Dallas Soccer: Chicago Fire

Scoring Summary:
DAL – Matt Hedges 41
CHI – Sebastian Grazzini (Marco Pappa) 45
CHI – Marco Pappa 63

FC Dallas – Chris Seitz, Jair Benitez, Matt Hedges, George John (Carlos Rodriguez 46), Zach Loyd, Bryan Leyva (Scott Sealy 72), James Marcelin (Bruno Guarda 46), Daniel Hernandez, Andrew Jacobson Jackson, Blas Perez.

Substitutes Not Used: Kevin Hartman, Victor Ulloa, Jonathan Top, Moises Hernandez.

TOTAL SHOTS: 15 (Blas Perez 4);
SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (Blas Perez 2);
FOULS: 15 (Andrew Jacobson, Zach Loyd 3);
OFFSIDES: 2 (Carlos Rodriguez, Andrew Jacobson 1);
CORNER KICKS: 7 (Bryan Leyva 4);
SAVES: 4 (Kevin Hartman 4).

Chicago Fire – Sean Johnson, Dan Gargan, Jalil Anibaba, Austin Berry, Gonzalo Segares, Patrick Nyarko, Rafael Robayo, Sebastian Grazzini (Pavel Pardo 76), Logan Pause, Marco Pappa (Corben Bone 89), Dominic Oduro (Orr Barouch 59).

Substitutes Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Hunter Jumper, Danil Paladini, Federico Puppo.

TOTAL SHOTS: 15 (Sebastian Grazzini 6);
SHOTS ON GOAL: 6 (Sebastian Grazzini 4);
FOULS: 21 (Marco Pappa 4);
OFFSIDES: 4 (Dominic Oduro 3);
CORNER KICKS: 3 (Marco Pappa 2);
SAVES: 4 (Sean Johnson 4).

Misconduct Summary:
DAL – George John (caution) 30
CHI – Dan Gargan (caution) 36
CHI – Marco Pappa (caution) 64
CHI – Orr Barouch (caution) 69
CHI – Rafael Robayo (caution) 90

Referee: Hilario Grajeda
Referee’s Assistants: Peter Balciunas, Kevin Klinger
4th Official: Abiodun Okulaja

Attendance: 11,947
Time of Game: 1:52
Weather: Sunny, 78 degrees

FC Dallas Head Coach Schellas Hyndman

On the team’s performance in the first half:

“I thought we seemed to have a bit more energy than they did, I know they played on Sunday, we played on Saturday and the trip, and playing on turf wears you down, so we wanted to come out really high and press and force their defense to make mistakes. I thought we were really doing some good things. I’m surprised it took us so long to score as it did because we were putting a lot of pressure on Anibaba and Berry in the back. But we did get a goal, we are disappointed we gave a goal up in the way we gave it up, and then of course the penalty kick, and then coming back and giving up a penalty kick. I really think the play was offside but it seems like that’s the kind of way the season has been going for us. The critical points of time, the ball’s not bouncing right and we’re not getting it done in critical times where we are making a mistake.”

On playing high pressure on defenders:

“We’re asking so much of our guys. We have nine injuries. We have four academy guys that are on the trip. We’re asking guys to help us with the one thing that they can do, and they have been doing, which is working. Our idea was to put pressure on the defense. We watched three games from Chicago, and we feel they do a great job defending, but they may not be as creative with the ball coming down the back. And without time and space, people have a tendency to make a mistake.”

On the sense of urgency or frustration that has set in to the team:

“Completely. Completely. On both levels. The urgency, you know, we played three more games than Chicago and they have more points than us. So that’s frustrating. And the other thing is the frustration. I think this is a game we could have won. But I can say this about a few of our games. I don’t know if we’re just having players getting tired, this is our third series of three games in a week, [the Fire] will feel it when they go to Columbus. You don’t get a chance to recover, and then when you get injuries, you don’t get a chance to treat things to recover. I thought the key for us was losing George John at halftime with a potential concussion. We wanted to keep it safe. That was his injury. So we’re hoping that he’ll be okay to jump back in to the game this weekend.”

