It is not a must-win game for FC Dallas on Saturday night when they face the Montreal Impact on the road, but it could very well be a must not-lose game for their playoff chances.
FC Dallas (10-10-6) enter play this weekend eighth in the West on 36 points, one behind Portland for the final playoff spot. The problem for the Hoops is they have played a conference-high 26 matches and both the Timbers and Earthquakes - the two teams directly above them in the standings - have two matches in hand.
Additionally, Luchi Gonzalez's team has struggled to produce results on the road. FC Dallas has been shut out in four of its last five road contests and won outside Frisco just once in its last nine (1-7-1). That includes a 2-0 loss to the Galaxy on Wednesday night when they were limited to one shot on target.
"I thought we had better control of the game for more parts of the game," Gonzalez said. "But they were more efficient, put away their chances, put their shots were on target and we did not. At the end of the day that is going to cost you points."
The formation tweak Gonzalez used to much positive effect in FC Dallas' 5-3 win over Minnesota last weekend in which midfielders Jesus Ferreira and Paxton Pomykal pushed forward with Kellyn Acosta in a deeper role created chances as the Hoops did register 15 shots, yet they were blanked for the fifth time in eight league contests.
FC Dallas also has struggled to maintain consistency on the defensive end over the course of a full 90 minutes as Wednesday's loss marked the 12th time in its 13 road matches it failed to record a clean sheet.
Montreal (10-13-3) is also fighting for its playoff life and enters play holding down the seventh and final spot in the East by virtue of having more wins than Toronto FC and Orlando City - all of whom are on 33 points. The Impact are facing a short turnaround after advancing to the Canadian Championship following their 1-0 second-leg victory at USL side Calgary on Wednesday night.
Anthony Jackson-Hamel scored in the 13th minute to give Montreal a 3-1 aggregate victory and a spot in the final opposite Toronto FC. The teams will meet in a two-legged tie next month, starting in Montreal on Sept. 18, to determine the winner.
"They were two difficult games for us, but they were two good games," coach Remi Garde told the Impact's official website. "It was very important for us to score an away goal. I want to congratulate my team. Today, we fought as a team. We fought for every ball. We knew it would be that kind of game. If we can repeat this kind of spirit every game, we would be a much stronger team."
Saturday's match will mark the first time Impact striker Maxi Urruti faces his former club. Urruti, who has only two goals but a team-leading seven assists, spent the past three seasons with FC Dallas and totaled 30 goals and 20 assists in league play.
Montreal has dropped six of its last seven league contests, conceding 18 goals in that stretch and at least two goals in every defeat.
FC Dallas has won the last three matchups and is 5-1-1 in the all-time series. The Hoops ran out 2-0 winners in the lone 2018 meeting as Matteo Mancosu had an own goal for Montreal and Mauro Diaz converted a penalty in the first 18 minutes.