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Saturday, March 26, 2011
FCD, Earthquakes look to avoid early hole

By ESPN.com news services

Things didn't go according to plan for FC Dallas and the San Jose Earthquakes in their respective season openers. One of these playoff teams from last season could find itself in an early hole in 2011, and David Ferreira and Chris Wondolowski could make a major difference.

Ferreira will try to provide an offensive spark as FCD plays host to Wondolowski and the Earthquakes in a Western Conference matchup on Saturday night.

Dallas, the 2010 MLS Cup finalist, opened the season with a 1-all draw with Chicago last Saturday despite holding a 16-10 shot advantage. The team also dealt with a red card to Brek Shea in the 55th minute, and he'll be unavailable Saturday.

"We were playing a man down for 30 minutes. I thought we still dominated the game," midfielder Daniel Hernandez said. "I don't think it was our best game. The only positive thing is I know we can do a lot better. The way we played, we should have pulled out the three points, even a man down."

The Earthquakes, which made a surprising run to the Eastern Conference final last fall, also felt they deserved better last Saturday, outshooting Salt Lake 15-11 -- 8-2 on shots on goal -- during a 1-0 home defeat.

"I take the blame for this loss," said Wondolowski, who put two of his four shots on goal. "I had three perfect balls just sitting there and I missed them all. It's frustrating."

Wondolowski led MLS with a career-high 18 goals last season but didn't get any in two meetings with Dallas, which won 2-0 at Pizza Hut Park on June 5 behind two goals from Shea.

Ferreira set up one of those tallies, as he ended up with eight goals while finishing second in MLS with 13 assists, en route to being named league MVP. The forward struggled through parts of Saturday's draw, managing just one of his four shots on net while being fouled five times.

Re-establishing himself as one of the top playmakers in MLS should help FCD extend its six-game unbeaten streak (2-0-4) against San Jose.

The Earthquakes are trying to avoid their first 0-2-0 start since 2008, their first season back in MLS, and the heightened expectations after last season's impressive playoff run are clearly on their minds.

"We raised the bar last year, and now the expectations have got to go with it," goalkeeper Jon Busch told the team's official website. "We don't want to say last year was a one-off. We want that to be consistent every year. I think the expectations must be up there, for us to be successful. We can't be happy with just playing well."

Ellis McLoughlin could get his first start after being used as a second-half sub last weekend. The 20-year-old forward spent three years as a reserve with Hertha Berlin of Germany, where he struggled with injuries.

"I'm definitely a straight-forward player," McLoughlin said. "I like to attack. I like to take on players one-on-one. That's my strength. That's what I try to do. I'll do it until it doesn't work any more."

Matt Luzunaris is available after signing with San Jose on Friday. The forward, who turned 22 this month, spent the last two years seeing little playing time with SK Rapid Wien of Austria.