On the second substitution at halftime with Guarda:

“That was a tactical substitution. We felt like we needed just a little more offensive play and Bruno Guarda came in and he’s the one that drew the penalty kick. I think tactically and with decision making we were pretty good, but I just think that there were key moments in the game where we didn’t get it done.”

On regrouping before the next match against Salt Lake:

“I’ll say this about our guys. I’m frustrated, I think the word we all use and we used it at halftime and at the end of the game, we should be pissed. Because we are giving everything we have, we’re in the game and we can’t overcome our own mistakes so we should be pissed. But we want to be and continue to be fighters. We want to show up and play good soccer. We want to put everything out there and not be victims where everything is going against us. So a lot of it is just mentality. Our injured players will come back and when they come back, we’ll be better.”

FC Dallas Defender Matt Hedges

On the importance of his goal:

“I think it was an important goal for us because we’ve been playing well all half and I think it should boost our confidence but in the end we gave up a goal a couple minutes later so it’s kind of disappointing. But the first goal, I was excited but it just wasn’t enough.”

On the team’s sense of urgency:

“Absolutely, we need to get points any way we can, a win, a tie, whatever. We have to keep working hard. We’ve been playing well but it’s not going our way. We have to start getting more points-we haven’t gotten too many points in the last seven or eight games.”

On building on the team’s play from the first half:

“We’ve had a lot of injuries and a lot of guys who don’t normally play are getting a lot of minutes so I think they’re getting good, quality experience. When we get the [starters] back, they’ll be able to help us a little more.

FC Dallas Goalkeeper Kevin Hartman

On the match:

“Obviously we are disappointed. We had our opportunity to go up in the second half. Sean Johnson made a great save on Perez’s penalty kick. It’s really disappointing. We have a game on Saturday we need to get ready for now. We have to really grab each other around the shoulders and give each other a hug and say that we have the guys and the talent and the opportunity against a really good Salt Lake team that we have a quick turn around again. We can’t really hang our heads. We have to deal with it like men and move on with it. Practices have been good and we’re just in the position now that we’re going to need someone to work a little harder and put their head in one of those 50/50 balls and maybe get a goal for us. And that might be something that will change the tide for us. I thought tonight when we had the penalty kick opportunity, I thought this is it, this is our opportunity and then Sean Johnson came up with a great save, so hats off to him.”

On the team’s performance in the first half:

“I was really content with it. I thought we didn’t give up too many opportunities, but you can’t give Grazzini a free kick from the 19 yard line. He’s just too good of a player. Maybe we were a little naďve on that. We have some new guys on the park. Zach [Loyd] comes in and plays inside and plays in the center and I don’t think Zach’s played in the center for a while. Matt’s [Hedges] just out of college, I think he’s performed very admirably. But unfortunately I think there was a lesson there maybe tonight that we can take something from this game and hopefully add it to one of the experiences of 2012 and it’ll make us a better team.”

Frank Klopas – Chicago Fire Head Coach

Comments on the match…

“Obviously just a great win for our club. I thought it was important for us being at home and coming out with a lot of energy from the beginning. We pressed higher up the field instead of waiting and going a goal down, and then starting to play. I felt that in the beginning we were a little bit flat and tired, and Dallas did a good job of really stepping high and pressing us. I thought that they were the bigger team and winning most balls. We gave up that goal, but we had a good response from the group. It’s just a huge win. We scored from behind again which shows a lot of character for the group. It’s all about the group and the team. It was a great performance and we scored the two goals and then created some more opportunities to put the game away. In the last five minutes, you have to say a couple prayers. It was just a great win for us and now we have to move on to the next match.”

On the goal by Grazzini...

“We gave up that goal in the 41st minute of the game, which is never a good time to give up the goal before going into the locker room. Sebastián scored a fantastic goal-a world class goal. Those are the type of goals that he can score with his ability. I felt that the group was positive and that the goal lifted us going into halftime. We talked more about strategy at the half and they came out with good energy and pushed hard. Sometimes it is difficult with the road trips...we came back from the trip to Portland and we had a great response from the group tonight.”

On the tendency to give up goals and having to battle back...

