Matt Hedges: Sporting KC clash “biggest game of the season” for FC Dallas

Matt Hedges - FC Dallas - Blows by - Daniel Salloi - Sporting Kansas CIty - SKC

FRISCO, Texas – Sunday’s match between FC Dallas and Sporting Kansas City marks a huge occasion, a meeting of the MLS Western Conference’s first- and second-placed teams, two MLS Cup contenders separated by just one point in the standings and with a history of rugged, hard-fought meetings over the years.

How big?

“Biggest game of the season,” FCD center back Matt Hedges told on Saturday. “Biggest game in a while. We’re always trying to finish in first place and if we want to achieve that goal, then we have to come out and do well tomorrow.”

A mere eight points separate first place from sixth place in the West’s frenetic postseason picture, and with two matchdays left in the regular season, drama abounds at both ends of that span.

While Real Salt Lake and the LA Galaxy (and Vancouver, albeit on far longer odds) race for the final playoff slot, Dallas, SKC and LAFC (and an outside shot for Seattle) are straining to capture a top-two finish that would grant them a bye to rest and prepare while the Knockout Round unfolds. And with ample playoff experience on both sides, both FCD and SKC are keenly aware of how valuable that can be.

“To get the first-round bye in first or second place was one of our goals at the beginning of the season,” Hedges said. “And we have a chance to win the Western Conference, so really we want to take it.”

Sunday’s showdown at Toyota Stadium is sold out, and the capper on a festive weekend in Frisco marked by the unveiling of the new National Soccer Hall of Fame. The venue also hosted a capacity crowd for an Imagine Dragons concert Saturday night, and the FCD-Sporting duel will be immediately followed by a Legends Game featuring former NASL players celebrating that pioneering league’s 50th anniversary.

To add further spice, the matchup features two of MLS’s top coaches, Oscar Pareja and Peter Vermes, both linked to the US national team vacancy. And with a championship rival entering their house, Dallas don’t want to spoil the occasion.

“We understand the magnitude of the game,” Pareja said. “It has been a long journey to get here and have the opportunity to fight for the first or the second spot with two games to go. Getting that spot is great.

“To qualify first or second, if you beat a big opponent and we’re close to the playoffs, everybody’s standing in that playoff mode. It’s very important indeed.”