Coming off two weeks of brooding over a spanking delivered at home by San Jose's speed and high pressure, this weekend Seattle goes on the road to face an FC Dallas team that does the same thing, but even better. They also happen to be the only team in the league with a perfect record. So buckle up.
The Sounders are talented, deep, and experienced enough that they should never be significant underdogs in any game they play. But this will be one of the toughest games of the regular season. Seattle will be without their most important player — Osvaldo Alonso — for the third straight game. They will be without half of their gold plated attacking tandem, thanks to Clint Dempsey being injured training for Jürgen "blame it on fitness" Klinsmann. They could even be without league defender of the year Chad Marshall. The Sounders young guns proved they could hold their own in the friendly with Xolos, and we may need to lean on them again.
|Fabian Castillo||One of the fastest attackers in the league is going to make hay on the Sounders' denuded right flank.|
|Mauro Díaz||Young Argentine playmaker is talented but still finding his place in the Dallas offense|
|Matt Hedges||Tasked with holding the central defense behind Michel and alongside an inexperienced partner.|
Dallas has some availability issues of their own, as regular starters Blas Perez and Moises Hernandez are away on international duty. Perez has a ready replacement in reigning Rookie of the Year Tesho Akindele. Hernandez is less easily replaced. But even without them it's a very talented squad.
Leading the attack is the human gazelle Fabian Castillo. His ability to terrorize Seattle's right flank with his speed will make Innocent Emeghara's night look like a friendly warmup. Behind the front-line of Castillo, Akindele, and whoever replaces Perez (probably Ryan Hollingshead) sits gifted playmaker Mauro Diaz. And behind him is the defensive midfield pair of Victor Ulloa and Michel.
Seattle's joy will likely come from attacking that defense down the middle. Michel's a deadly server of set piece balls, but isn't much of a factor in the run of play. In central defense the team is playing Zach Loyd, a converted fullback who's still adjusting (sound familiar?). At home two weeks ago against Kansas City, the defensive center was carved up by Roger Espinoza, once for a goal and multiple other times for good chances. This is an area where I think Cristian Roldan can do some damage, if he gets some time late in the game.
At the other end all eyes will be on Brad Evans after a couple of shaky games at center back. But it's the flanks where the game will be lost or won. If Tyrone Mears is indeed out it will be up to Micheal Azira or a shifted Evans to try to keep Castillo in check on the right.
Thanks to the unbalanced schedule Seattle only plays Dallas (who at this point look like Shield contenders) twice this season. So it's a small mercy that our one trip to Dallas this year is in March, rather than in the scorching Texas summer (and in fact our only other trip to Texas is away at Houston in October). That and FC Dallas' key absences are enough to make room for some hope.