Chicago (12-12-7) at FC Dallas (10-10-11), 8:30 p.m.
Frisco, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - FC Dallas will attempt to keep its playoff hopes alive on Saturday when the club welcomes the Chicago Fire to Toyota Stadium.
Dallas limps into the crucial match on the back of a four-game winless run that has dropped the club to eighth place in the Western Conference with 41 points.
Schellas Hyndman's men must now get a victory against Chicago to remain in the playoff hunt as anything less than three points on Saturday will eliminate them from contention.
FC Dallas should be in a much better position, but it was unable to take full points form it most recent match despite playing with an extra man for 73 minutes. Real Salt Lake was dealt a major blow in that affair when Kenny Mansally was sent off in just the 17th minute, but Dallas was unable to capitalize as Alvaro Saborio and Kenny Cooper exchanged second-half goals in a 1-1 draw last Saturday.
"What we should have done today," Hyndman said after the draw when asked what Dallas needs to do to make the playoffs. "We needed three points. We don't need ties, we need wins. We're so disappointed, so frustrated right now because Salt Lake gave us the chance to get those three points and we didn't capitalize on it."
Cooper echoed Hyndman's sentiments, placing emphasis on the determination FCD needs down the stretch to sneak into the postseason.
"Well, you know, we're all extremely hungry to get in there with only three points," Cooper said. "We know we have to get points. I think you're going to see a really determined squad over these next couple games and finally get some points."
The Fire also enter Saturday's tilt on the outside of the playoff picture, sitting sixth in the East on 43 points.
But Chicago's odds of making the playoffs appear to be more favorable than FCD's given the smaller gap between the Fire and the postseason cutoff - Chicago is only two points adrift of the fifth-place Philadelphia Union with three matches to go.
The Fire are coming off of a 3-0 drubbing of D.C. United in its last outing, but the result could have been much different had it not been for the sensational play of goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who pulled off a string of miraculous saves over the course of the game to preserve the clean sheet.
"I think that's clearly the best game he's played in his short career," Fire striker Patrick Nyarko told MLSsoccer.com. "It was incredible. Incredible is an understatement in how he performed that day ... His maturity has been unbelievable, and he understands when to calm the game for us, when to speed up the game for us. His leadership is very visible. We see how he commands the defenders, and it just transcends through everyone."
While Johnson has played an important part in Chicago's season, the key down the stretch may prove to be the manner in which the Fire are able to manage each game. For example, the Fire altered their approach to the D.C. United match after conceding a late equalizer in a 2-2 draw with the Montreal Impact on Sept. 28.
"We were smarter," midfielder Jeff Larentowicz told MLSsoccer.com regarding the club's defeat of D.C. United. "I think that for some reason when we were home, we were still going for the goal against Montreal, but against D.C., I think we were more organized."