Seattle enters this match on a bit of a hot streak, winning three out of their last four games after their slow 0-3-2 start to the season. Last week was a good one for the Sounders as they knocked off Sporting KC on the road and then followed that up with a 4-0 blowout win at home over the San Jose Earthquakes.
Dallas is 1-2-1 all-time in the regular season at Seattle.
FC Dallas Notes:
Starting strong. Until last weekend against D.C. United, FC Dallas hadn't allowed any first half goals all season. In fact, the club hadn't been scored on before the 68th minute this season until that free kick goal. To go back a step further, even if the injury and suspension ridden season of 2012, FC Dallas only gave up 12 goals in the opening half. So, in a stretch of nearly 50 games, the club has only given up 13 goals in the first half. That is impressive to say the least.
Michel's involvement. It has been noted time and time again but it is worth mentioning once more. Michel has been involved in nine of FC Dallas 18 goals this season. It is a shame the MLS stats folks have only counted him for a couple assists though. His free kick services has been the difference maker and will be a factor for Dallas once again on the road in this game.
Shots on target. Currently, FC Dallas ranks third in shots on target with 56 shots on goal this season as a team. In total, the club has 136 total shots this season, making the percentage of those on target at 41%. With 18 of those going in that is a pretty solid rate of return for the offense that struggled last season. Only Real Salt Lake and the Portland Timbers have put more shots on target this season but neither have scored as many as FCD has.
The rough start to the season for the Sounders has been noted. Going 0-3-2 to begin the year had people wondering what was going on with Sigi Schmid's team. Personally, I never doubted them with all that talent. Injuries and the CONCACAF Champions League schedule early on complicated their early season form but once all of that settled down the Rave Green began to turn it on.
Last week was evidence enough that this won't be an easy game for FC Dallas. Seattle beat a good KC team on the road followed up with a blowout win over last year's Supporters' Shield winners (San Jose).
Lately the Sounders have been getting more production out of their key guys like Mauro Rosales, Eddie Johnson, Obafemi Martins, Steve Zakuani and Osvaldo Alonso. The attack has been stronger with Rosales getting his old habits back and with Alonso pushed up the field a little more. The Cuban isn't playing a play maker role in the middle of the park but what he is doing is bringing his enforcer role mentality a little further up the field. That is causing all sorts of issues for other clubs as guys on the wings are more involved than ever.
Defensively, the Sounders might have one of the leagues' best goal keepers in Michel Gspurning. The man just commands his box and has been able to get a good turn around from his defense after the slow start.
Projected Seattle lineup:
Goalkeeper: Michael Gspurning; RB: DeAndre Yedlin; CB: Zach Scott, Djimi Traore; LB: Leonardo Gonzalez; RM: Mauro Rosales; CM: Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans; LM: Steve Zakuani; FW: Eddie Johnson, Lamar Neagle
Schmid employs a fairly straight forward 4-4-2 formation that sometimes goes into a diamond midfield.
Keys to three points:
Frustrate Alonso. This cannot be overstated. If you frustrate the Cuban in the midfield, and force him into mistakes, you'll stand a good chance at winning this game. Dallas needs to focus in on winning the ball as much as they can. Alonso wins so many balls in the midfield, it is ridiculous. Someone like Michel or Andrew Jacobson have to step up and win the bulk of the 50-50 balls in this one.
Work it wide but also defend wide. This one is a two prong approach. As much as I preach about getting the ball wide and what it does for Dallas, they also have to defend wide as well. Seattle has scored a decent amount of their balls from the wings this season and you can bet they will be looking to do more of the same this weekend with George John out of action. The wide game is truly their bread and butter in my book and if you eliminate their chances wide, you slow down their attack.
That also means if say Fabian Castillo starts out wide, he has to track back and defend more. Same with Je-Vaughn Watson.
Set pieces. If Dallas has one area that they can win a game at with it is set pieces. Michel's service, like I said above, is a big reason why the club sits at 7-1-3 on the season. The club has plenty of big bodies that will cause Seattle issues if they get the number of set pieces that they are use to here this season. That means the skill players out wide like Jackson, Castillo, Kenny Cooper or even Watson need to do what they can to cause Seattle to foul them in the offensive third. If David Ferreira goes, he will likely be fouled a few times in this one, which is both good and bad of course.
I won't lie, I am not overly confident in this one for FC Dallas. As good as they've played this one just looks like a game that will cause them fits. If it were played on grass I may feel differently because that would likely have meant that John would have made the trip as well.
Saying all of that I do think a draw is a possibility here as well. Thankfully the mindset of this club is very different than that of last year's bunch. They know they can win games and get points in difficult spots. They've shown pretty well on the road so far this season too, so they know it can be done. I'm hoping for a draw but I'm expecting a loss.
Seattle 2, Dallas 1