FC Dallas and the Seattle Sounders have a few things in common. Both are in the preliminary round of the CCL, both lost dynamic players to on pitch injuries and both get a few thousand fans to show up when they play in the suburbs. Tip your waiters, I'll be here all week. Big D Soccer gives us some insight into the upcoming Wednesday night match.
Dave Clark: FC Dallas has dealt with losing last year's MVP better than expected, what has been the key to the team winning without David Ferriera?
BigDSoccer: The defense. There is no easier way of putting it the defense has really held shape as of late with George John and Ugo Ihemelu finally getting to 100% fitness and their partnership has also gotten back to the form we saw in 2010. In front of them Daniel Hernandez has been playing lights out for the last few weeks but a lot of that has to do with the partnership he's formed with Andrew Jacobson in the middle as well. AJ has allowed Hernandez to do what he does best on the field, be a leader and dictate the flow of the game for Dallas. From there things just seem to fall in line more for the club and once Marvin Chavez, Fabian Castillo and Brek Shea all get on the same page the offense will soon follow in what the defense is doing here.
DC: Is the Brek Shea plays everywhere era over? It seemed early in the season he was getting tried in new and different places.
BDS: I think sadly it is not over. Jackson Goncalves picked up a bit of a knock against Real Salt Lake and wasn't able to finish that one out. If he travels I think he may sit this one out and try to get healthy since Jair Benitez isn't available. That likely means Shea turns to the left back position in the defense, which could change the way Dallas comes out in their formation. The last couple of games they have played a 4-4-2 but seeing how their depth is being tested in the back at the moment, I think we'll see Shea in the back for another game.
DC: Local product George John is starting every single opportunity Hyndman has for him. What has his presence meant to the club?
BDS: George has been huge for Dallas this season. Once he finally got healthy we really began to see how valuable he is to this club in the back. He does everything you want your center back to do here by cleaning up mistakes in the midfield, shutting down the main striker from the opposing side and every now and then getting on the end of some set pieces that test the other keeper (he nearly scored against RSL).
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BDS: Like Dallas, Seattle has a short week here, how does a midweek game like this change what Sigi Schmid likes to do with his roster? Will he rest any starters?
DC: Seattle has been been hit with minor injuries which forced rest to players like Erik Friberg and Brad Evans who should/could be healthy to start this match. The centerback rotation will continue, but discovering what the pattern is can be difficult. Jhon Kennedy Hurtado is still less than a year from an ACL tear and Jeff Parke scored so logic says Patrick Ianni starts with Parke, but they've avoided logic in the past. Nate Jaqua did not start the last match and so should be good for 60ish minutes. With the way Seattle prefers to play the two forwards in big/small pairings the lineup is stronger with him over Roger Levesque. That's four changes, but a stronger overall lineup if healthy.
BDS: How important has it been for the defense to step up the way they have this season?
DC: Seattle's 2009 season was built off of great defensive performances by Hurtado and Osvaldo Alonso. With both back and healthy things were supposed to get better. They are joined by Parke who was a defender of the decade for Red Bull NY, and the solid Ianni. 2010 saw a broken spine, and it was no surprise that Seattle leaked goals, that hasn't been happening this year, and while that is primarily due to health it also helps that the Sounders aren't as weak defending set-plays this year. They are still open to the counter, particularly along the flanks. At the end of the year they should have a top third defense.
BDS: Talk about the formation we should expect to see on Wednesday. Against Sporting Kansas City, the Sounders came out in a 4-4-2 but it appeared to be a 4-3-3 at times, how did it work out for the club?
DC: The loss of speed threats on the flanks has forced a shift in tactics. What used to be a kind of hybrid 4-1-3-2/4-2-3-1 with very wide midfielders has become a more traditional diamond recently where either Friberg or Mauro Rosales plays the CAM, something that Seattle has not used extensively in its short history. Late in the last match Sigi shifted again in a new way to get Fredy Montero more space. Rather than use a target forward that he could run off, Seattle split Mike Fucito and Nate Jaqua as Left and Right forwards respectively and Montero back nominally replacing Rosales as the CAM, but with Fredy being more trequartista it looked like a concave 4-3-3. The team looked good in this formation, but I don't expect to see it as a starting tactic, but instead a way to change up play late in the game.