FC Dallas' first big test of the season arrives this Saturday when Seattle Sounders FC journey to Frisco. As you will recall, Seattle advanced past FCD in the 2014 MLS Cup playoffs on away goal technicality. This is the first match up since. Both teams will be without some key players due to the FIFA international break.
Dave Clark from Sounder at Heart joins us for this week's SBN Q&A:
Big D Soccer-1) In addition to the international break, Sounders are dealing with an international friendly midweek. What's up with that?
Sounder at Heart: I guess it's better to a have a friendly when it doesn't interfere too much with league play. Last weekend the Sounders were mostly off, so it's not like the first teamers are exhausted. They were only mostly off though because Sounders 2 played their inaugural match. Players that played in Saturday's USL match down on loan also featured in the friendly against Tijuana Xolos. The first team saw some action too, at least those that were healthy and present. Sounders drew Xolos 2-2. I'd like to tell you more but the game wasn't on TV, nor was it supposed to be streamed.
BDS-2) Similar to FC Dallas, Seattle had more players outgoing than incoming to the roster since MLS Cup 2014. What changes were made to best help Seattle lift silverware in 2015?
SaH: It was a light offseason. The only upgrade was at backup keeper where Troy Perkins replaces Marcus Hahnemann. Tyrone Mears came in to replace DeAndre Yedlin. Mears is basically what Yedlin will be when he's older. Mears still has some speed, gets forward a bunch, but reads opposing attacks well so is a better defender.
The biggest changes that Seattle will count on is a very active youth movement. Andy Rose is the eldest of the youth movement that includes Rose, Generation Adidas players Damion Lowe and Cristian Roldan, Homegrown Players Aaron Kovar, Darwin Jones and Victor Mansaray and draftees Jimmy Ockford and Oniel Fisher. Sigi Schmid is leaning heavily on those kids. Early signs are that it can work. They are playing matches with both S2 and the 1st team.
Brad Evans is now a centerback. That's a pretty big deal. He's early in the learning cycle with more significant mistakes than significant successes. If the shift to CB makes sense he will be a ball control defender who dominates in the air. If it doesn't expect more 3-2 games.
BDS-3) Can you tell FCD fans more about the 10 year commitment to keep the Sounders at Century Link Field - any soccer specific terms of the agreement? CLink seems to be the best location and fit; was there real talk of any feasible alternative home?
SaH: There is a now a contractual arrangement that the FieldTurf will be replaced every four years, if not sooner. The last deal made each replacement up to negotiations. This isn't ideal. The surface is already three years old and looks horrible. It plays like crap too. A good artificial surface is probably better than some of the grass fields in MLS. Seattle doesn't have that.
It is possible that Sounders were looking at a new stadium, but there aren't a lot of good choices. It basically comes down to connected suburbs like Bellevue or Tukwila, being inside an industrial wasteland or remodeling CenturyLink. I expect the CLink remodel to happen when the Seahawks wind up out in the burbs for their used 10 times a year palace that gets built in 2025 or something.
Frei; Gonzalez, Marshall, Evans, Azira; Kovar, Pineda, Roldan, Rose; Neagle, Martins
That's a real absorb and counter-punch thing, but there are injuries to Alonso, Dempsey and Mears while Pappa is away with Guatemala.
Thanks to Dave for answering those questions. There is so valuable information there. He said that the patched lineup is designed to absorb and counter-punch. I will be interesting to see how FCD matches against some of their own medicine. Several of FCD's goals so far this season have come on the counter attack. Now let's review my answers to Dave's questions ...
SaH-1 - So, yes, the international break is stupid. Tell us how stupid it is for the FC Dallas roster?
BDS- It's pretty stupid. Blas Perez is the highest profile international on the FCD roster, but the team will also miss Moises Hernandez (Guatemala), Je-Vaughn Watson (Jamaica), and Kyle Bekker (Canada). Out of a possible 270 minutes played in 2015 so far, Hernandez has 270 and Perez has 259. Bekker only has 12 minutes in 2 substitute appearances, but we see him becoming a more integrated part of the team going forward. Watson has no minutes in 2015, but that was due to contract negotiations going beyond the start of the season. He will play significant minutes this year. This match against Seattle might have been his 2015 debut if not for the break.
All that being said, FC Dallas will sorely miss leading goal scorer Perez and defensive starter Hernandez this weekend. The offensive stable should offer a satisfactory replacement for Blas, likely Hollingshead and/or Texiera. David Texeira has been marketed as a Seattle killer since most or all of his 4 goals last year came against the Sounders. Between you and me, however, I think it's going to take a hell of a lot more than 4 goals to put down the rave green. I think he gets at least a sub appearance on Saturday to try to add to that tally. Without Hernandez, we will see how Pareja shifts the backline. Loyd could go back to rightback with Zimmerman coming in at centerback, or we may see Acosta make his 2015 return at outside back. Either way, this international break will guarantee that somebody gets their first minutes of 2015 on the last weekend of March.
SaH-2 - What is Dallas doing to better integrate their HGPs into the first team? Which of those will get a good run Saturday?
BDS: Oscar Pareja's philosophy is simple. He is going to play the HGPs like any other player. Every player on the roster is expected to contribute when called upon. The depth chart has been established and will be used when injuries, call-ups, suspensions, whatever make someone unavailable. This is different from the previous coach's stance which was to shift players out of position rather than call on his young HGPs.
Of the 5 players that have played every minute of 2015, 2 of them are HGPs: Moises Hernandez and Victor Ulloa. We might see Kellyn Acosta called upon since Hernandez will be with Guatemala. I don't think any of the other HGPs are close to first team minutes. They are more likely to be sent to Arizona soon to play with the USL affiliate.
SaH-3 - Does the team feel more Oscar Pareja-y than last year?
BDS: I would say so. The roster is very young and very fast. The product of the offseason is that the bulk of the roster has stayed together. The new signings are all CONCACAF or South American players. Atiba Harris was with FCD when OP was assistant coach. OP brought Harris to Colorado, and now he's brought Harris back to FCD. Harris is versatile, and at 30 years old, a veteran with solid MLS experience.
So what does "Oscar Pareja-y" mean? It would indicate a team built around youth development, draft picks and academy products. There is a real depth chart and each of those players will be called upon by end of the season. A lot of emphasis is put upon team building and chemistry between players.
Dan Kennedy, Stephen Keel, Coy Craft (injury)
Perez, Watson, Hernandez, Bekker (international call-ups)
Seitz, Acosta, Loyd, Hedges, Harris, Michel, Ulloa, Hollingshead, Diaz, Castillo, Akindele
That's it for this week. What is your prediction for the match? Do you think FC Dallas can keep winning, or does Seattle deliver the first draw or loss?