FC Dallas is good. They ended Seattle's 2015 run in the MLS Cup Playoffs and this year are 11-5-4 +7. The first team to 11 wins, they are third best in the league by Sagarin. Dallas has a better away record than the Seattle Sounders have at home. Throw in a Wednesday night game (7:30 PM, Q13) during a month where squad rotation will be vital and the prospects for victory are not good.
Drew from Big D Soccer answers Three Questions.
SaH: What's it like to have several players with more than two goals? How do they share the ball and opportunities?
BDS: In a way it is a good thing and a bad thing for FC Dallas. Good in the sense that scoring can literally come from anyone at anytime. Bad in the sense that there is no true go-to guy that you know you can count on to score when you need a goal. I do lean more on this being a good thing for the team as it is has been like this for a couple seasons now. The ball gets spread pretty evenly between Fabian Castillo and Michael Barrios on the wings and Maxi Urruti is showing to do well up top to force defenses into mistakes that also help create chances. Mauro Diaz is starting to really get comfortable on his set piece taking these days too, which is showing with defenders like Matt Hedges and Walker Zimmerman scoring goals the way they are.
I would still like to see someone like Urruti step up a little more and be that go-to guy in the attack. He runs the channels and passing lanes well enough that he could get on the end of some of Diaz's passes better.
SaH: How should Seattle try to break down the Dallas defense?
BDS: The biggest weakness in my mind isn't exactly about breaking down the defense. It comes more so on getting set pieces and forcing quality balls into the box on those set pieces. Dallas has struggled a lot this season at defending in tight spaces on set pieces. Either the near post is exposed or they've struggled to properly clear the ball out when they have the chance to and a team pounces on that.
Outside of that, Seattle would do well to go to the wings and force the Dallas fullbacks to stay back more in this one. Atiba Harris, Ryan Hollingshead and Maynor Figureroa all like to get forward and no matter which one of those three are in the two starting spots, we'll see them get forward into the attack, which does expose the other defenders.
SaH: Is there a non-Morris Sounder that you think could strengthen the FC Dallas roster during this transfer window?
BDS: Naturally Clint Dempsey is always an intriguing guy to think about here in Dallas. Bringing him back to Texas is something a lot of fans would be happy to see with but we all know that doing so would cost a lot and that is something the Hunts typically do not do. Outside of Deuce, a guy like Cristian Roldan is intriguing, as is someone like Joevin Jones.
Chris Seitz, Ryan Hollingshead, Matt Hedges, Walker Zimmerman, Maynor Figueroa, Carlos Gruezo, Kellyn Acosta, Fabian Castillo, Mauro Diaz, Michael Barrios, Maxi Urruti
BDS: Seattle is the first team to 10 losses this year in MLS, how has the mood been lately surrounding the team? Do they think they can get back on track here in the second half of the season?
SaH: This is unfamiliar territory. Sounders loyalists haven't seen a season this bad since 1979. Those that come to the Sounders through their love of foreign soccer often root for teams with storied histories and collections of silverware. The good news, ha!, is that some of us are Seattle sports fans and have seen even the mighty Seahawks have 4 and 5 win seasons within the last decade. We've lost the Sonics. There's a baseball team that's been awful to mediocre for 13 years.
That element of the fanbase needs to lead. 2016 is bad, possibly awful.
But we're Seattle sports fans, for the most part, we're familiar with this. Sure, it was unexpected for a team as mighty as the Sounders. Hope need not be lost. There are plenty of reasons to think that the Sounders can pull off a couple game winning streak and all the sudden hope re-emerges.
tl;dr - a single poor half-season should not break the fans and supporters.
BDS: The offensive struggle has been pretty noticeable for Seattle this year, has it really been all about losing Obafemi Martins or is there a larger underlying reason for the lack of scoring?
SaH; Losing an MVP caliber player and not replacing them is pretty awful. That's a huge part of this, but not the only part. Last season Ivanschitz and Valdez looked like valuable contributors. In 2016 they look out of step and no longer capable of being starters on playoff quality MLS teams. Then you look at the youth movement as compares to the losses of Pappa, Neagle and Barrett. Replacing those in attacking roles are Morris, Kovar and Anderson. Only one of those is performing at a level that can win games on a playoff team. In some ways the Sounders lost six players and added one-point-five, as Kovar is playing well but lacks the goals and assists expected from an inverted right wing.
The youth movement likely pays off more in 2017 than 2016. Finding a new DP and probably a TAM player probably helps the last half of 2016. But that's still a series of losses. Maybe the offense can get to MLS average, and if so the Sounders will look acceptable.
BDS: If you were Dallas, how would you attack this Sounder defense that has only given up 21 goals this season (good for 6th best in MLS right now)?
SaH: Dallas, and most of MLS, can first succeed by using a high-press. Seattle's reacted poorly to this and the turnovers are pressuring a defense that is stout, but imperfect. The D is quite good at giving up a goal and only a goal. Creating more opportunities helps any attack. The weakest point on the field is to go at Joevin Jones, the left back. He attacks often and is a bit lackadaisical after a failed passing sequence. FCD should be able to exploit that space and poor on-man defensive quality. Do not get baited into crossing from those positions and instead dribble into the CBs. That's where Marshall/Evans/Scott can be beat.
Predicted lineup: Stefan Frei; Joevin Jones, Chad Marshall, Brad Evans, Tyrone Mears; Aaron Kovar, Osvaldo Alonso, Erik Friberg, Christian Roldan; Clint Dempsey, Jordan Morris