The statistics say that Dallas is a bad team. On paper they are not really "in" the competition for a MLS Cup Playoffs spot. This is one of the cases where those systems can not accurately reflect how good FC Dallas is. They've recently gotten David Ferreira and George John back. In their last ten games they have 17 points to Seattle's 18. Things are different. Sigi Schmid on the Friday conference call was asked about why the Toros have improved and primarily it is the former MVP's return.
"It took him a few games to get back in the rhythm, but then his rhythm got better. With him, their team—everybody fits into places a little bit better, the structure seems to be a little better, and he’s obviously a player who has attacking abilities and passing abilities."
But it is more than that. Dallas has other people back - John and Blas Perez being the most notable. Daniel from over at BigDSoccer and like our own Oshan also the MLSSoccer.com writer for Dallas answers Three Questions to prepare you for the Sunday 4PM match on KONG 6/16/106.
SaH: How much has the return to health of a former MVP meant to Dallas? Is this a symbol that sometimes in soccer it can be about just one man?
BDS: With full respect to a bunch of players on the squad who have raised their game in the last month, the return of Ferreira has meant everything to Dallas. Two goals and six assists in 10 starts since returning to Dallas who is 5-3-2 in those starts with two of those three losses coming to Los Angeles who has been the only team that has figured out how to stop him.
Ferreira has completely changed the dynamic of the team as the formation is really built around him and Dallas looks pretty lost on offense without him. If Seattle allows Ferreira to receive the ball and turn on Sunday, he will kill them, but if the Sounds can limit him to receiving it with his back to goal and a man on him, it forces the Colombian to drop deeper where he's less dangerous.
I think one man can change a team like this not just because of his play, but because of the affect he has on the rest of his squad. The biggest of which has come to 20-year-old Colombian Fabian Castillo who had scored in three straight games before suffering an injury in Sunday's game at LA that will cause him to crucially miss this weekend's game.
SaH: The defense has gotten much better over the year and also mainly because of health. George John is back and playing well, but are there remaining issues on the backline?
BDS: Exactly, it's just been consistency that has allowed things to improve. When you change one or two pieces of your back four in almost every game, it's tough to get the cohesion together that is so crucial is stopping guys like Fredy Montero, Robbie Keane, etc....Right now, the back four du jour has been Jair Benitez, George John, rookie Matt Hedges and Zach Loyd.
After some concussion issues in the middle of the year, George has really recovered and is rounding back into the form that saw him rise to one of the best center backs in the league. I wouldn't say there are really any issues with the backline right now as John and Hedges have proved to be two towering center backs that almost never get beat in the air and, with games together under their belt, now have the communication of who steps up and who sits back.
SaH: Dallas is now playing HGPs in significant minutes. Who has been the best of this year's performers and was it always a matter of them just growing into the game?
BDS: Well I wouldn't say they're getting "Significant" minutes. It was really more just a ridiculous number of injuries that forced Schellas Hyndman's hand, but they have done a decent job of retaining their spots. Probably the best homegrown performer was Bryan Leyva who had a nice run through the middle of the season, while forwards Ruben Luna and Jon Top have both stepped up to score goals and provide important, high-quality minutes lately.
I wouldn't expect any of the homegrowns to make the bench for Sunday's game, however, as Ruben Luna has been loaned to the San Antonio Scorpions of NASL for their last few games while the return of Blas Perez to fitness has seen Top fall down the pecking order.
Projected Lineup - 41311 - Hartman - Benitez - John - Hedges - Loyd - de Guzman - Jacobson - Jackson - Shea - Ferreira - Perez
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BDS: Fredy Montero is arguably the hottest forward in the league right now and he killed Dallas earlier in the year with two goals as a sub. Having played significant minutes on Thursday in Trinidad, do you expect Montero to start and if not, talk about how well he's done as a substitute this year.