“I don’t know if it is a tendency. We talked about about playing from the beginning until the end and being more consistent. I was worried to see how we would start off because of the short week. It took us a little bit of time, but their goal came from nothing. From set pieces we need to get better. The positive thing is that we never gave up. The trend in this league is that the team that gives up the first goal normally does not win. I’m proud of the guys because they believe in themselves."

On scoring from set pieces and the corner kick...

“I think it helped when they went with a smaller group in the second half. George John came off with an injury, then James Marcelin came off. Then we felt pretty good with the set pieces. I don’t think that we lost one aerial battle. The key was the second balls because we were getting a little bit stretched. It’s an area that we have to keep working on.”

On Sean Johnson stopping the penalty...

“It was huge for a morale standpoint and also for him. After that save, you saw a different Sean with more confidence and command in his box. It was also important in giving the whole team new energy. It was an important moment in the game.”

On playing at Columbus on Saturday...

“It’s great because last year it was my first win as interim coach and it was really something special because normally before the games I don’t go outside the locker rooms...I’m superstitious at times and do the same routine. I knew that when they came in from the warm ups that it was great because they came back and were in awe to see the amount of fans that we had there. There was a positive feeling in the room. There has been some special players and special teams at this club. I believe that then and now. It is time to write our own history and be remembered forever, like the team in ’98. That’s what it is all about. It was a great win and it was great to see so many of our fans there. It's a difficult match-its a very good team, it's a rivalry. We’re looking forward to it. We need to assess everyone tomorrow and if we need to make some adjustments, we will. Now we have a couple days and not that long of a trip. We look forward to the match.”

Sean Johnson, Chicago Fire goalkeeper

On his PK save:

“Most importantly the save was big for the team at that point in the game to help turn things around. There was a spell there where they were putting a lot of pressure on us – they got the ball into a deep spot and we gave up the foul, which was unfortunate. We needed that stop to keep sp in the game – it’s all about making crucial saves in the game when we need them. “

On the result:

“It was a team effort tonight and we were able to put one back on the other end of the field and come away with three points.”

On his confidence after the PK save:

“It’s always good to save a big save in the game like that to help turn things around and get the team going a bit. The second half was definitely better for me personally.”

On seeing the ball on the PK save:

“I was just trying to read it and get a good jump, and once the ball was out safely then you can regroup as a team and get things back in order and organized for the next play.”

Marco Pappa, Chicago Fire midfielder

On the slow start:

“After the first half when we came into the locker room we talked about how we needed to push ourselves more in the game. We knew we had to give a better effort in the second half of the game. We had some extra motivation after Sean’s [Johnson] penalty kick save.”

On his goal:

“I always said that before the ball goes into the net that I need to find the ball and stay with it. I made the sprint and the ball came to me, and it resulted in three points for the team so I’m happy with that. The best thing for me is that if I score the winner, everybody is a winner in the locker room, it’s good to get three points. “

Chicago’s Sebastian Grazzini:

On the result:

“It was definitely difficult today because they were definitely crowding the midfield. It seemed like they were playing with three defensive midfielders and it was difficult to break through, but we were able to create some space and score in a timely manner. It was definitely a wonderful victory to have here at home. “

On his goal:

“I thought it worked out really well. I’ve been connecting a lot more with Marco [Pappa] and Rafa [Robayo] a lot and it was an excellent wall for me to place it over and put it in. I’m just happy that it came at a good time to help tie the match.”

Loss to Fire extends FC Dallas' winless streak

May, 23, 2012

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Sebastian Grazzini and Marco Pappa scored and goalkeeper Sean Johnson stopped a penalty kick as the Chicago Fire rallied for a 2-1 victory over FC Dallas on Wednesday night.

The Fire (5-3-3) won for the third time in five matches to remain in fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

Defender Matt Hedges scored in the 41st minute to put FC Dallas (3-7-4) on the board first. Dallas extended its winless streak to eight matches (0-5-3) and remained winless on the road (0-5-1).

Grazzini tied the score in the 45th minute, lofting a 25-yard left-footed shot over Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman's right shoulder.

