FRISCO, Texas – The cities of Dallas and Houston have a rivalry that transcends Heineken Rivalry Week, but FC Dallas are aiming to stick to business in this Sunday's (8 pm ET | FS1, TSN1) Texas Derby clash against the Houston Dynamo.
"I think we're a little less focused on the rivalry and more focused on that playoff spot," said Dallas defender Ryan Hollingshead. "We know if we get three points this weekend, it's going to make a huge separation between us and Houston or [Sporting] Kansas City. If we can get three points against Houston this weekend, it would all but put them out of the playoffs. It would be really difficult for them to make the playoffs, so that would be huge for us."
Dallas and Houston both currently sit outside playoff spots in the Western Conference standings, and the Texan foes are looking to make the postseason at the other's expense.
Houston, entering their second game with Davy Arnaud as interim head coach, are winless in their last five matches. Meanwhile, Dallas haven’t strung together two consecutive wins since April, exhibiting seesaw results one might expect of such a young team.
"This is a must-win," said FCD midfielder Paxton Pomykal. "We have four games at home and we need 12 points out of those games if we even want to have a sniff at getting in the playoffs."
Dallas' core of Homegrown Players have all had the importance of getting one over your in-state rivals ingrained in them from day one. As regular opponents in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, Dallas Cup and Generation adidas Cup, Texas pride is often on the line.
"Since U-14, I've wanted to beat the Houston Dynamo," added outside back Bryan Reynolds, on the back of making his first MLS start last weekend in a wild 3-3 tie with the Montreal Impact. "In the academy days, we always got it done, so we look forward to taking the bragging rights for sure."
These rivals have met once already this season, a 2-1 victory for Houston on May 4 that marked their sixth win in the opening eight games of the season. Dallas was in form then, too, with head coach Luchi Gonzalez speaking to how quickly things can change in MLS.
"The international break hurt a lot of teams, with missing players and injuries," said Gonzalez. "For us, it was interesting. We had the next-man-up mentality and I think it helped our depth with players gaining valuable experience to get us through that moment.
“This is an interesting league. There are streaks. Look at how Atlanta [United] started the season. There are teams who start strong and maybe tapered, teams that started weak and got strong."
While the Texas Derby carries some extra weight, it’s even more enticing this go-around when considering the bigger picture.
"Rivalry Week means a little different for us depending on when it falls," said Hollingshead. "Maybe in the middle of the season Rivalry Week means more, but at this spot in the season where we're at in the playoffs, we don't care who it's against or what it's against. We just want to make that push to the playoffs, peak at the right time, hit the playoffs with pace and fight for MLS Cup."