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No Tougher Test - SSFC @ Houston Dynamo

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Let's test something this week. Sounders FC has a recent (last 5) form of 1-3-1 (0/8) and Houston has a 2-2-1 (7/7) form in the same stretch of league play. Recent form would make you think that Houston is a mid-table team and Sounders a bottom of the barrel expansion club.

Recent form would be wrong.

Houston is a dominant club in MLS (39 pts in 23 played), and is succeeding in its non-league tournaments (semifinalist in USOC and a win in their first match of the group stage of CCL). On top of that they struggled through a lack of health for some time, while also lacking three of their best to US MNT duty. Form gives you little indication how good the Dynamo are. And it certainly doesn't tell you the story of this match on Sunday when the Dynamo offense will be at its best for months.

You see not only did they add a 24 year old Mexican stud as their DP (who will be available), they also have their best four midfielders healthy - Ricardo Clark, Brad Davis, Stewart Holden and Brian Mullan. There isn't a team in this league with a better set of front six, remember the one not mentioned yet is Brian Ching.

For their defensive efforts the Dynamo will start two All Stars at centerback (Cameron, Boswell) with Hainault (likely Waibel now?) and Cochrane at full back. Their keeper can challenge Keller as the best in the league. Even if Seattle was in its best situations this would be a tough match.

But Seattle isn't at its best right now. One of the top league forwards lost his focus and concentration earning the Yellow in the past two matches for silly mental errors. Time wasting when leaving the pitch at LA was stupid, and to make it worse he hit Caution #5 with a move that is clearly in violation when he headed the ball out of Reis' hands. Montero needs to sit, and the accumulation only forces Sigi's hand. The other Freddie has missed a series of matches for a Red and then migraine-like symptoms from hypoglycemia, which is now being treated and he may be able to go 45-60 minutes.

Last match we saw how ineffective the central midfielders were at running into the box for crosses and throughballs, and if the press release of expected starters is any indications it will be just as bad on Sunday with Vagenas in the Central Mid role and Levesque in Montero's Withdrawn Forward. This would be a foolhardy decision on the coach's part. These aren't the players in order to run that up-tempo Sigi Game style that the team used to such advantage in the first half of the season.

So how do the Sounders win this one?

Return to Sigi's Game - These means fast, up tempo one or two touch passes. Speed down the flanks and waves of central players crashing the box. This means Brad Evans has to go back to the CM. It likely means Nyassi or Le Toux at Right Mid and depending on Ljungberg's health it puts him or Le Toux at the WF. With this lineup the team could crash forward and force the Dynamo on their heels, with the current ideation that the Rave Green have provided the Sounders will have to count on their defense.

Mental Focus - This goes for all the Sounders. No slow tricklers over the line for a goal. No silly Yellows for Dissent and retaliation. No Reds for violent conduct. Focus on winning the game and the boys in Day Glo Orange. The referees only have the influence they are given. Stay on task and don't let the opposition dictate pace but demand that the flow of the match goes the Sounders way. It is notable that the Scottish Club Kilmarnock will be fining their own players for talking back to referees.

Corners and Crosses - Houston is weak in these areas on defense giving up 7 to the Sounders 2. On the offensive end Dynamo have scored 13 and Seattle only 8. It is likely that the game comes down to a play from the Wing/Corner and the resulting action in the box. Sounders at least have their starting defensive triangle starting (Alonso, Hurtado, Marshall), but they will need help on the set-plays, particularly with Brian Ching as the target. On offense the Rave Green likely need to focus on getting ball to their own feet and taking numerous shots, getting the rebound and shooting again.

Score Early - Houston is +12 in the first half and Seattle is +7, but both teams struggle when they allow the first goal &/or trail at the half. The first goal could decide this one, but it is notable that Sounders did beat Dynamo in Open Cup play by coming from behind to win.

Notes

Sigi ripped into the team

Montreal has purchased a 2011/2012 website - follows the SSFC, PU, Timbers and VWC pattern.

Houston's offense (Landin has no stats)
Ching 7 2 16 1113 1.29
Holden 6 4 16 1710 0.84
Davis 4 7 15 1716 0.79

Dick Fain will be having a Sounders friendly show today, to include me on the air at 2:35PM Saturday.

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