Let’s just be honest — after getting knocked out of Concacaf Champions League on Wednesday, no one is really sure what kind of fire Seattle is going to bring for this game. I would normally say this is a bounce-back-get-your-heads-right kind of game. However, not only did the Sounders get knocked out from the CCL tournament, they literally were knocked out, with two head injuries to Will Bruin and Chad Marshall. Compound those injuries with the others on the roster, notably Nicolas Lodeiro and Jordan Morris. Add in playing on a short week and long travel schedule — FC Dallas may not see even half of the Sounders full strength lineup. In researching for this article, I have seen at least 4 different lineups put forth as possible combinations. Seriously, no one knows who is playing or how well it will go.
Deep dive into the Sounders
When the game finally gets under way, Seattle will most likely bunker down and counter. Being short-handed is one thing. Being short-handed (due to injuries), down your best defender (Marshall), best forward (Bruin), best winger (Morris), best overall player and playmaker (Lodeiro) and on the road is not a recipe for success. I am not as high on Roldan as some, but he is a solid player none the less. His partnership with Gustav Svensson will be the door to unlock for FC Dallas. Shuttling balls forward to Dempsey (if he plays) and Magnus Wolff Eikrem is Seattles only shot at creating offense. Sure, they will try to get down the sidelines against Cannon or Ned, but they really don’t have the personnel to trouble our defense if Dallas is playing right.
As for Dallas, this game should be all about possession and movement; passing around Seattle’s strong midfield and making them work to get the ball back. I expect Mosquera to work inside off his flank towards Mauro and play a lot of combinations with Diaz and Urruti. If Seattle’s outside backs lose their positional discipline tracking those Mosquera runs, Barrios Ned, and Cannon are going to have a field day down the flanks. If the outside backs stay home, Mosquera and Urruti are going to give Seattle’s new CB Kim Kee-Hee a proper MLS welcome. Before Wednesday, I was not nearly this optimistic about the game, but circumstances change when the other team loses all its best players. Seattle is still dangerous enough to win this game, but I think this game has set up well for Dallas to take advantage of a tired, injury-plagued team.
Santiago Mosquera vs Svensson or Roldan. Again, Mosquera is a drifter who likes to cut inside and work quick combinations with whoever is close by. Seattle will have to account for him with a defensive mid instead of someone from the backline. If Mosquera gets around the mids, he will, WILL, get behind Seattles backline eventually and be 1-v-1 with Frei. (Side note - the other key matchup will be Frei vs FC Dallas. He is more impressive every game and makes some of the most absurd saves you will see. My reason for being pessimistic of our chances boils down to our lack of finishing ability versus one of the best keepers in the league.)
Keys to the Game
1. Possession - Last game, Dallas was very sloppy in giving away possession all over the field. They will have to do better, front to back in playing good passes and giving each other outlets for when Seattle puts on the pressure. Working the ball side to side, pulling the Sounders out of position to create space in the middle will help spring our offense open.
2. Injuries - Not creating injuries (wink wink) but seeing how that affects the Sounders team. No one is even sure who is going to be starting for Seattle and that in and of itself can present problems for both teams. Keeping focused on the task at hand (possession and sound defense) will guide Dallas to victory.
3. Defensive Continuity - If there is anyone on Seattle I worry about, it is Clint Dempsey. His skill level and “trying s**t” philosophy are enough to win a game any day. Our defense will have it’s hands full keeping track of him if he plays this game. As we posted earlier this week in the Practice Report, Pareja spent a lot of time working with our back four plus Carlos Guezo covering awareness, through balls, and communication. Being aware and on alert of Dempsey is job number one for the defense.
As you may have noticed, I sound very confident about our chances in this game. Allow me to walk that confidence back a bit. Dallas has been gifted a golden opportunity through a bunch of circumstances out of its control to win this game. But it is not going to be a cake walk. Brian Schmetzer is a good tactician and I expect him to have a strong defensive plan in place to try and scrape by with a point. Bunkering back in their own half and making FC Dallas break down the wall is a smart plan considering our attacking misfortunes from last year. In fact, this year, Dallas hasn’t yet proven it can break a team down a bunkered team. Just look at our last CCL match. But in the end, I think Barrios or Mosquera is going to create an opportunity for Maxi to slot home at least one goal. Final call is 1-0 and three points for the Hoops.