MOSCOW – No team in MLS embodies the importance of staying healthy quite like FC Dallas.
Schellas Hyndman watched his team sputter through a calamitous first half with several key figures on the sidelines. FCD suffered through a club-record 13-match winless streak from April 21 to July 7 as the constant or intermittent absences of David Ferreira, Ugo Ihemelu, George John, Blas Perez and Ricardo Villar weakened the spine of the team.
Ferreira's return at the start of July represented the turning point in FCD's season. The former MLS MVP resumed his usual duties as the fulcrum of the attack and sparked a revival that has carried Dallas from the bottom of the Western Conference into a tussle with Vancouver for the fifth and final playoff spot.
Whether FCD can erase the Whitecaps' two-point edge and pull off its improbable surge toward a postseason berth could hinge its ability to fight through the knocks ravaging its defensive corps. Ihemelu remains sidelined with concussion-like symptoms. John's injury-enforced omission from Saturday night's 3-3 draw at San Jose robbed Dallas of the physical presence required to combat the robust Supporters' Shield favorites.
It would prove somewhat fitting for one last injury to derail FCD's playoff ambitions, but Hyndman and his players will hope that John recovers quickly from his right ankle sprain to ensure his absence won't cripple those dreams and underscore why Dallas is in this position in the first place.
FCD may have picked up a point at Buck Shaw Stadium against the Western Conference leaders, but Hyndman's side remains outside the top ten in this week's edition of the FOX Soccer MLS Power Rankings.
19. TORONTO FC: Good teams would have struggled to contain Thierry Henry on Saturday night. The Reds? They simply had no chance.
18. CHIVAS USA: A dreadful run to close the season likely means changes beckon for the Red-and-White. The real question: did Robin Fraser and Greg Vanney ever really have a chance to succeed at that dysfunctional club?
17. PORTLAND TIMBERS: Mr. Paulson? Commissioner Garber is on line one for you. And he doesn't sound particularly happy.
16. COLORADO RAPIDS: One of the highlights of the season in Commerce City: David Beckham showed up on Sunday night. It's been that kind of year for the Rapids.
15. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION: The recent run of success in Houston couldn't survive a wet second half in The Oven.
14. PHILADELPHIA UNION: Jack McInerney's scooped finish provided a positive memory from an otherwise frustrating and referee-marred defeat at Crew Stadium.
13. MONTREAL IMPACT: What will the Impact do with Alessandro Nesta next year?
12. FC DALLAS: Like more than a few teams this season, FCD found itself mere moments away from clinching the points against San Jose. It's hard to say that a draw at Buck Shaw Stadium represents two dropped points, but Steven Lenhart's late equalizer cost Dallas a chance to control its playoff destiny.
11. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS: Oh, Camilo. Can't miss those kind of game-winning chances at the death when your team is battling for its postseason future.
10. COLUMBUS CREW: The fans at Crew Stadium probably didn't care one iota about the staggering absence of an offside call on Milovan Mirosevic's winning goal on Saturday night. The folks in Chicago, Houston, New York and Washington might have a few words for the assistant referee, though.
9. HOUSTON DYNAMO: Dominic Kinnear returned to his tried and true 4-4-2 after a poor performance in Philadelphia last Sunday. The switch reaped the necessary results in a soggy 2-0 over New England on Saturday night.
8. D.C. UNITED: A point at JELD-WEN Field won't hurt the playoff cause too much.
7. REAL SALT LAKE: Álvaro Saborío bolstered his under-the-radar (and ultimately futile with Chris Wondolowski involved) MVP campaign with a hat trick in RSL's 4-0 victory over hapless Chivas USA.
6. CHICAGO FIRE: The disappointment and the frustration from the 2-0 defeat at Sporting Kansas City on Friday night could melt away if the Fire win its game in hand over Philadelphia on Wednesday.
5. SEATTLE SOUNDERS: The lingering inability to cope with a direct and physical approach doesn't bode well for Seattle's lofty postseason aspirations.
4. NEW YORK RED BULLS: If Henry can replicate his devastating performance against TFC on a couple of postseason occasions and his teammates can actually start a match in the proper fashion, then the Red Bulls may just find a way to end that imposing title drought after all.
3. LOS ANGELES GALAXY: Beckham's return somehow manages to strengthen the Galaxy's in-form attack. His diagonal service from deep in midfield supplements an increasingly diverse array of supply lines.
2. SPORTING KANSAS CITY: Peter Vermes' side officially joined the postseason party and extended its unbeaten run to nine games with a 2-0 victory over Chicago on Friday night.
1. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES: The one concern for Frank Yallop heading into the postseason: can his team continue to conjure up these late miracles when it matters most?