Before FC Dallas stepped onto the pitch at Gillette Stadium on Saturday evening, they already knew about Real Salt Lake’s three-point conquest at CenturyLink Field.
They were also well aware that the win put RSL just one point behind FCD for the Western Conference's third and final automatic playoff spot.
"We also know that they’ve got two games in hand, so they’re having more and more games, and more and more opportunities to get points," head coach Schellas Hyndman told MLSsoccer.com via phone Monday evening.
Dallas have managed just four points from their last five league games. Meanwhile, the suddenly rejuvenated RSL have returned to form following two mid-August defeats by claiming the maximum nine points in their last three games.
Under the current playoff structure, the top three teams in each conference receive automatic playoff berths and avoid the wild-card single elimination play-in game.
Hyndman has stressed the team goal of reaching the playoffs all year, and he’s currently hammering home the importance of avoiding the play-in game to his players.
“It’s playing another game, another playoff type of environment game,” Hyndman said. “It definitely does not give you any advantages by playing that extra game whether it’s injuries, whether it’s cards, whether it’s travel — there’s a lot of issues involved there.
“Of course none of us want to play that game but this is the time to do something about it. We got to get some results now.”
Most MLS sides have point-total goals in mind in order to put them into the postseason. But Hyndman and Dallas divided the season into thirds, breaking the campaign into short-term goals in order to keep their focus on the task at hand.
And while Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at the hands of the Revolution was not what Hyndman envisioned for his team after a week-and-a-half in between games, a new week brings new opportunity.
“We’d like to be one of those top three teams,” he said. “But at the same time, we want to be playing good soccer and putting ourselves in the playoffs, and being the way we were last year when we got into the playoffs and were a very difficult team to beat.”
Robert Casner covers FC Dallas for MLSsoccer.com