Competition: Major League Soccer – FC Dallas vs San Jose Earthquakes
Venue: Toyota Stadium – Saturday, March 7 – 20:30 ET (01:30 GMT – Sunday, 8)
Match Odds: FC Dallas 10/11 – Draw 12/5 – San Jose Earthquakes 3/1
Dallas ended their 2014 campaign in disappointment, being knocked out of the playoffs on away goals by Seattle Sounders, while the San Jose Earthquakes will be looking to end their horror run of 15 MLS games without a win as they start the new campaign with a clean slate.
Both sides have undergone some changes to the squad. Dallas have made changes in the hope of an improved season in the push for glory in the playoffs this time around, while the Earthquakes have had a rejig to freshen things up and try to put their nightmare run to an end.
FC Dallas have bought in six new faces, including; Otis Earle, Kyle Bekker and Dan Kennedy and shipped out 12 players this offseason. Head coach Oscar Pareja will be hoping his side can bond quickly as they will need to get off the mark with the best possible start, as home advantage is an important factor for the opening game of any season.
San Jose Earthquakes nine signings this winter include the likes of Marvell Wynne, Innocent Emeghara and Paulo Renato, while 11 players have departed. Dominic Kinnear’s side need to hit the ground running too, as the longer they go without a win the more the streak will impact their mentality.
Confidence will be key for the surviving Quakes players out of last season’s roster. New faces in the dressing room should lift spirits and those new names could be key to avoiding sitting at the foot of the Western Conference again.
Both sides should be feeling good ahead of the tie, with both teams winning four of their preseason games. San Jose will be in fine spirits after beating eventual playoff winners LA Galaxy last weekend, so there are lots of positives heading into the new season.
The San Jose Earthquakes’ away form was woeful last term and their last away win was in fact against FC Dallas, so they can take that positive into the tie. Dallas will be looking to avoid falling victim to the Quakes to avoid giving them their first away win in MLS in 12 attempts.
FC Dallas have the luxury of a fully fit squad. Match fitness shouldn’t be too far from ideal, but as we know there is a huge difference in the pace of preseason games in comparison to competitive fixtures.
San Jose Earthquakes will be without Mark Sherrod and Steven Lenhart (both knee), new signing Innocent Emeghara (shoulder), Clarence Goodson (foot) and Jordan Stewart (calf) could also miss out for the away side and are all doubts for the game.
FC Dallas’ form: N/A
San Jose Earthquakes’ form: N/A
Key Stat: The Quakes’ last away win in MLS came at FC Dallas last May and they have not won their past 12 on the road. A lot has changed since that away victory in Texas last season but a repeat victory could be on the cards.
Key Player: Fabian Castillo – The Colombian speedster notched ten goals in 27 regular season games last campaign, which saw him earn a bumper five-year contract this offseason. Dallas will be hoping his input can push them into the playoffs again and he will look to start the season with a goal as he did last year, netting the sides’ first goal of the 2014 campaign.
FC Dallas 2-1 San Jose Earthquakes – FC Dallas began last season with a home win and need a repeat of that to get them moving in the right direction for the playoffs early on in the season. Given how tight the Western Conference looks set to be this year, it is essential to rack up points early and not be chasing the playoff pack. The Earthquakes are looking much better for the new season but this game might be too tough a test.