Johnson stopped Blas Perez's penalty kick in the 52nd minute, diving to his right to get a hand on the low shot. The attempt was ordered when Fire forward Dominic Oduro tripped Bruno Guarda from behind near the goal line.

Pappa got the tiebreaker in the 63rd on rebound off a penalty kick by Grazzini. Pappa was three steps into the penalty area before Grazzini launched his kick, but no infraction was detected by referee Hilario Grajeda, and Pappa converted the rebound with goalkeeper Kevin Hartman on the turf. The penalty kick resulted from Dallas defender Zach Loyd pulling Pappa down as they chased a loose ball into the penalty area.

Five quick hits for Chicago game

May, 23, 2012
FC Dallas and the Chicago Fire renew their Brimstone Cup rivalry on Wednesday night at Toyota Park. The Men in Red fell 2-1 at Portland on Sunday night while FCD has now gone seven straight without a win, the second-longest such streak in franchise history.

Here are some points to ponder heading into this game:

Is FCD Going Streaking or Not?---Clearly, the current seven-game winless streak is nothing for FC Dallas to celebrate. And considering that this team has yet to win on the road this season, it would surprise absolutely no one to see Dallas drop each of their next three matches, all of which are on the road, to equal the franchise-record winless streak of 10 straight set during 2005. However, on the flipside, if ever there was an opportunity for FCD to break through with their first win since April 14, it would have to be Wednesday night at Toyota Park, a venue Dallas has never lost at (5-0-1). But if FCD fails to come away with three points, then realistically the next time Dallas supporters can expect this team to win could be the late June visit by Chivas USA.

Return of the Zach Attack---Those who used to watch Saved by the Bell got that reference and everyone else, oh well. Getting Zach Loyd back on the right side of the defense will definitely be a big boost to the Dallas backline. With Hernan Pertuz out several weeks with an ankle injury, it will be interesting to see if Schellas Hyndman goes with rookie Matt Hedges or Carlos Rodriguez, who had a pretty rough game in his return in Saturday’s draw with Philly to say the least. Hyndman seems to really like what Hedges has done thus far, so one has to think Hedges gets the start in Bridgeview. But getting Loyd back, who before Saturday had been the only FCD player to start every game and play every minute this season, is huge for a group that occasional mental lapses aside has been a pretty solid group.

Can Leyva Follow it Up?---Bryan Leyva’s overall performance, especially on set pieces, in the 1-1 draw with the Union over the weekend ranked as one of the few bright spots in what had to be termed a disappointing turn of events for FCD. But with Fabian Castillo still listed as questionable on the injury report, any hopes Dallas fans had of seeing Leyva on one flank and Castillo on the other in Chicago might have been dashed. But Leyva is still a young pup and the usual knock on young players is inconsistency, so all eyes will be on the young homegrown talent to see if he can follow up a mostly solid performance on Saturday with one on an equal if not on a higher level . If Leyva can start stringing consistently solid performances together and can display some finishing skills, he could very well challenge Castillo for a starting spot.

Chicago’s Fire-power---No pun intended, but the Fire’s attack can be quite incendiary when it’s firing on all cylinders. Of course, ex-Dallas striker Dominic Oduro, who leads the team with four goals, leads the way but the Men in Red also feature the likes of Patrick Nyarko, Marco Pappa and Sebastian Grazzini, who leads Chicago with three assists. In short, the FCD defense has plenty of attacking players to concern themselves with, something that clearly wasn’t the case against the offensively deficient Union over the weekend. A mental lapse or even two by Dallas and they leave Toyota Park with their first-ever loss at the home of the Fire, it’s that simple. This club has too many offensive options to be forced to settle for a draw.

Brimstone’s New Home?---The Brimstone Cup has basically belonged to Dallas since 2001. But if ever there was a year when the supporters’ trophy headed back to the Windy City, this would have to be it. Chicago isn’t exactly setting the world on fire in the Eastern Conference, but Frank Klopas’ club isn’t half bad on the home or on the road. And despite injuries, suspensions and questionable officiating, things just aren’t going well for FC Dallas through their first 13 games. Will that trend continue or will Wednesday’s match be the latest chapter in a recent run of disappointing results and tales of points not taken? One thing’s for sure, if FCD doesn’t hold onto the Brimstone Cup, then they might not have much in the way of trophies this season. The Pioneer Cup already went to Columbus, El Capitan looks like it most likely will stay in Houston and who knows about the Rio Grande Plate rivalry with Tigres UANL since there has been nary a mention of it by anyone on World Cup Way.

