FRISCO, Texas - Somehow the schedule makers have worked their magic again, as FC Dallas and the Colorado Rapids will meet this weekend with a critical three points at stake.
The Hoops lead the Rapids by five points with two games remaining for each - too close for comfort when the fourth seed has to face a San Jose side that has taken no prisoners on the way to a surprising league-best 17-4-9 record and is on the verge of winning the MLS Supporters' Shield, emblematic of the league's best team over the regular season.
Colorado, much like the Hoops, has seen their fair share of ups and downs, but with recent additions such as Jovan Kirovski and sudden goal-hero Dedi Ben-Dayan, they have improved and can cause Dallas problems.
"They're nipping right at our heels," said Clarke. "It's going to be a big game on Saturday and it will go a long way in deciding the final places."
After a tough loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy last weekend ,FC Dallas bounced back on Wednesday night to beat Columbus 2-1 by way of a Ramon Nuñez stoppage-time strike.
"It's all about results at this part of the season," said Greg Vanney. "For us it's getting the right mentality in each game and playing hard and getting a bit of a groove going into the playoffs.
"I really believe in this league the team who is playing the best when you get into the playoffs has the best chance to win. It's not necessarily the team that had the best all around season, it's the team that's playing the best at the end of the season."
After a tough week in California, the Hoops will be able to enjoy some home cooking for the last two weeks of the season and prepare for the playoffs.
"It's good to be back at home playing in front of our home crowd," said Nunez. "The next game is going to be one of the most important because if we win that we clinch second (place in the Western Conference)."
The Hoops have a slight disadvantage schedule-wise as their last match is against the Kansas City Wizards, while the Rapids are fortunate to face Real Salt Lake. That just makes Saturday night all the more critical - a win will give FCD a four-point lead over the Galaxy (idle this weekend) and would seal home-field advantage in the conference semifinals.
Scott Joiner is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.