E. RUTHERFORD, N.J.
7:30 pm ET (no TV),
A pair of teams coming off disappointing losses come together at Giants Stadium in the final match before the All-Star break. The MetroStars lost both of their games on a two-match road swing last week, having won just twice since the start of May and currently outside of a place in the MLS Cup Playoffs. They play host to an FC Dallas coming off back-to-back losses for the first time this season, a devastating late loss to the New England Revolution last weekend followed by a 3-0 loss to Real Salt Lake on Saturday, the expansion club's first win in 10 league matches.
REFEREE: Abbey Okulaja. SAR (bench): Greg Barkey; JAR (opposite): Jorge de la Bandera; 4th: Jorge Gonzalez
MLS Career: 33 games; FC/gm: 30.9; Y/gm: 3.6; R: 3; pens: 11
Games involving MetroStars: P9 W4 L1 T4; FC/gm: 31.4; Y/gm: 3.4; R: 1; pens: 6
Games involving FC Dallas: P9 W2 L5 T2; FC/gm: 27.0; Y/gm: 2.3; R: 0; pens: 4
INJURY REPORT: METROSTARS - OUT: DF Tim Ward (L hamstring strain); GK Mike Ueltschey (R finger fracture); MF Amado Guevara (L quad contusion/knee sprain); DF:Tim Regan (R foot metacarpal fracture); QUESTIONABLE: MF Mark Lisi (L quad contusion) ... FC DALLAS - OUT: MF Richard Mulrooney (R knee ACL tear); DOUBTFUL: FW Eddie Johnson (R toe stress-related injury)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
WARNINGS: MET: Chris Leitch (20 CP) ... DAL: MF Ronnie O'Brien (18 CP); MF Simo Valakari (20 CP); DF Clarence Goodson (19 CP)
This is the first game of the home-and-home series between the clubs on either side of the All-Star break. They will play their only match in Texas on Aug. 6, the teams opening Pizza Hut Park, the new ground for FC Dallas.
A year ago, the teams met three times - the road team winning each one, shutting out the home time in each contest. Dallas won the first two, the MetroStars winning the third.
On June 5, the then-Burn won 2-0 at Giants Stadium (Johnson 51, Nhleko 90), then they won 1-0 on Aug. 15 (Nhleko 90). The Metros then won the final meeting, a 2-0 scoreline on Sept. 25 (Wolyniec 30, Glen 90).
The Dallas victories a year ago were the first for that club in the series in four games, dating back to 2002, the Metros winning three of the games in that stretch. But that answered a four-game Dallas winning streak.
Coaches record: Bob Bradley v DAL: P23 W11 L10 D2 ... Colin Clarke vs. MET: P4 W2 L1 D1
ALL-TIME (24 meetings): MetroStars 11 wins, 31 goals ... FC Dallas 12 wins, 40 goals ... 1 draw
AT GIANTS STADIUM (13 meetings): MetroStars 5 wins, 14 goals ... FC Dallas 7 wins, 21 goals ... 1 draw
The Earthquakes allowed their first goal at home in three months but still hit back for a victory against the MetroStars that moved them into a first place tie for the Western Conference lead.
The Quakes allowed their first goal at home in 537 minutes - since a goal by Kansas City's Chris Klein on April 23 - in unfortunate circumstances. A Ryan Suarez cross from the right flank deflected off Ricardo Clark and looped high in the air over San Jose 'keeper Pat Onstad and under the crossbar (32).
But it took the home side less than a minute to answer. Alejandro Moreno cut back on the right before laying the ball off to Dwayne De Rosario, and he curled in a cross that Mark Chung streaked in at the back post to head home for the equalizer.
The Quakes then hit for the game-winner after the break. A long ball from the back was controlled well by Chung, and after bringing it down he slipped De Rosario through as the Canadian international was making a steaming run out of midfield. He held off a retreating MetroStars defender before beating Tony Meola with a low shot inside his right-hand post (53).
MetroStars head coach Bob Bradley made two changes to the team that lost 1-0 to the Columbus Crew on a stoppage-time goal at midweek. Ryan Suarez made his MetroStars debut at right back, coming in for Chris Leitch, while with Michael Bradley suspended, Abbe Ibrahim made his first start in eight matches, Sergio Galvan Rey moved back to an attacking midfield role and Mike Magee fitted into the holding midfield role.
Here's Bradley's team (4-4-2): Tony Meola - Ryan Suarez (Chris Leitch 66), Carlos Mendes, Jeff Parke (Seth Stammler 87), Jeff Agoos - Mark Lisi (Danilo da Silva 76), Mike Magee - Eddie Gaven, Sergio Galvan Rey - Abbe Ibrahim, Ante Razov
"Games [at Spartan] are always hard," Bradley said. "San Jose does a good job at home in terms of competing and fighting for every ball. Especially on the second goal, they were able to keep the ball alive at midfield, make a play, and that was the difference in the game. They did a good job and we didn't handle a play like that well."
The MetroStars lost for the second time in a week on the road, the San Jose Earthquakes quickly answering an early deficit before coming back to claim a 2-1 victory on Saturday night at Spartan Stadium. The MetroStars have won just once in their last six matches, and are now in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 25 points from 19 games, four points behind the Kansas City Wizards and D.C. United in joint third and just four ahead of last-place Columbus.