Preview: FC Dallas at Chicago Fire

May, 22, 2012
After each season series between the Chicago Fire and FC Dallas, the Brimstone Cup is awarded to the team that earns the most points.

Chicago may not even remember what the trophy looks like.

The Fire look to claim their first Brimstone Cup since it was created 11 years ago while seeking to end a five-game winless streak against struggling Dallas on Wednesday night.

Chicago captured the inaugural award in 2001 but hasn't reclaimed it since relinquishing it the following season. Dallas has gone 14-3-3 against the Fire since 2002 and 3-0-2 in the last five meetings.

This will be the only regular-season contest between these teams, meaning the winner will claim the Brimstone Cup. If the match ends in a draw, Dallas (3-6-4) will hold it for an 11th straight year.

Chicago has never beaten Dallas at Toyota Park, going 0-5-1 since it opened in 2006. Its last home victory in the series was June 12, 2005, at Soldier Field.

The Fire (4-3-3) seemingly have a good opportunity to end that skid, though.

Dallas is 0-4-3 in its last seven after a 1-all draw with Philadelphia on Saturday, last winning April 14 over Montreal. It hasn't gone this many games without a victory since a club-record 10-game stretch July 2-Sept. 10, 2005.

"I thought we played well enough to win. It's just same old story," midfielder Daniel Hernandez told the league's official website. "We can't find a way to get three points."

Dallas is 1-7-1 in its last nine road games, winning 2-1 at Chicago on Oct. 12.

The Fire are coming off a 2-1 loss at Portland on Sunday, ending a three-game unbeaten streak. After Jalil Anibaba tied the game in the 39th minute, Chicago's Logan Pause deflected a header into his own net in the 52nd minute.

"I thought that we didn't deserve to walk away with a loss," coach Frank Klopas said. "Overall, I thought it was frustrating because I feel disappointed when we lose, but when you feel that you should have walked away with points from here it's hard to take the loss."

Inconsistency has plagued a Chicago team that hasn't won consecutive games all season with an attack that has gone dormant for stretches during matches.

"We've put very good halves together, we've played very well in 60-minute stretches," defender Dan Gargan told the team's official website. "I think we're looking for a really good 90-minute performance from start to finish. That's certainly something we need to get better at."

The same goes for Dallas, which got a goal from Blas Perez in the seventh minute Saturday but little else after that. It hasn't scored a goal in the second half other than on a penalty kick since Brek Shea's tally in the 88th minute in Dallas' most recent win.

"We created some really good chances in the first half," coach Schellas Hyndman said after Saturday's match. "And then, the game just got to the point where it unfortunately got more physical than it needed to be."

Dallas has outscored Chicago 10-3 in the last five matchups.
FC Dallas Manager Schellas Hyndman

On the team’s performance against the Fire:

“I think they had some trouble dealing with our pure speed and it’s not just them, a lot of teams have trouble dealing with that. I thought in the first half we really created some opportunities but gave too many balls away. It was frustrating. I thought the player we were most concerned about was Oduro because he knows us and he’s been really hot and I thought that he had a quiet night tonight. But a great goal by the Fire and for us, we’ve had a really difficult month in September with all the traveling and CONCACAF games, and cards and injuries, so for us to get the win here was huge. Now we know we are in the playoffs and maybe start to focus a little more on that.”

On the threat of the Fire getting another goal in the remaining minutes of the match:

“Of course, always. Always concerned. I thought some of the situations – we knew what the Fire were doing. They were trying to get it out wide and come back in the middle and hit shots and maybe get a second ball and then get the free kick. And those things were happening. We were very concerned. The funny thing about this team is we play better against eleven players than we do against ten. Sometimes people just let up a little bit. But again I give the Fire a lot of credit for fighting. It was a great goal and it was well earned.”

