SEATTLE - MAY 25: Jhon Kennedy Hurtado #34 of the Seattle Sounders FC dribbles against Ruben Luna #34 of FC Dallas at Qwest Field on May 25, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. FC Dallas defeated the Sounders 1-0. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
I traded three questions with the great Dave Clark of Sounder at Heart, the flagship SBN MLS blog. Always a great exchange...read and learn.
1) Just one goal allowed in the last 5 games for Seattle. What has been the key to the defensive success and where do you see their weakness?
Besides having the best defensive midfielder in the league in Osvaldo Alonso Sigi Schmid may be using the rotation of defenders in order to maximize their efficiency and drive. With Alonso Seattle has a premier tackler as well as interceptor. He covers ground so well. Even though he gets into the attack more this season than years past, you won't really notice openings upfield, unless they are driven balls low to the ground. A lofted attempt to get passed him is often slow enough to allow the shape to be maintained.
Along the backline the mix is deep. In that depth Schmid can pick which style of players fit best tactically - say Zach Scott against Brek Shea. With seven players capable of starting for a majority of games on a majority of teams, yes, even Scott, some could worry about players getting out of sorts. Each is driven to perform at their peak or lose a starting spot. With an abundance of games in the month (and the season) all will play, while scraping their way to being the best defensive side the Sounders have yet to put forward. Now they are even succeeding with the "4th" keeper on the team.
Bryan Meredith was drafted 29th in 2011. He was beaten out by latter pick Josh Ford. By the end of 2011 he was a key piece of the Kitsap Pumas PDL championship team. Injuries to Ford and Terry Boss meant that he earned a start in the CCL Group Stage. Injuries to Gspurning, Andrew Weber and Ford mean that he'll start again.
If you want to break the defense I would go with quick flank counters and low entry balls that force Meredith to react. That might work, but at this point nothing really is for the opposition.
2) What is the status of Mauro Rosales for Wednesday’s game? Do you anticipate that he starts again and how does the team change when he’s out there? I certainly remember his game-winner in Frisco last year.
Rosales is a bit iffy, but entirely because of the two match week, after a two match week. If this was a one off he could probably play through the pain in his bruised ankle. The Sounders may be deep enough to not start him, nor Alvaro Fernandez. Fans would be more confident if at least one takes the pitch against Dallas. Seattle is a much different team with Mauro on the field. If he starts, he certainly won't finish the match.
3) How has our old buddy Eddie Johnson got on with the Sounders since joining them this pre-season? Is he a guy that could pop up and score the winner tomorrow?
EJ will start. He was rested against Philly as he's still getting to a fitness level where he can play as much as Seattle's May (8 games in total, 9 in 32 days) require. His ball work and physique are still what a Dallas or KC fan would expect, but those aren't where he's getting his goals. His first in Rave Green was a classic poached goal and his second was a simple read of centerbacks and knowledge that Rosales could hit the perfect cross.
EJ's flair may be fun to watch, but what will make him special in Seattle will be his ability to mesh tactically with Montero and Rosales. If he does that he'll notch at least 10 goals on the season and be on the short list as a Comeback Player of the Year.
Bonus!: Tell us about a Sounders player that we may not know who could make a big impact on Wednesday.
Alex Caskey - he's been used as a right mid and left mid, occupying spaces similar to Lamar Neagle in 2011. His dead ball service is quite good and he'll shoot from distance generally on frame. Caskey is energetic pursuing turnovers and trying to create a new opportunity for Seattle. His positioning isn't the strongest, but he can cause enough trouble for a player drafted 47th and then developed down in the USL Pro with the Charleston Battery.
And his questions for me:
1) Now that the drama about George John has faded into the background is FC Dallas' defense better for him getting regular playing time?
George is definitely getting back to the level that had him mentioned in the elite echelon of MLS center backs. It’s been a rocky 12 months for the Washington Husky graduate who obviously was looking to make a move to England and finally did this winter with West Ham, but things didn’t really go as planned with John not even making one first team appearance.
2) Dallas has a largish batch of HGPs on the roster. I'm counting Levya, Luna, Sanchez and Top and probably missing a few. How many of these are contributing to the First Team from the quality of their play?
They’ve all kind of had their little runs. Leyva started two games earlier this season while Shea was gone, but a twisted ankle slowed his progress a few weeks ago. Top, who could be the starting forward for the US U20 world cup team in 2013, has enjoyed a breakout 2012 that saw him make his MLS debut a couple weeks ago, and I could certainly see him making the bench on Wednesday with Blas Perez out.
3) With Blas Perez out with a Red who plays up top? How does that change the 4-1-4-1?
It’s very tough to know exactly with only one real practice before the game, but I’d anticipate FC Dallas to move to the 4-4-2 that they played against Real Salt Lake, the other game that Blas Perez missed. It had Scott Sealy and Fabian Castillo up top, Sealy the guy who holds the ball up better while Castillo is the speedster that is capable of the spectacular, but also makes plays that make you want to pull your hair out. We all remind ourselves on a daily basis that Castillo is still just 19.
The biggest problem with the 4-4-2 is you have Andrew Jacobson and probably James Marcelin for this match in the middle with Daniel Hernandez out. That central midfield combination, while solid defensively, presents a huge hole right in the spot where a #10 would traditionally sit. I worry that Ozzie Alonso will have a field day to move up the pitch and get involved in the attack as the midfield will be keying on Rosales.