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Keys to Game: Previewing Sounders hosting FC Dallas

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Dax the Deep Lying Playmaker
Dax the Deep Lying Playmaker

There are going to be lineup changes. We know this because of the injury to Freddie Ljungberg, the health of Nate Jaqua and the rise of Michael Seamon in Sigi's eyes. We also know that Seattle can handle Dallas. They handled the Hoops down at Dallas and can thank two Penalties for a score that belied the dominance of Seattle.

How does Seattle use Dallas to start a reawakening of spirit in this town?

Control Dax McCarthy - While the stats mongers will tell you that Jeff Cunningham (unlikely to start) and David Ferreira are the fuel to the FC Dallas heat, it is once out-of-favor McCarty who is the pivot that gets the offense flowing. He's a deep lying playmaker, and as such will be seen in the center circle quite a bit. This isn't the land where the CDM will be the one responsible for applying pressure.

Instead it will be young Seamon who has to contain him a bit. And while Seamon isn't known for his defense, the fact is that with Dax on the field the Dallas club gets 3 more shots than its opposition per 90 minutes of his play. Meh, you say? Well, shots correlate to goals, and Dax is 60th in the league this year on that rate stat. Still meh? Of regular players he's 21st. Ferriera and Cunningham are both ahead of him amongst regulars. In fact the FC Dallas team is scattered at the top of the list. Oddly, the best regular in the league so far? Patrick Ianni.

Still, successful offensive runs by Dallas run from width in back through McCarty and back out wide ending at the Center Forward. His ability to pivot the play needs just a bit of pressure to slow down the counters.

Involve Jaqua Early and Often - Anyone who watched the Open Cup matches has seen how the Sounders are a much different team with big Nate active and involved. Not only is he shooting on goal and threatening, but the ability of his teammates to run off his advanced holding of the ball creates problems. This will be especially true if our expectation of Miguel Montano and Michael Seamon starting holds true.

With young speedy players being the other members of the front five Seattle won't be confined to lobbing it in and hoping for Nate's head game to be in target, they can also run give-and-goes and triangles with Jaqua as a pivot in traffic. Some may still deride his footwork, but in heavy traffic he maintains vision of his 'mates and can get the pass off much more often than Noonan, Levesque or Ljungberg in those situations. Early involvement can set the tone that the Sounders offense will be unleashed. It is no longer a lazy summer dog, but a spry puppy in the dawn of a new day.

The Flatter Four - Seattle can still be an offensive threat with a flat four. We saw it against the Galaxy, and I hope they continue with it now. Strong positional defense can help control the runs of Brek Shea against James Riley, but also leaves heavy support for when both of the FC Dallas fullbacks get forward as they are prone to do.

When they do so Seattle needs to win the ball and clear it with purpose. No more random deep balls, but instead a placed punt up the line to either Zakuani or Seamon can break the game open. At the same Seattle can get its two wingbacks into the game, but must be a bit more selective than they've been recently. I'm not saying that they should transition to a punt&pray counter technique, just stay a little bit flatter and have those long balls passed with purpose.

Interesting Stats Stuff
Top Six Sounders by Shots +/- per 90 - Fucito, Nyassi, Sturgis, Ianni, Evans, Levesque
Bottom Six by Same - Jaqua, Seamon, Boss, Wahl, Estrada, Vagenas
Sounders have five players in the worst 30 by Raw Goal +/- : Riley, Ljungberg, Keller, Marshall, Vagenas. Riley and Keller play basically every minute of every game.
Best six by that measure and league ranking - Scott (91), Fucito (112), Estrada (112), Boss (141), Levesque (141), Alonso (240)
Yes, Sample Size applies to most of those
By Raw Goal +/- the best players are all on the Galaxy, RSL and Columbus, but two Dallas players are in the top 35 (Brek Shea and Heath Pearce).

Notes
TV is KING5 tonight. Radio is 97.3. Arlo White has the call.
Gamethread will be open.