The San Jose Earthquakes avoided matching their longest winless streak of the season with their most lopsided victory of 2012 last week. Now, they'll look to solidify their MLS lead when they take on an FC Dallas club that's played strong defense during a four-game unbeaten run.
The Earthquakes face Dallas for the second time in three games as they try to continue their home dominance in the series Wednesday night.
San Jose (12-4-4) played Dallas to a scoreless draw July 7, failing to break through as Dallas twice cleared the ball off its goal line and Kevin Hartman made spectacular saves on Shea Salinas and Chris Wondolowski in the final 10 minutes.
That left the Earthquakes on the verge of tying their season high of three straight games without a victory, but they convincingly averted that Saturday. Wondolowski recorded a hat trick to give him a league-best 17 goals as San Jose defeated Real Salt Lake 5-0.
Wondolowski, held to three goals in his previous seven games, earned MLS player of the week honors.
The victory moved the Earthquakes four points up on Salt Lake in the Western Conference. San Jose can further expand its lead Wednesday in advance of Salt Lake's next contest this weekend, but the league's highest-scoring team will take on a Dallas club that has been tough to crack defensively of late.
Dallas (4-7-9) has given up two goals in going 1-0-3 in its last four and earned its first victory in 14 games Saturday, 2-1 over Colorado. Fabian Castillo's goal in the 81st minute put Dallas in the win column for the first time since April 14.
"Once we start collecting more wins then we can start thinking about celebrating," said Castillo, who also assisted on Carlos Rodriguez's tying goal in the 60th.
Hartman has only faced 12 shots over the last four games after opponents put 36 on goal in the previous six. Dallas went 0-5-1 in that stretch as Hartman allowed 12 goals.
"We're a group that really works hard and it has been disappointing to put together a winless streak as long as it was," Hartman said after the victory. "There hasn't been a lot of rewarding ourselves lately, so to have gotten a win in a very difficult environment tonight, it means a lot to us."
San Jose has proved to be a challenging environment for Dallas to earn victories, going 1-2-4 in its last seven there. The Earthquakes won 4-2 on Oct. 22 in the last matchup at Buck Shaw Stadium, with Simon Dawkins scoring twice for San Jose.
Dallas has been shut out in four of those last seven road meetings and is 1-1-7 away from home this season.
Wondolowski had recorded three goals in the previous two matchups with Dallas before he was denied by Hartman on July 7. One of the shots Dallas cleared off the goal line also came from Wondolowski.