Nelson Valdez scored at the death against KC to take the Sounders through the first round of the playoffs. The Rave Green will now host FC Dallas, Supporters’ Shield winners, for the first leg of the Western conference semis. FC Dallas earned the right to not play midweek and have a rested squad to bring to Seattle. Transferring Fabian Castillo and losing Mauro Diaz to injury has drastically impacted their attack, but they won the Shield for a reason and they're always dangerous.
How Dallas got here: Dallas turned up the heat on Colorado about halfway through the season and charged past them to win the West and the Shield, including going 4-1-3 to end the season, locking up the Shield on the final day.
Recent league form: DWWDD
Top scorer in 2016: Michael Barrios and Maximiliano Urruti, 9
Assist leader in 2016: Mauro Diaz, 10; Fabian Castillo, 5 (neither available); Tesho Akindele, 4
- 56.4% of aerial duels won, best in the league. 15.7 per game.
- 9.7 shots conceded per game, 2nd best in the league.
- 21.3 interceptions per game, best in the league.
- 59% of shots come from the center, 2nd lowest in the league.
- 41% of attacks come down the right side, 3rd highest in the league.
Playmakers: Dallas is going to have to create a new playmaker on the fly for the playoffs. Fabian Castillo was slowly taking on that role in addition to Mauro Diaz when he left. Most of the season Diaz was the talisman in the attack but with his injury, they’ll need a new one. Tesho Akindele, Michael Barrios, Mauro Rosales, and Kellyn Acosta will all need to step up to create for the road team. Of the four, only Mauro Rosales has proven an ability to do this. Barrios and Akindele provide speed while Acosta is a deeper CM who could play a “creative role” similar to Ozzie when he pushes forward. Ozzie, Roldan, Evans, Friberg, Marshall, and Torres should have an easy time marking any of these players should they try to take over Diaz’s role.
Discipline: Overall, Dallas has 60 yellow cards to be in the top half of teams for total cards with an average of 1.76 cards per match. On the flip side, Maynor Figueroa has the second-most cards for the club with seven yellows and one red, but his red is the club’s only one this year giving Dallas the league lead in red cards. Carlos Gruezo leads the club with nine yellows; both are likely to start. With Ricardo Salazar reffing, we can expect cards and maybe Dallas’ second red of 2016.
Defensive Leaders: Dallas won the shield with a fairly good offense and had the 2nd best goal differential in the West but it was the goals against the secured that GD. Only three teams in the league allowed less goals than Dallas and two of those teams allowed 39 goals (LA and Toronto) vs Dallas’ 40. Colorado’s 32 lead the league. Add on to a near best goals against, Dallas allowed the 2nd least shots per game and had the most interceptions. Essentially, if they decide to bunker, it will be hard to score.
Previous matchups in 2016: Nothing to see here...after Brian Schmetzer took over, Seattle only lost twice. Once to Portland and once to Dallas, though they were without Ozzie. Seattle went 1-2-0 against the Texas side, losing both matches in Dallas by scores of 2-0 and 2-1. In Seattle, they blew them out 5-0. Game one in Dallas was in mid-May, the Sounders had Sigi coaching, Dempsey starting, and no Nico Lodeiro. Dallas had Diaz and Castillo running the offense. In match two in Dallas (about two weeks ago) the club played without Ozzie Alonso and almost secured a late goal to get back from a 89th minute Carlos Ruiz goal. The mid-season match in Seattle saw Oscar Pareja appear to not take Seattle seriously and get crushed for it. That match had a 4th minute Figueroa red (the only one of the year) and then a 33rd minute red for Deuce. Great goals but not a match to really scout and compare to for the two playoff legs. Without Ozzie in the last match and Diaz missing now, both clubs should look similar but different just enough to make it unpredictable.
Dallas: Seitz, Figueroa, Hedges, Zimmerman, Hollingshead; Gruezo, Ulloa; Akindele, Acosta, Barrios; Urruti
Sounders: Frei, Jones, Marshall, Torres, Mears; Alonso, Friberg; Evans, Lodeiro, Roldan; Morris
(If Fernandez can play, Friberg will slide to the bench instead with Evans at RM, Flaco at LM, and Roldan at CM)