Discover more from Big D Soccer
Behind Enemy Lines: Scouting Seattle Sounders 🔎
Can FC Dallas pull off an upset in the first game of Round One?
The playoffs are finally here as FC Dallas is getting ready to take on the Seattle Sounders in the first game of the new Round One format of the MLS Cup Playoffs.
This will be a different format than previous playoff matches. It isn’t a single elimination. it isn’t an aggregate goal series, either. It is a simple win two out of three games and advance1.
This is the sixth time FC Dallas has faced the Sounders in the playoffs, with Seattle winning the last three (2016, 2019, 2020).
Let’s dive into how FC Dallas can find a win over the Sounders in Game One.
Key Player: Raúl Ruidíaz
While it is possible we see Ruidiaz off the bench more in this series, he is the perfect playoff villain for the Sounders. Ruidiaz has nine goals and six assists in 11 career playoff matches, including scoring a goal and recording two assists against FC Dallas in 2019.
Bonus player to not sleep on: Josh Atencio
Atencio has emerged as João Paulo's preferred partner in the defensive midfield as of late, and the Sounders are 3-0-1 in the last four starts for him.
Key Matchup: Alan Rusnak vs Asier Illarramendi
If you didn’t realize it by now, as an FC Dallas follower/fan, Illarrmendi is absolutely vital to how well this club will do in the playoffs. If he is able to lockdown what Rusnak is able to do on and off the ball, it could go a long way in keeping the pace and tempo in the way that FC Dallas wants to have for this series.
Current form: The Sounders enter the playoffs on a nine-match unbeaten run (W4 D5), tied with FC Dallas for the longest active streak in MLS. This is Seattle’s longest unbeaten run in all competitions since going 13 straight without defeat to open the 2021 season.
Recent run against FC Dallas: Including playoffs, Seattle is unbeaten in 17 straight home MLS matches against FC Dallas (W13 D4) dating back to 2012. Only three teams have longer home unbeaten runs against a single opponent in MLS history (incl. playoffs): New England (20 straight from 2002-13) vs. New York, Real Salt Lake (18 straight from 2007-19) vs. Colorado and San Jose (18 straight from 2001-16) vs. Kansas City.
Questionable: Reed Baker-Whiting (hamstring)2
International duty: none
Weirdly, Seatle doesn’t have a long injury report going into the playoffs. It will come down more to who is in form rather than who is or isn’t healthy.
Frei; Nouhou, Ragen, Yeimar, A. Roldan; Baker-Whiting, Joao Paulo; C. Roldan, Rusnak, Loderio, Morris
Keys To Three Points over Seattle
Don’t wait around - The best of three series requires a winner in every game. The lack of aggregate scoring also plays a factor here, as you just need to win two games. There really is no need to sit back and wait to get into this game if you are FC Dallas. Set the tone early and show that you belong in these playoffs.
Defend the wings - I put this in the two previous scouting reports of the Sounders, but if FC Dallas wants to escape this series, they are going to have to do a better job at locking down the wings that the Sounders love to work through in their attack. Leo Chu always does an excellent job of carving up the defense along the wings, as does Jordan Morris. Each does a good job of setting up other guys in their attack. If FC Dallas can manage the wide play well in this series, they could keep the Sounders attack at bay enough to escape.
Manage the game - While it would be awesome to see them put together another first half like we saw in LA last weekend, I wouldn’t anticipate that against a stellar defense like the Sounders. FC Dallas has to find a way to manage this entire game on the road. If they go up a goal early, they cannot bunker for the remainder of the game and hope for the best like we’ve seen a few times in the regular season.
Reminder: there are no more ties. If the score is tied at the end of regulation, the game goes directly to penalties.
Our friends at SaH had that update: https://www.sounderatheart.com/2023/10/reed-baker-whiting-will-likely-miss-at-least-two-playoff-games/