The San Jose Earthquakes have not dropped two games in a row this season as they have motored to the top of the MLS standings. FC Dallas hasn’t registered a win over a span of twelve games going back to a April 14th victory against the expansion Montreal Impact. When the two teams meet tonight at FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, Texas, it will mark a battle between first and worst in the MLS Western Conference.
A positive development for the Earthquakes is the probable return to the starting line-up of goalkeeper Jon Busch. After suffering a scratched cornea in last weekend’s California Clasico from the elbow of teammate Victor Bernardez, Busch reported on Thursday that he is ready to again take the field. His coach, Frank Yallop, echoed that assessment and indicated Busch was his preferred starter over back-up David Bingham.
Busch and the defense will need to be prepared for an FC Dallas team that while short on results has a potentially potent offense. Returning to the field after a lengthy absence due to injury, 2010 MLS MVP David Ferreira is expected to see more playing time against the Earthquakes, and perhaps can be the calming influence Dallas needs to rein in their stable of attacking options. With wingers Fabian Castillo and Brek Shea lurking on the outside, Ferreira’s role will be to keep both involved going forward without letting either one resort to too many one-on-one dribbling displays.
The Earthquakes have not posted a clean sheet since the end of March, but a bevy of goals, especially late in matches, has ameliorated that lack of stinginess on defense. The forward trio of Chris Wondolowski, Steven Lenhart, and Alan Gordon are all on pace to shatter their season highs for goals scored, with Lenhart matching his career best six in 2010 and Gordon setting a new career high of six. Getting on the scoreboard early could be a good portent of success for San Jose, as interestingly enough, Yallop coached Earthquakes teams have never lost to Dallas when they are able to score first.
Do the Earthquakes reach great heights against the weakest team in the West, or do they again, as they did midweek against the Portland Timbers, play down to the level of their competition? Tonight’s match kicks off at 8:00 p.m. in Frisco, 6:00 p.m. in the Bay Area, and will be televised on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.