Sunday’s game can’t get here soon enough as we get FC Dallas back in action for the first time in this year’s MLS Cup Playoffs. Just like in previous games we welcome in a fellow network blog to get a sense of what our opponents bring to the match. Today we get Dave Clark from Sounder at Heart to help preview our game.
BDS: How does Seattle approach this series after a pretty rough Knockout Round game on Thursday night? Is there any concern about tired legs going into the first leg?
SaH: Coach Brian Schmetzer is not a fan of squad rotation for fitness reasons. Part of what has powered the Sounders through this run is consistency in lineups. The changes have been due to suspension or injury, even though several older players were probably not at 100% fitness. The only spot where Schmetz could insert relatively equal talent is in the midfield where Brad Evans could start instead of either Erik Friberg or Alvaro Fernandez. Either change leads to a slightly stronger defense. That move also makes sense due to the away goals tie-breaker. What both sides learned last year is to not give up even a single away goal.
BDS: What does Seattle expect to take from the three games against Dallas this season? Do they focus more on what they learned in the previous meeting or do they dig deeper from those other two meetings?
SaH: The amount of change both sides went through over the season reduces the ability to use the earlier matches for scouting. On top of that Seattle under Schmetzer is not reactive. They look to play their style and force other teams to adjust. They will be pacey, apply intermittent high pressure, surge their central midfielders into the attack and be stout in the back generally allowing shots from distance. If there is a bit of focus from any of the previous games it will be a reminder of marking the undead, I mean Carlos Ruiz. Just as Wondo's caused them issues at times, Ruiz can float into space and punish them.
Rosales' service will be well known, which might reduce their fouling within 35 yards. Both teams have a lot of large bodies on set-pieces, but Dallas has had the better of those circumstances than the Sounders.
BDS: Who is the one x-factor for the Sounders in this series?
SaH: I'm going to cheat and pick someone that everyone knows, but who hasn't been on the score sheet for a while. If the Sounders are going to head to Frisco with a multi-goal lead they need the Nico that wowed MLS in his first two months here. Back then he netted 3 goals and earned all 8 assists he has on the year. Since then he's played five MLS games (1 of those last night) and only has a single goal, no assists and only nine shots. For the Sounders to make it to MLS Cup they need Lodeiro at his best. The little guys stepping up is neat, but this is one of the league's best players. It's time for him to expand on his status and become a legend.
Predicted lineup: Stefan Frei; Joevin Jones, Chad Marshall, Roman Torres, Tyrone Mears; Osvaldo Alonso, Cristian Roldan; Alvaro Fernandez, Nicolas Lodeiro, Brad Evans; Jordan Morris