FRISCO, Texas – FC Dallas travel to British Columbia to take on the Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday (5 pm ET, MLS Live in US, TSN/RDS2 in Canada), and the stage is set for a critical match between two teams very much in contention for a playoff berth.
“We’re treating the next couple of games like playoff games,” said veteran defender Matt Hedges. “We need to get points. We play almost all the rest of our games against Western Conference opponents so all of them are big games.”
“We treat every game with the same approach but certainly there is some competition within the conference,” said head coach Oscar Pareja. “They become more relevant because there is three points that you are adding and avoiding the rival to add points.”
The FC Dallas season so far can be broken into three phases. The first seven games of the season, the Texas club was on fire, scoring two or more goals in almost every match as the team raced to the top of the league. But then came a rash of injuries, including one to playmaker Mauro Diaz, and some untimely red cards and other bad breaks, resulting in an eight-game winless streak.
Since the end of May, though, the team has rebounded and recovered, even without Diaz and others, to get back into the top third of the Western Conference, going 3-0-2 in league play and winning three more to earn a berth in the US Open Cup semifinals.
Now the club is turning its attention to the last half of the season with some confidence, but also with some excitement in that this is the time when playoff positioning is won, especially considering that most of their games are against teams like Vancouver, Colorado, Real Salt Lake and LA – fellow contenders.
“The team became stronger through adversity, but this is a non-stop league, a challenge every weekend,” Pareja said. “The boys are getting mature in that part, and we’re being consistent with results. That helps mentally. At the end it's an everyday thing. Compete every day for the result. We have to be prepared, not thinking too much in the past or what happened last week or what could happen. Look to the present, every game has a different story.”
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The return of Diaz has been a boon, and with promising youngster Kellyn Acosta due to return soon from his own injury, Hedges is excited about what his team can show going forward.
“Hopefully we can get back to the form that we had at the beginning of the year,” he said. “We’ve been doing well recently without them, but with them we should be even better.”