FC DALLAS (13-11-4) vs. CHIVAS USA (15-6-6)
Thursday, 9 pm ET, ESPN2
FCD has the home-field advantage, yet in addition to Ruiz's suspension, it will be missing defender Clarence Goodson (hamstring), Pablo Richetti (groin) and Marcelo Saragosa (knee).
Goodson hobbled off during last week's 3-1 victory over the Crew that clinched a playoff spot. FCD rallied from a 1-0 halftime deficit with an Arturo Alvarez equalizer and two late strikes by Abe Thompson, who, when paired with Dominic Oduro up front, gives FCD a frightening amount of pace and movement. Keeper Ray Burse held off a fusillade of Columbus shots until his teammates got into the swing and equalized three minutes into the second half.
The move of Adrian Serioux from the back line to midfield has added to Coach Steve Morrow's selection woes, yet his range allows Juan Toja and Denilson to find spots where they can be effective. Serioux might be needed in the back with Goodson injured, or Drew Moor could fill in as he did last week when Bobby Rhine replaced Goodson and played right back. Defender Alex Yi is doubtful because of back spasms and suffered a concussion after playing just 17 minutes as a sub in the Open Cup final Oct. 3.
Ramon Nunez, who scored for Dallas in the July 4 game before being traded to Chivas USA, has been called to the Honduran national team and won't be available to face the team that benched him. Oduro scored a late clincher for FCD in that game.
Chivas USA beat Real Salt Lake, 3-2, last week despite missing Maykel Galindo (suspended) and Ante Razov (hamstring). Laurent Merlin and rookie John Cunliffe started up top and Cunliffe scored twice, with the first goal coming on a feed from Merlin. The victory improved Chivas USA's road record to 5-6-3, fifth best in the league.
Razov and Galindo are the likely starters against Dallas. In the first meeting, Galindo broke open a goalless game by stripping Toja of the ball and nailing a 30-yarder, and Razov embarrassed keeper Dario Sala in stoppage by rolling home a shot from midfield with Sala stranded out of his net.
Dallas can still overhaul Houston for second place in the Western Conference and earn homefield advantage for the first playoff round. Yet it hasn't been all that much in Frisco (7-4-2). It is the only team to have scored fewer goals at home (17) than it has on the road (20), and has the poorest goal differential at home (plus 2) of any team that has clinched a playoff spot.
Since both teams could field a pair of attacking outside midfielders, whoever prevails in those duels is likely to win. Chivas USA's Francisco Mendoza and Sacha Kljestan are more defensively conscious than Denilson and Alvarez, and FCD has yet to find a dependable left back. Yet Denilson contributed at both ends of the field against New England in the Open Cup and if he lines up on the left could keep Kljestan and Co. very busy. And vice versa.