FC Dallas Defender Zach Loyd

On being satisfied with the road win:

“Yes, I think September was a rough month for us. I think fatigue caught up with us last month. But with international break, I think a lot of guys got their legs back, got some time off and mentally got their heads right. Today we came in here with the energy we were bringing in a couple months ago and I think it showed in the result.”

On having lots of shots on goal in the first half:

“It just shows the energy we brought. Earlier in the season, we had guys like Marvin [Chavez], Castillo, Jackson, Shea, all with their speed so we can just hit them and put the defenders on their heels. I think tonight it really showed with rest a lot of the guys have so much more energy.”

On how the team is looking to finish the rest of the season:

“We’re looking to get on a roll here. You always want to get on a little win streak before the playoffs, get your confidence up because anything can happen in the playoffs so hopefully we can go into this next week and qualify for Champions League and get a couple more wins in the league.”

FC Dallas Goalkeeper Kevin Hartman

On the match:

“I thought you could really tell we got a little bit of a rest. We’re a very athletic team and I think you can tell by the amount of speed that we have up top and the athleticism in the back. When you’re fatigued that’s really going to affect you quite a bit. Tonight, after a bit of a rest, and an international weekend, I thought that you could tell we were able to really win balls in more advantageous parts of the field. And when we did sit, I think that we could tell we were attacking with pace and certainly at halftime I felt that it could have been more than it was.”

On the team’s end of season focus:

“It wasn’t just a physical rest we got, we got a mental break. We’ve been playing two games a week since July 1st, so it’s been pretty fatiguing. We are not a group that really likes to make excuses and we get out there and do our best. I think you could tell as the games wore on and on, we were just not having as much success. We weren’t able to put the pressure up top that we wanted to, we weren’t able to win balls 30 yards from their goal; we were really kind of disjointed. I thought today we got back a little more to the FC Dallas that we are proud to be and get a victory. It’s something we are extremely proud of.”

Frank Klopas, Chicago Fire interim head coach

Thoughts on the match:

“We didn’t have the start that we wanted. We came out a little bit flat and that was a concern of mine. I wanted to put the U.S. Open Cup match behind us right away. I talked to the guys and told them that they needed to stay focused, that we still have a lot to play for ahead of us. We were flat from the beginning, we weren’t sharp. We were just one step behind everything. Give credit to Dallas. They made it difficult for us. But we pushed the game late and we got something going. In the end, we gave up two soft goals that hurt us. We’re disappointed. Not only to lose but to lose at home. Now our chances are very slim for the playoffs.”

On timing of his substitutions:

“We made a change during the game when I felt Dominic could help. We had a hard time keeping up with Dallas’ wing plays. When we gave up the second goal, we had to make changes. Because when you lose 2-0, 3-0 it doesn’t matter, you have to push the game and try to get a result.”

Dominic Oduro, Chicago Fire forward

On the remainder of the season:

“We’re not mathematically out of it right now, but I don’t think we helped our chances of making the playoffs at this point either.”

On the team’s performance:

“I’m very disappointed. We started out flat and we gave them momentum starting off and it was hard for us to fight back after going down 2-0. We just need to keep our heads up. We fight every game and that’s what we need to continue to do. We still have a small chance of making the playoffs and we have to give all that we’ve got in the two games left, then we’ll see what happens.”

On Dallas’ defense:

“It was really difficult for me to get behind the defense. They just dropped back the whole time, so we had to change tactics in the second half. I had to go play on the right and I think I was able to get to a few more balls on the right. Technically, they did well the whole time by just sitting back to try and stop a run from behind and they did great with that.”

Gonzalo Segares, Chicago Fire defender:

On how the team will approach the final two games:

“Like Frank [Klopas] said we need to regroup, go to D.C. and look for the win. We’ve been pushing pretty hard for the past couple of months and it got us pretty close to being in the position where we’re fighting to make the playoffs. With the result today, it’s really tough to swallow but we have two more games to play and we need to go out there and get wins.”

