FC Dallas-Fire Preview

The Associated Press

FC Dallas' winless streak reached eight with a loss May 31, leaving many to wonder if it would have enough resolve to recover and make a run at the postseason.

Now just three points out of first place in the Western Conference, the club has silenced any doubters.

Dallas looks to extend its MLS unbeaten stretch to 11 with a fifth straight win as it visits the pesky Chicago Fire on Saturday night.

Despite Blas Perez receiving his second yellow card in the 45th minute last Friday, Dallas (12-7-6) defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1 on goals from Je-Vaughn Watson and Fabian Castillo.

Dallas and RSL currently are tied for third in the West, three points behind first-place Seattle. Since Dallas fell to San Jose to conclude May, it has gone 7-0-3 in MLS competition while also going 3-0-1 in U.S. Open Cup play.

"It was an excellent effort from the team and the guys," Watson said. "Even when we were down to 10 players, everyone was still pushing because we know we are a good team. We needed it to go top of the league."

Coach Oscar Pareja praised Dallas' effort as well as it makes a push for the Supporters' Shield.

"This team has evolved in the last month and a half and everyone is working to make the unit solid," Pareja said.

Dallas has outscored opponents 22-9 during its MLS unbeaten stretch, and its 0.6 goals allowed per game since the World Cup break is the best mark in the league.

"(We're) not nine points down trying to get into the playoffs," defender Matt Hedges said. "We're nine points up thinking, 'Hey, we've got a chance at the Supporters' Shield.' It's definitely nice to be that way."

Dallas will now try to win a fifth straight game for the first time since a six-game run in 1999 as it faces a team that has the fewest losses in the East.

Chicago still is trying to fight its way into the playoff picture, though, as it sits five points behind New York for the fifth and final spot. The Fire (4-6-14) are tied for the fewest wins in MLS but have hung around with the most draws in the league.

Quincy Amarikwa's team best-tying seventh league goal in the 90th minute helped Chicago salvage a 2-all draw at Toronto last Saturday. As the Fire get into the stretch run, they know they need to start piling up victories to make the playoffs.

"I think people should have been feeling pressure for awhile now," midfielder Jeff Larentowicz said. "We have to win, and with 10 games left and this being the last out-of-conference opponent, they're all going to be important coming up."

They won't be intimidated by Dallas' unbeaten stretch, though. Chicago has won the last two meetings.

"We don't need to think about that they are unbeaten or whatever," midfielder Razvan Cocis said. "We just need to focus on our game and try to get the points."

Reigning MLS MVP Mike Magee, tied for the team lead in goals, was forced to sit out last weekend's contest with a calf injury and is questionable for this match.