For Sounders fans, last weekend's match in New Jersey was not a pleasant experience. In a tight race with the LA Galaxy for the Supporters' Shield, Seattle collapsed defensively and surrendered a Bradley Wright-Phillips hat trick en route to a 4-1 loss. It would have been a tough game even with the normal starters in — our sim predicated only a 50/50 chance to get at least a point assuming normal lineups. But Sigi sent out a lineup that was missing Obafemi Martins, Clint Dempsey, DeAndre Yedlin, Leo Gonzalez, Zach Scott, and Brad Evans. That's a lot of quality missing. That's a good core of an All Star team subtracted from our lineup. Seattle's a deep team, but no team can withstand that loss of quality in a difficult road match.
That decision wasn't made in a vacuum. It was a consequence of a dense schedule and a 120 minute Cup-winning victory on Tuesday. It was the price we paid for that Cup, and it was worth every penny. 100 years from now the Seattle Sounders 2014 edition will still be etched into the Dewar Cup and nobody will care what happened in a late regular season game against the Energy Drinks. And we didn't pay the psychic toll of that loss just for the Cup. It also bought us a fresh lineup for this midweek game against Dallas. To make the sacrifice worthwhile we need to get a result here and get back on the front foot for the run in.
|Fabian Castillo||The Colombian speedster used to be a 'running' joke because he couldn't finish. Now he can. Uh oh.|
|Michel||Most dangerous dead-ball specialist in the league, especially serving to Blas Perez. Gross dancer, though.|
|Matt Hedges||Solid central defender will have to have a big game to shut down the Hydra.|
For Dallas and head coach Oscar Pareja the question is where and how to deploy all of their offensive weapons. Early in the season their star was playmaker Mauro Diaz and the team went into a swoon when he went down injured. But now that he's recovered they can't even find minutes for him. Target man Blas Perez and Roadrunner-fast wing forward Fabian Castillo have to be locks for the lineup (especially after Castillo was rested for their game against LA last weekend). Then there's rookie of the year candidate Tesho Akindele, who can play at forward or on the wings. And at left wing they have Colombian youth national teamer Andres Escobar, who's started all but one game since June. You may have noticed I wrote 'wing' a lot. Especially with Diaz not getting regular minutes in the middle, that's where all of their threat comes from. With dead ball specialist Michel paired up with homegrown midfielder Victor Ulloa in an empty bucket, the attack builds from the wings, usually with fatal speed.
And their attack is direct. Not in the sense that they use long passes (in fact quite the opposite — they have the fewest long passes in the league) but in the sense that they let their fast players run with the ball. Dallas is first in the league in dribbles per game and 17th in forward passes.
The key then will be to stay positionally disciplined so the back line doesn't get run over on the counter. That means Osvaldo Alonso and Gonzalo Pineda must be judicious about going forward. And it means DeAndre Yedlin will have to be on his defensive game. Castillo is one of the few players in the league he can't run down from behind if he makes a mistake.
At the other end, you always bet on Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins to score. The FC Dallas defense is dramatically improved from earlier in the season but it's still just MLS average. Their use of a double defensive mid shield means that it'll be easy for them to suck into the middle and crowd the space that Martins and Dempsey like to work in. It'll be imperative for them to find width to pull the defense apart, likely through Marco Pappa and bursts from Yedlin. I predicted neither team would get a shutout in the New York match and was correct. I don't predict any shutouts here either.
It's hard to stomach after a tough loss and in the middle of a tight trophy hunt, but a draw here is fine. Games on the road are hard. Games on the road against playoff teams are really hard. You can see in the odds table at the top of the page that there's only a 50/50 chance to get a result. But with even a draw, we're still favorites to win the Shield thanks to having the tiebreaker. We just have to survive to the easier part of the schedule when we can go at Chivas and Vancouver. A point here does that.