Decision Day: The Earthquakes have reached the moment of truth. All the roster fluctuations, the crazy calls, the lockdown defense, and the mesmerizing 1-on-1 battles have led them to this place: Toyota Stadium, home of dangerous FC Dallas. The Earthquakes need a win or a tie and some help to secure their first playoff berth since 2012. The task is daunting but doable for coach Dominic Kinnear's tough-to-crack side. FC Dallas, the Western Conference champion, can earn the Supporters' Shield for the first time with a win or draw, provided the New York Red Bulls don't match the feat. FC Dallas has won its past four home games by a combined 10-2. A Quakes victory coupled with any of the following will get the job done: Seattle loss/tie against Real Salt Lake; Portland loss to Colorado; Sporting Kansas City loss/tie to the LA Galaxy. The Quakes can also inch across the red line with a draw and a SKC defeat. SKC did San Jose a favor by falling to Colorado on Wednesday. There is a certain symmetry to Sunday's game because the same teams met in Frisco to kick off the season, with FC Dallas prevailing 1-0. The teams drew 0-0 in June at Avaya Stadium, when three players were sent off, the Quakes' JJ Koval and Mark Sherrod and FCD's Je-Vaughn Watson.
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Centrally focused: The Quakes have shown great depth and resilience on the back line all season. Right back Marvell Wynne filled in for Victor Bernardez in the crucial 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City on Oct. 16, marking the seventh Quake to start at center back this season. Cordell Cato and Shaun Francis have been solid on-call out wide, and rookie Fatai Alashe has filled in admirably at center back. San Jose has allowed only 37 goals overall, the third fewest surrendered in the conference and the league. GK David Bingham has worked 12 shutouts in his debut season as a starter, tying Pat Onstad's season shutout club record. This week, center backs Clarence Goodson and Victor Bernardez are together again. Young Alashe and Marc Pelosi, back from a one-game suspension, could play key roles in the middle against the explosive Dallas attack. Panamanian international Anibal Godoy, the hero in a 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City, is out serving a one-game suspension.
Captain Wondo, road warrior: Chris Wondolowski has scored 10 of his 16 goals this season on the road, and the U.S. international will enter Sunday's huge game in good form. He has a goal or an assist in seven of the last 10 matches, dating to Aug. 19. Wondo, Matias Perez Garcia (4 game-winning assists; 82 fouls suffered) and Quincy Amarikwa (78 fouls suffered) will combat a strong FC Dallas defense. Wondo had his first assist of the season against SKC, and it was a beauty: a one-touch cross to Godoy off a nice cross from Shea Salinas. Wondo is the only player in MLS history to amass 20 career goals in the month of October. Now he needs one or two more in Frisco. Speedy Fabian Castillo leads Dallas with nine goals and eight assists, and his opposite wing Michael Barrios has been highly effective in the second half of the season.