Sure, it feels like we've all been here before, maybe because of that great US Open Cup Win!
But it is not Groundhog Day.
This is a league match against an opponent that is ahead of the Sounders on the current table and are now pacing for 5th and 45 points. A win would also mean that DC owns the tie-breaker, so if both teams finish 8th, Seattle would be out of the MLS Cup Playoffs. DC is also now up to the 3rd best home record (ppm) while Seattle has the 6th best road (again ppm).
While all matches and points are vital, these are a bit more so due to the fact that DC United and Seattle are in the second tier of clubs. A tier that could either make the playoffs or just miss while finishing with more than 40 points.
How does Sigi beat United on their home pitch twice in a row?
Lineup Shifting - Hammer the backline.
The lineup for Seattle is going to shift fairly dramatically since the last match. The back four should return to the normal Leo, Jhon, Tyrone, and James. Nate Jaqua is also available and likely to start. He sits at 7 & 7, and while he's the 2nd most productive player his Plus/Minus numbers are as strong as any players and are the best of the forward options for this match (Montero, Jaqua, Le Toux, Zakuani). I actually think that the 4-1-2-3 variant of 4-3-3 is best for this match.
Seattle could play with the high backline in order to compress the opposition's midfield a bit and shift the balance of play to Wicks' side of the field. Now, yes with Marshall on the pitch this would mean that one of the four is fairly slow, so rather than he being the sweeper, he could shift a bit up win the first ball with Hurtado their to clean-up the second balls and catch-up on the run. Riley and Gonzalez could also help close those angles with their speed during the rare breaks from United. It will also help that they will be fairly tired or just older.
In the front I would go Montero-Jaqua-Le Toux. While most wouldn't think of Montero as a Left Wing, in the 4-3-3 it would put him on the same half of the pitch as Alonso and Gonzalez. Common language usually helps. Also since Le Toux gets back defensively better than the other two this puts him on the side with the slightly weaker defense of Evans. This lineup also puts some solid speed in the attacking roles with Alonso able to join the forwards as well as the two wingbacks. Having those multiple options helps make up for the lack of Ljungberg. The lineup also switches out the Le Toux for Zakuani model. This would enable a second half substitution to get even more speed on the pitch.
Hammer the backline
Creating situations that batter the United defense are key. They are in a peice-meal situation with Jakovic and Burch both out recovering from surgeries (likely back for playoffs) and so United have switched to a four man defense. On the outside we are likely to see Namoff and Wallace with Simms dropping back from a Defensive Mid role and Julius James (formerly of TFC and Houston) being the most likely to pair in the center. Regardless of which names slot where United will have issues with communication and experience. Most of their choices will also lack the speed to counter Seattle.
Remember that in the Open Cup United basically had a three man line that had to match with four attacking Sounders. They are likely to try and flip that, but are probable to lose a midfielder with solid defense. In the 4-3-3 suggested it would enable Seattle to bring four on four with wingbacks surging ahead for overlaps and crosses. If Seattle goes with their more traditional lineup they would still have four forward, but with les defensive ability in the midfield.
Josh Wicks will still be in the pipes, and it is key that Sounders frustrate him. Test his mental control and his ability to communicate with his own line. Since Seattle is still one of the top corner winning teams they should be able to frustrate Wicks fairly easily. His inability to focus on match results rather than singular acts almost cost United against Chicago and are a primary reason for their loss in the Open Cup.
Sounders don't need to get in his face to test him. Honestly, the Rave Green are too prone to Dissent and retaliatory violence to play that game. The test they must use is simply shooting on goal early and often. No passes in the six yard box. Rare passes in the 18. Set a team record for shots on goal in the half and wait for the former Timber to fall.
Don't spend too much time watching the scoreboard but there are 5% or so available from "proper" results.
Fire over Salt Lake
Chivas to win or draw
TFC and Rapids to draw
FCD over Galaxy
Red Bull over KC
I will be in LA. Any SoCal Sounders at the Sunset Strip Music Fest, just look for the guy wearing his jersey. I don't expect many out in West Hollywood. I will likely be taking a break to watch the game.
Don't get lost in the Emilio and Moreno hype - United has plenty of other potent attacking options.
DC is 2nd in Fouls Committed, 1st in Cautions and only 8th in Fouls Suffered.
SSFC is 5th in Committed, 4th in Cautions and an impressive 1st in Fouls Suffered.
Expect the referee to feature in this one.
United are particularly potent in the final 15 minutes of a half. 50% of their goals have been scored in those two 15 minute periods.
Sounders have given up more than half their goals in that same period of time.
DC allows the second most shots in the game, while also taking the second most.
Both DC and Seattle suffered their last league defeats in Aug, the 22 and 23 respectively. One MUST say League though; see, Seattle won their first Cup as an MLS side. That and DC hasn't fared well in CCL play.