Pavel Pardo, Chicago Fire midfielder:

On his red card ejection:

“It was a play that I came in a little bit late and I know it was a foul. But I think sometimes this is a foul you make 10 or 20 times in a game, but this is the referee’s decision. That is no excuse, I got the red card and I apologize because when you have to play with 10 players it’s difficult to try to win.”

On his future with the Fire:

“Of course I’d like to come back. I was talking about this situation with the people from the Fire and they want me to here next year. And I want to be here also, but not for one year, I’d like to be here for more years. I’ve integrated with this team, the club and the fans. I’m very happy playing here with the Chicago Fire.”

Sean Johnson, Chicago Fire goalkeeper

On the result:

“I tried my best to keep the team in it, but unfortunately these things happen. I try and limit my mistakes, I pride myself on being consistent day in and day out. But it’s just one of those things, you do your best to try and save the ball. On this night they were the better team and deserved to win the game.”

FC Dallas faces Chicago, looks to end scoreless skid

October, 11, 2011
It has been a miserable last several weeks for FC Dallas. The team has suffered four consecutive shutout losses and is on the verge of the longest scoring drought in franchise history.

Despite all of those troubles, it is one win way away from clinching a playoff spot.

FC Dallas again tries to shake its recent woes and secure a postseason berth Wednesday night when it visits a Chicago Fire team that must win to avoid being eliminated from playoff contention.

Dallas (13-11-7) is in control of the first wild-card spot for the playoffs and owns a six-point advantage over Portland -- the last team out. It also owns the tiebreaker with the Timbers and can earn a second straight trip to the postseason with one victory in its final three matches.

Winning, however, has not come easy for Dallas lately.

The team has been outscored 5-0 in losing four straight MLS games since beating Sporting KC, 3-2, on Aug. 27. Its scoreless streak now stands at 360 minutes, and if Dallas fails to manage a goal in the first four minutes against the Fire, it will break the franchise record set in 2003.

Maybe some time off could help. Dallas hasn't played since a 1-0 loss to Colorado on Oct. 1.

"I think the team is just anxious and I think they're frustrated," coach Schellas Hyndman told the club's official website.

Besides the scoreless streak, Hyndman's club could set another franchise record with a fifth consecutive defeat. This is the seventh time in the franchise's 16-year history Dallas has lost four straight MLS games and the most recent since May 8-29, 2004.

"We need to finish the season off on a good note and compete for that playoff spot and then feel good about being in the playoffs," Hyndman said. "We've done very well to put ourselves in the position we are, but we don't want to give teams the chance to catch us or bypass us, so we have to be focused on winning and getting points."

Dallas has done a good job of picking up points against Chicago.

The teams played to a 1-all draw in the season opener March 19, and Dallas is 11-2-3 in its last 16 games in the series. Dallas is 4-0-1 all-time at Toyota Park.

Chicago (7-8-16), however, has won four straight home games and is 5-1-1 overall since Aug. 21.

This late push has given the Fire a slim shot at the playoffs, but one more loss would dash those hopes. They're seven points behind Houston for the final playoff spot with three games remaining.

They blew a chance to make up some ground with a 1-all draw in Houston on Oct. 1. Dominic Oduro tied the score in the 43rd minute for his fifth goal in seven games, and he leads the Fire with 12.

With their playoff chances looking bleak, Chicago had its sights set on capturing a U.S. Open Cup championship last Tuesday against Seattle but came up short. The Fire allowed two goals in the final 13 minutes in a 2-0 loss.

"We're disappointed," interim coach Frank Klopas told the league's official website. "We put a lot of effort into it."

FCD would clinch berth, tie mark with win

October, 2, 2010
Not only can FC Dallas clinch a playoff spot Saturday night, it can match the longest unbeaten streak in MLS history.

FC Dallas looks to stay unbeaten for its 18th straight match as it hosts a Chicago Fire team playing for the second time in four days.

This 9-0-8 run by FC Dallas (11-2-13) is one shy of the MLS record set by Columbus in 2004. A victory Saturday would tie that mark and clinch the franchise's first playoff berth in three years.

That's been a longer drought than veteran goalkeeper Dario Sala expected after reaching the postseason three straight years from 2005-07.