SaH: I expect he starts. He starts a lot, and plays a lot. Montero has 2400 all competitions minutes this year and is 13th behind Le Toux, Johnson, Wondo, Saborio, Cooper, Nyarko, Sene, Bruin, Keane, Boyd, Donovan and Pajoy for forwards (some hybrids) in MLS minutes. Somehow he earned a 'lazy' rep around MLS and the Sounders fanbase. Then all he does is play a lot, score a lot and now he tracks back and wins the ball. Only Osvaldo Alonso has more all comps minutes than Montero, so the indications are pretty strong that Montero will be putting his 11 goal, 5 assist in MLS body on the pitch.
And there's reason to think that he's not done with an August that saw him put 8 in the net in his 7 games played. Yes, he's a streak forward (they all are). But he's in middle of one of those streaks. He loves playing in hot weather and is generally a late season stud. In September 2011 he appeared in all 6 games (1 as a sub) and earned 5 goals, 1 assist in 492 minutes.
This is a team and player that is used to playing in many games (last year they tied the most all competitions games played in a single year by an MLS team). He isn't just used to it. He's a better player when he's playing a lot. It is not time to think that he's tired. Instead, it's time to think "How are we going to try to stop him this time?"
BDS: Schellas Hyndman said on Friday that when Seattle gets a DP that doesn't work out, they just find another one and I think that's been the case for Christian Tiffert. How has he done in his first month with the team and what kind of change has he brought to the Seattle midfield?
SaH: Sigi Schmid and Adrian Hanauer don't over commit to a player just because of their DP tag. In this case they didn't want to lose Alvaro Fernandez, instead they tried a few different roster tricks to keep him. MLS overruled those ideas, but they did want to add Tiffert without losing Fernandez.
The easiest way to describe Christian Tiffert is to take everything you like about Brad Davis (passing accuracy, vision, deadballs) and everything you like about Brad Evans (positional awareness, defense, role flexibility) and shove it into a German. That's a very useful player in this league. While he doesn't have the assist numbers yet that such a comp say he should, he's been quite useful. He's generally a one or two touch player who uses the ball to generate speed of play rather than a dribble. What may get overlooked the most about Tiffert is that he's a good tackler. He can go in hard and heavy when needed, doesn't mind the physical nature of MLS (seriously, a DP that doesn't care about that?) and he's always cold. Always. He wore long sleeves in Trinidad.
BDS: Something I've always been curious about is how Seattle fans feel about their team considering they've had obvious success in US Open Cup and CCL, but they've never won an MLS playoff series. If the Sounders don't get out of the playoff semifinal round again this year, does the pressure start to mount or is that not really a worry?
SaH: This is a tough question because there's a split in the fanbase. The diehards, like 80%+ that read SaH are happy with the team's overall performance and don't think the mini-season of the playoffs are more important than being 2nd best in the regular season, the best in the Open Cup and maybe the best not-RSL CCL team over the past 3+ years. It's a strong resume. This group still wants more.
Than there are the more traditional Seattle sports fans that only care about league play and league success. To them the Open Cup is cute, the CCL is a complete waste of time and the Playoff failures are baffling and a cause of anger. This group isn't as vocal on the nets, but they even have a sub group that thinks that Sigi & Adrian are both overmatched in MLS and don't deserve to be back in 2013.
For me if the team improves every year (they have) and qualifies for the next edition of the CONCACAF Champions League this year will be a win.
BDS: Bonus: It seems like every time Seattle plays Dallas, some no-name comes up big for the Sounders. What's a non-household name that could have a big impact on Sunday's match?
SaH: Watch for Brad Evans. Many seem to think he lost his starting job when Tiffert came along. Evans then went to the left mid role scored a goal and created other chances. He's never glamorous, but he gets things done. Now the things that he gets done are going up on the scoreboard.
Projected Lineup: Gspurning; Gonzalez, Ianni, Parke, Johansson; Alonso; Evans, Tiffert, Rosales; Montero, Johnson