Seattle, WA – FC Dallas still has a shot to nab the last spot in the MLS playoffs from the Western Conference, but it has to secure at least a draw in the most intimidating stadium in the league Sunday.
Dallas sits four points out of fifth place in the West with two matches to go, and needs at least a tie and a win in its last two regular-season games to get to the postseason.
Even that scenario relies on Vancouver Whitecaps FC losing its last two games, but the most important factor for Dallas (9-12-11) is to earn a result against Seattle Sounders FC (14-7-11) at CenturyLink Field.
Seattle had an incredible 66,452 fans, the second-largest crowd for a regular- season match in league history, for a match against the Portland Timbers this month.
Dallas will not face quite as many supporters, but the challenge is still the same against Seattle, which has averaged a league-high 43,755 fans this year.
FCD enters the match in strong form, going 4-1-4 over its last nine matches - the same record for Seattle over its last nine fixtures. But winning away from home has been a struggle, with Dallas just 3-9-4 on the road this season.
Coach Schellas Hyndman will know where Dallas stands before the game kicks off as Vancouver hosts Portland earlier Sunday. Should the Whitecaps open the door for Dallas, it will give the club a boost in Seattle.
Obviously, the reverse is true if Vancouver wins, as it would eliminate Dallas from postseason contention. FCD will be without midfielder Julian de Guzman as he is suspended, but Daniel Hernandez will fill the void.
"He's played a lot of great games for us and a lot of great games in his career," Hyndman said. "This should be a no-brainer here that he should go out and perform."
Seattle has clinched a postseason berth, but it holds just a three-point edge on the Los Angeles Galaxy for fourth place. The top three squads receive a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
Sounders FC tied Real Salt Lake, 0-0, on Wednesday, but played down a man for 60 minutes and was without a few important players, including Eddie Johnson.
Johnson leads Sounders FC with 14 goals and, after playing well for the United States over the last week, will be even more confident for the end of the year and the playoffs.
Seattle could also still finish second, as Real is just three points away. But the second- and third-place teams will play a home-and-away series anyway, and the seeding is not as important for those clubs.
Sounders will want to avoid a late-season slip, though, and a first-round one- game playoff to advance to the conference semifinals. L.A. visits the San Jose Earthquakes, so depending on that result, a draw could be enough for Seattle.
"We still have two games left," Seattle's Brad Evans said, "and we have to get results because teams are still close."