SANTA CLARA -- Victor Bernardez has a broken nose, Matias Perez Garcia is wearing a smile, and the Earthquakes' body language is good heading into Saturday night's showdown against FC Dallas at Buck Shaw Stadium.

"We're looking forward to playing at home against a good Dallas team and getting another three points," coach Mark Watson said confidently.

San Jose (6-8-6, 24 points) has beaten third-place FC Dallas (10-7-6, 36) twice by 2-1 scores this season but needs to hold serve at home with road games looming next week at Seattle and Philadelphia.

Perez Garcia, basking in the glow of MLS after a pressure-packed life as a pro in Argentina, is poised to make his home debut. His road debut was a smasher. In a 2-2 draw with the Los Angeles Galaxy on Aug. 8, he became the ninth player to score in his first game as a Quake.

"We're looking for him to be that game-changing guy, and so far he's 1 for 1," defender Jason Hernandez said of Perez Garcia, who is fronting central midfielders Sam Cronin and Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi and playing off star forward Chris Wondolowski.

Bernardez looked even more menacing than usual in practice this week, wearing a mask after a nasty aerial collision in the 70th minute against Los Angeles. He had surgery Tuesday.

"Phantom of the Opera," defender Jordan Stewart joked of Bernardez's new look.

"It would take more than that to keep him off the field," Watson added. "I don't know if he feels pain. He had to have surgery from a functional point of view, but it's gonna take more than that to keep him off the field."


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Bernardez seems to epitomize the grit of a back line that has overcome a turnstile of players coming and going because of injuries and national team commitments to rank among the league's best units. The Quakes have surrendered only 22 goals in 20 games, and they're 2-0-2 in their past four games with the same quartet on defense: Shaun Francis at right back, Bernardez and Hernandez in the middle, and Stewart at left back.

Goalkeeper Jon Busch is tied for second in saves percentage at 74 percent.

Stylistically, the 5-foot-5 Perez Garcia plays well in tight spaces and can slow the pace in the often frantic MLS. Hernandez says he adds another "creative eye" in the attacking third.

"He can get on the ball and calm things down," Stewart said.

Perez Garcia didn't get many touches on the ball last week. The Quakes spent much of the game under siege against a potent Galaxy attack. He's still assimilating to the squad, on the field and off.

"From the moment I stepped on the field, I enjoyed it a lot, because it's different from Argentine soccer," he told MLSsoccer.com. "I was very calm before the game, waiting for my debut. Once I was on the field, I began to touch the ball and was feeling more comfortable and after that goal, that made me feel even calmer. It was a very tough game against a great rival that has great players."

Perez Garcia's production was timely with the absence of Yannick Djalo, who is expected to miss his second game because of a strained right quadriceps. Djalo wanted to play this week, but team trainers are opting on the side of caution in keeping him out, a club official said.

  • In the teams' meeting May 10, San Jose won despite playing a man down the entire second half, after Shea Salinas was ejected at Buck Shaw. The Quakes won at FC Dallas on May 31 on a thunderbolt by Pierazzi from 35 yards out.

    SaTurday's game
    FC Dallas (10-7-6) at Earthquakes (6-8-6), 7:30 p.m., CSNBA