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Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Semifinal Matchday: FC Dallas at Seattle Sounders

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SEATTLE - MAY 25:  Brek Shea #20 of FC Dallas celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Seattle Sounders FC at Qwest Field on May 25, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
SEATTLE - MAY 25: Brek Shea #20 of FC Dallas celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Seattle Sounders FC at Qwest Field on May 25, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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The last and biggest game of Dallas' 3 game road trip takes place tonight at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, WA as FCD takes on Seattle Sounders FC in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Semifinal. The winner of tonight's match will face the winner of the other semifinal between Chicago Fire and Richmond Kickers. If Dallas wins, they will either host Richmond or travel to Chicago. The game will be broadcast live on Soundersfc.com and show on the TV's at Allen Wickers and Trinity Hall. 

Game notes

Starfire Fortress In reserve and Open Cup games, the Sounders are 14-0-0 at Starfire Sports Complex. It's a small stadium that seats a few thousand and becomes an absolute cauldron for the Sounders. Dallas has shown to be a team that plays well in hostile territories like El Salvador, Seattle and Mexico, but this could be a completely different animal. Sounder at Heart takes an in-depth look at the magic of Starfire.

Small pitch Starfire is 14 yards shorter than Qwest and 4 yards thinner. This will make a huge difference on the game as a Dallas team that likes to apply high pressure on the ball won't have to run quite as far, though over the top and through balls to Shea and others could be tougher. I think this smaller pitch will make set pieces absolutely essential as a Dallas midfield that loves to clog the center of the pitch should disrupt most of the offensive play. 

14 years It's been 14 years since Dallas won a trophy. While this is not the final, Seattle is obviously the toughest team left in the competition and knocking them out tonight would put Dallas on the doorstep of a first major trophy in forever and a return trip to the CONCACAF Champions League. Tonight is just huge for the club and with 11 days off after this, I think they'll give it every shot they have. 

Strange rules The Open Cup has some weird rules in that you're allowed 4 subs and there can only be 5 non-Americans in the starting lineup. 

Keep reading keys to the game and prediction

Keys to the game

Defensive cohesion For obvious reasons, the defensive cohesion has struggled without George John there. If they could play Toronto every week, things would be fine, but against competent teams like KC and Seattle, they've struggled allowing 3 sloppy goals in 3 games. I'm not worried at all about John and Ugo's ability to step right back in together and work, and they must tonight in the pressure-cooker of Starfire.

Dig Deep Saturday night was a very memorable night for the club and they need to dig deep for just 90+ more minutes and get this one done. If it means starting fresh players like Jackson and Danny Cruz, then Schellas must do that but guys like Daniel Hernandez, Ricardo Villar and Brek Shea need to summon whatever energy they have left in this one.

Prediction

I'm feeling good about this one. There's guys like Cruz, Jackson and John that can provide fresh legs while I think captain Hernandez will be able to rally the troops for one more go at this thing. These two teams are incredibly even matched as we've seen in the two 1-0 results when they've met this year. I think this one goes all the way to penalty kicks and I'll take my chances with Kevin Hartman. 

1-1 Draw(Dallas wins 4-3 on PK)