnie O'Brien (L ankle sprain) ... METROSTARS - OUT: MD Michael Bradley (R foot stress fracture); MD Mark Lisi (R ankle sprain); MD Joselito Vaca (R knee MCL sprain); DOUBTFUL: MD Gilberto Flores (L ankle ruptured tendon); QUESTIONABLE: DF Tenywa Bonseu (L Achilles tendonitis)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
YELLOW PERIL: DAL: Chris Gbandi (additional 10 CP); Clarence Goodson (10 CP in 2 gms); Milton Reyes (10 CP in 2 gms); Simo Valakari (additional 10 CP) ... MET: Amado Guevara (18 CP); Jeff Parke (19 CP)
The clubs meet for the final time this season, the only meeting in the Big D. The Burn claimed victories in both meetings in the Meadowlands, 2-0 on June 5 then 1-0 a little more than a month ago.
Toni Nhleko gave the Burn a surprise late victory in second-half added time on Aug. 15 against the MetroStars, ending the home side's winning streak and five-game unbeaten run.
A taut midfield battle barely opened up over the final half-hour, but just when it seemed as if the teams would share the points, Oscar Pareja burst through with a failed clearance and clipped a perfect cross to an unmarked Nhleko just inside the spot, and he powerfully headed home.
Here's Bob Bradley's team (4-3-1-2): Jonny Walker - Tenywa Bonseu, Kenny Arena, Jeff Parke, Chris Leitch - Joselito Vaca, Ricardo Clark (Tim Regan 81), Eddie Gaven - Mike Magee - John Wolyniec, Cornell Glen (Sergio Galvan Rey 46).
Here's Colin Clarke's team (4-1-4-1): Jeff Cassar - Carey Talley, Matt Behncke, Steve Jolley, Chris Gbandi - Simo Valakari - Bobby Rhine (Toni Nhleko 81), Ronnie O'Brien, Jason Kreis (Oscar Pareja 75), Brad Davis (Eric Quill 66) - Eddie Johnson
In their first meeting, the Burn claimed a 2-0 victory at the Meadowlands, again striking with a lethally quick counterattack to score two second-half goals as Ronnie O'Brien played provider on both goals.
On the first (51), he played a neat 1-2 with Eddie Johnson before getting to the byeline to cut back a low ball to the corner of the six that Johnson swept home. Then, just as the clock ticked over 90 minutes, O'Brien quick pass set Toni Nhleko free to race in alone on Metro 'keeper Jonny Walker, and just minutes after failing on a similar attempt he made no mistake in rounding him to slot home with ease.
A year ago, the MetroStars won the first two matches before the teams played a remarkable scoreless draw. On May 24 at Dragon Stadium, Metro came back to snatch a late 2-1 victory (Kreis 63 - Mathis 60, Jolley 84), then they won by the same scoreline, again thanks to a late comeback and this time on a John Wolyniec golden goal (Magee 84, Wolyniec 95 - Davis 26)
The teams then played to a scoreless draw on Oct. 11, as three penalty kicks were saved, two by Dallas 'keeper D.J. Countess (Amado Guevara 2, Clint Mathis 86), then one by Metro 'keeper (Eddie Johnson 88).
The MetroStars have not lost in the last four meetings against the Burn, winning three in a row before the scoreless draw last year. The MetroStars have also won their last two games in Dallas.
Only three current MetroStars have scored goals against Dallas - John Wolyniec (2 goals, 1 assist), and Mike Magee and Eddie Pope (1 goal each). Clint Mathis is the Metro all-time leader against the Burn with 9 goals, 1 assist.
Jason Kreis is the all-time Burn leader with 11 goals, 6 assists. Only two other Burn player has more than 1 goal against the MetroStars - Eddie Johnson has 2 goals, while Carey Talley has 2 goals, 2 assists (but none with Dallas). Oscar Pareja is one of four Burn players with 1 goal v Metro, but also has 8 assists.
Coaches record: Bob Bradley vs. DAL: P22 W10 L10 D2 ... Colin Clarke v MET: P3 W2 L0 T1
ALL-TIME (22 meetings): Burn 11 wins (0 shootout), 39 goals ... MetroStars 10 wins (1 shootout), 29 goals ... 1 draw
AT DALLAS (10 meetings): Burn 5 wins (0 shootout), 19 goals ... MetroStars 5 wins (0 shootout), 15 goals ... 0 draws
Eddie Johnson struck for two goals before the halftime break as the Burn pulled back ahead of the Earthquakes in the West, the Galaxy still with just one win in four games under new coach Steve Sampson.