"Since I came here (in 2005), the team was going to the playoffs," Sala said. "For me, it was a normal experience, but we didn't know we were going to have a dry spell of two years where we missed it. Now, I get an appreciation for what it is."

Dallas has defensive concerns heading into this match after conceding five goals in its last three. Offense has not been a problem with Jeff Cunningham and Milton Rodriguez each scoring twice in that span.

Midfielder David Ferreira has a goal and three assists in those matches to bring his season assist total to 12. He's three shy of the franchise record set by Jason Kreis in 1999.

"It's important, but it's not something that I'm thinking about. I'm just concentrating on getting good results and, if consequently, I get some assists and points in the games [that would be great]," Ferreira said through an interpreter. "That's what I'm doing right now, just playing."

Dallas will also be buoyed by the return of midfielder Brek Shea, who is available after a two-game suspension for a red card in a 2-2 draw at New York on Sept. 16. Shea, named to the U.S. national team Thursday, will see action Saturday.

"The thing that should make him happy is the team still did well without him, so nobody's looking at him and pointing the finger," coach Schellas Hyndman said. "Maybe in some ways, it's a step towards maturity."

Chicago (7-10-8) maintained its faint playoff hopes with a 3-0 victory at San Jose on Wednesday. The Fire had gone 0-5-2 in their previous seven MLS matches, including three straight 1-0 losses.

Freddie Ljungberg scored his first goal with the Fire and assisted on goals by Sam Kinney and Patrick Nyarko.

"It's about pride," Ljungberg said. "I hope that Chicago fans will appreciate that we fought really hard. We're going to keep on doing that and we'll see where it goes."

The teams drew 1-1 in Chicago on May 27 as Ferreira scored in the sixth minute before Brian McBride answered for the Fire in the 40th.

The designated player question

July, 19, 2010
You have probably read by now that Nery Castillo has signed on as he newest DP for the Chicago Fire. I mention it in this space because Castillo is a player I lobbied for FC Dallas to sign as a DP for years. Castillo, in my mind, was the kind of top tier talent and name that was worth signing as a DP.

At 26, I grant you he hasn't fulfilled the promise that he demonstrated when he burst onto the international radar at the 2007 Copa América. But I'm also quite sure by now he doesn't cost the $27.5 million transfer fee Shakhtar Donetsk paid for him. The Chicago deal is a loan deal, the third Castillo's had at Shakhtar, with an option to buy.

There has long been a debate in soccer circles on how one should spends one's DP money. Do you go the Beckham route and sign a aging superstar to sell some jerseys like New York has now done with Thierry Henry? Do you go with unknown but promising youth which may not pan out like Houston did with Luis Landin? How about an American Star like Landon Donovan? Let's face it American stars don't cost what European stars cost. Do you try and sign a player like Castillo, once such a huge star that flamed out a bit but perhaps could still be in the prime of his career? MLS can't sign true big name top of their career players, MLS just can't afford it. Christian Ronaldo cost about twice what a single MLS franchise does.

I have always advocated spending all the money on talent and ignoring the off the field marketing value of a Beckham name when it comes to DPs. That's easy for me to say though, it's not my money in play. I applauded the Landin signing when Houston made it, although clearly he was a complete bust, scouting still matters guys. For me the play on the field is the thing, win and the rest will follow.

FC Dallas, the one time they tried a DP, they went with an older player. They (and by they I mean Dan Hunt) felt Denilson still brought serious game to the table. There was less emphasis on the name and marketing in the move, although Michael Hitchcock sure tried to hype it up. So in one sense FCD tried to DP the way I think they should DP, talent first. They just happened, like Houston, to misfire on that talent. Full credit to Steve Morrow for fighting against Hitch and Hunt to make sure Denilson was on a one year deal.

This may be a moot exercise frankly, as one insider type told me, "the Hunt's consider David Ferreira as their DP." Even though, technically he's not a DP, he just gets paid a lot compared to how the Hunts think.

But let's put that aside for a minute and have a little fun. If FCD was going to sign a DP, how should FCD spend their money? Marketing? Talent? A mixture of some kind?

Which DP would you like to see in a FCD jersey?