The MetroStars midfield had much more of an attacking edge to it with the suspension of Bradley. Mike Magee has filled one of the two attacking midfield roles, but he dropped back alongside Mark Lisi in the central axis, and Sergio Galvan Rey - more a traditional out-and-out striker - filled one of the wide attacking midfield roles.
"We had stretches where [the midfield] did OK," added Bradley. "Again, games here are so much about fighting for loose balls and coming away with plays. I think there were more stretches where they had the edge on us."
The MetroStars were particularly disappointed the Earthquakes hit for the equalizer less than a minute after they took the lead.
"That has been the story in all the games I have been part of, whether on the bench or in the game. We've been tied or had the lead and we have given it away," Meola said. "Tonight was a little different story, they beat us and competed for 90 minutes and we had a little bit more possession of the ball in the second half, we gave a decent effort, but not enough. We didn't match their effort."
The MetroStars were also still without Youri Djorkaeff, still hampered with a hamstring injury that has kept him out of four of the last five matches.
"We were strapped for players here, missing Amado and Youri and Michael Bradley was out with suspension and a couple other injuries, so we were short on numbers, but every team deals with that and we tried to deal with that tonight and did a pretty good job until the second half," Agoos said. "You just can't give up a goal 30 seconds after we scored. You just can't do that. We still have a long way to go to pull ourselves out of this hole that we are in, but that is what the second half of the season is for."
The MetroStars have just two wins in their last nine matches, with three losses in that skein, though two have come in the last two games. "We definitely didn't play our best soccer tonight, but at the end of the day, we still had a chance to get a point out of the game, just like we did last game," said Gaven. "It's very frustrating. We've been that close in four or five games this season. If we're going to be a championship team we're definitely going to have to work on that."
After allowing two goals in the dying minutes the week before to turn an apparent victory into a 3-2 loss to New England, FC Dallas allowed three goals in the opening half-hour to Real - all from free kicks.
Real took the lead after just three minutes. After a foul on the left touchline, Clint Mathis drove in a low cross into the FCD penalty area. Brian Dunseth was able to separate himself from Steve Jolley and turned home his second goal of the year.
RSL then struck twice in four minutes. First, after Andy Williams was fouled on the right touchline and while the Dallas defense was still organizing, Williams stepped up and whipped in a quick kick into the box. The quick restart caught FCD off guard as Jordan Cila snuck into the middle of the goalmouth to put a head on the ball, again catching Garlick flat-footed (26).
Then Clint Mathis hit for a stunning goal, his free kick from all of 35 yards straight out from goal sliding past the end of the wall, skidding on the turf and past Garlick's outstretched dive just inside the near post (30).
After the break, D.J. Countess played the hero, making a number of acrobatic saves while getting battered himself, twice attended to before finally limping off the field with his fourth shutout of the campaign with seven saves on the night.
FC Dallas boss Colin Clarke made one change to the team that lost 3-2 in dramatic circumstances to the New England Revolution the previous weekend. Oscar Pareja made his fourth start of his final campaign, coming into the central midfield trio for Aaron Pitchkolan.
Here's Clarke's team (4-1-4-1): Scott Garlick - Bobby Rhine, Clarence Goodson, Steve Jolley (Abe Thompson 66), Chris Gbandi - Simo Valakari, Roberto Mina (Ramon Nunez 74), Oscar Pareja, Ronnie O'Brien, Arturo Alvarez - Carlos Ruiz
"We didn't do very well tonight early on. We knew Real was dangerous on set pieces and they had three goals off of three set plays. We couldn't do anything to get the momentum back in our favor. It looked like a penalty kick right before the half and that could have swung the momentum but we dug ourselves a hole and we couldn't get out of it."
FC Dallas saw their defense breached in dispiriting fashion for a second consecutive match, losing in back-to-back matches for the first time this season in a 3-0 loss to Real Salt Lake on Saturday evening at Rice-Eccles Stadium. FC Dallas are now tied for the lead in the Western Conference with 34 points from 18 matches, level with the San Jose Earthquakes but with two matches in hand, and two points behind the league's best mark (Chicago Fire).
The Hoops conceded three first-half goals - all from set pieces - to suffer their worst loss of the year to a Real Salt Lake team that hadn't scored more than two goals all year.
"You can see the result, three-nil," said FCD captain Simo Valakari. "It was a nightmare result. Everybody let everybody down, both teammates and the fans back home, but especially ourselves because we know we can play better. That's soccer though, if you don't work hard you won't play well."
The MetroStars game ends a long stretch away from home for FC Dallas. It's the last of a three-game road stretch, their eighth road game in their last 11 (since May 22) and their 12th on the campaign. They are on the road for just three games over their final 13.
"That is the good thing is that you have the Wednesday night game to put things right," said Valakari. "We have to learn. I'm glad it happened now early in the season, it would be much worse if it happened in the playoffs. There is no way to get back then. We have to learn, we're still a young team. We have to play together and learn from our mistakes."
However, said Clarke: "We've got another game Wednesday, and this team has done very well so far on the road," Clarke said. "We can't rely on going home."
Clarke could have some selection decisions to make on Wednesday. Greg Vanney will return from national team duty, and will likely resume his center back (though he played primarily as a left back for Bruce Arena in the CONCACAF Gold Cup). But Eddie Johnson, who hasn't played for FC Dallas since May 22, started and played nearly the full match for the USA in the Gold Cup final, lasting into extra time before coming off, though he was slightly limping upon departure (he has been suffering from turf toe) and is listed as doubtful for Wednesday.