Johnson took advantage of a dreadful mistake in the 11th minute, stripping Galaxy 'keeper Kevin Hartman of the ball in the penalty area after he failed to deal with a long back pass.
Johnson then doubled his pleasure five minutes before the break, pounding a rebound into an empty goal after Hartman had turned aside a Jason Kreis shot on the turn from inside the area.
"I've been very fortunate that [coach] Colin [Clarke]'s stuck with me all year," Johnson said. 'When a coach believes in you it's easier to play. It's easier to get out there on the field and perform."
Burn coach Colin Clarke made three changes to the team that lost 3-0 away to D.C. United the previous weekend. Milton Reyes came in at left back for Chris Gbandi, while Brad Davis replaced Oscar Pareja in the center of midfield. Jason Kreis also came back into the first XI for the first time in four matches, replacing Toni Nhleko.
Here's Clarke's team (4-4-2): Jeff Cassar - Carey Talley, Cory Gibbs, Steve Jolley, Milton Reyes (Chris Gbandi 75) - Ronnie O'Brien (Bobby Rhine 69), Brad Davis, Simo Valakari, Eric Quill (Jordan Stone 82) - Eddie Johnson, Jason Kreis
"The effort, first half in particular, I thought we were very good," Clarke said. "I thought we closed them down very quickly and made it very difficult for them to start passing and moving the ball."
Clarke also praised the team's work ethic, which he feels key to their playoff survival. "Look at that first goal, it came from chasing a lost cause," he said. "Maybe we don't chase that ball six or seven months ago." Said Simo Valakari: "We know this is our last chance to get it right."
The Dallas Burn once again answered a loss with a victory, claiming a 2-0 home victory against the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday night at the Cotton Bowl to again pull back into a playoff berth. The Burn have 35 points from 26 matches, one ahead of fifth-place San Jose Earthquakes, three behind third-place Los Angeles and just six out of the West lead.
Edson Buddle became the sixth player in MLS history to hit for at least four goals in a game (the eighth time the feat has been achieved) as Columbus extending their unbeaten run to 13 games, the second-longest in league annals and the longest ever in a single season.
The home side twice answered MetroStars goals with three minutes. Buddle's first in the ninth minute canceled out a John Wolyniec volley of a poor clearance in the area, the Crew striker running on to a perfectly-weighted ball over the Metro rearguard by Ross Paule to race in alone on goal.
Then after the slightest of flicks from Eddie Gaven turned home an Amado Guevara free kick from the right corner in the 49th minute, Buddle struck again, completely unmarked in the goal area to head home a looped cross from Chris Wingert.
After coming on as a substitute, Jeff Cunningham then played provider for Buddle's final two goals, both with terrific through balls after running at the MetroStars back line. He first slipped through a pass in the 65th minute for Buddle to round Metro'keeper Jonny Walker, then nine minutes later Buddle finished with aplomb after Cunningham's angled pass split the visitors defense.
MetroStars coach Bob Bradley made one change to the team that claimed a 3-2 come-from-behind victory against the New England Revolution the previous Saturday at the Meadowlands. Amado Guevara returned from suspension, coming into central midfield for Ricardo Clark.
Here's Bradley's team (4-3-1-2): Jonny Walker - Tenywa Bonseu (Craig Ziadie 39), Jeff Parke, Eddie Pope, Chris Leitch - Eddie Gaven (Sergio Galvan Rey 86), Amado Guevara, Pablo Brenes - Mike Magee - Fabian Taylor (Cornell Glen 54), John Wolyniec.
Despite the MetroStars recent run, the team is confident they will be ready for the postseason. With a victory or a draw this weekend against Dallas, they will clinch a playoff spot.
"You are going up against teams that will do everything possible to do what they can to get into the playoffs," goalkeeper Jonny Walker said. "We have to have the same mentality, even though we're a little comfortable right now in the overall scheme of things. Said Amado Guevara: "No way we're going to get into trouble this season. We're going to do the right job. We've got a peace of mind."
The MetroStars lost for the fourth time in six matches, twice losing leads in a 4-2 loss to the Columbus Crew at Crew Stadium on Saturday night in a battle of the Eastern Conference's top two teams. The MetroStars remain in second place in the East with 36 points from 26 matches, four behind the Crew and just three ahead of D.C. United.