On Sunday, the San Jose Earthquakes can extend their winning streak at PayPal Park to four straight matches in all competitions when they host Dallas in the final regular-season game for both clubs in 2021.
Neither side will be in the playoffs this year, a first for the Toros since 2017, while this feeling is not unusual for the boys from Silicon Valley, who will miss the postseason for the third time in the last four years.
Another season of disappointment will be the underlying theme for Matias Almeyda, who is finishing up his third year as coach with plenty of questions surrounding his leadership.
At the beginning and end of 2021, his players showed an ability to attack effectively, with multiple goals in three of their first four fixtures and nine goals in their previous four encounters heading into this match on Sunday, but in between, there were plenty of struggles in the final third, going winless in 11 straight games.
The 4-2-3-1 formation worked effectively in the early going with the familiar man-marking approach that we are used to seeing from them, but as the year wore on, opposing sides seemed to figure it out, perhaps because it was virtually the exact formation that Almeyda had with all of the previous sides that he managed.
Finishing strong is all that they can hope for in their final match this year, and it is something that they have not done often, having lost their final regular-season affair on three successive occasions heading into this encounter.
Shortly after ending an 11-game slide, San Jose swung for the fences in a desperate attempt to turn their campaign around, acquiring Jeremy Ebobisse in exchange for lots of allocation money, and that move has not had the kind of impact that they had hoped for, as he has only scored once since joining the Quakes in a blockbuster deal with the Portland Timbers.
They are a speedy team with a lot of quality when the ball goes out to the wing, but throughout the year, there was not nearly the support needed for Javier Lopez, who sometimes had to feel like he was doing everything himself.
Winning the Copa Tejas is hardly much consolation for Marco Ferruzzi and the Toros, who will be in an unfamiliar position after Sunday of having to watch the MLS Cup playoffs from home.
On Saturday, Ferruzzi got his first victory of the year as interim boss as Dallas reacted well when going down a goal, answering a Diego Fagundez strike almost immediately and scoring the winner with 10 minutes remaining.
The Toros have built from the back all season long, with more passes in their own half of the field than any side in MLS, proof once again that possession is at times an overrated statistic when you look at how inconsistent the Toros have been all year.
They usually have their share of possession, but defensively speaking, they have had their issues, especially on the road, conceding multiple goals in six consecutive games.
There could be a lot of money for them to spend over the off-season, with Ricardo Pepi and Justin Che potentially on the move, but in the meantime, they have one final chance to look at their current squad and figure out what areas need to be addressed in 2022.
Holding onto a lead and maintaining some early momentum has been part of the many problems that this side have incurred, failing to win their last five matches in which they have drawn first blood.
Quakes veteran striker Chris Wondolowski tallied his fourth of the year last weekend and his 170th in MLS, while Jackson Yueill picked up the winner, his third of the season, putting him in a tie with Cristian Espinoza.
Franco Jara picked up the winner for Dallas against Austin, his seventh of the year, putting him one back of Jesus Ferreira, who scored his eighth of the season on Saturday and Ema Twumasi registered his first MLS assist.
San Jose Earthquakes possible starting lineup:
Marcinkowski; Marie, Alanis, Nathan, Fierro; Judson; Remedi, Skahan, Yueill; Ebobisse, Wondolowski
Dallas possible starting lineup:
Maurer; Twumasi, Che, Hedges, Hollingshead; Quignon, Cerrillo; Obrian, Ferreira, Pomykal; Pepi
We say: San Jose Earthquakes 2-2 Dallas
Both teams have leaky defences who have struggled throughout the year, but these teams tend to score many goals against one another.
Dallas and San Jose have nothing to lose, so expect for both sides to take a lot more risks going forward, which should pay off given how poor they both are at the back.
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