When the season started, these were the two Western Conference favorites. Two runs changed both teams’ fates. Seattle Sounders started the season mediocre, but are riding a 12-match unbeaten streak. Currently third in the West they can still target a first place finish. FC Dallas is now riding a nine-game winless performance.
Saturday’s 5 PM game (JOEtv, Univision-Seattle, MLS Live) is the opportunity for the Sounders to win again, as they drew their last three games. It is also Dallas’ chance to right their ship and get on a path to the playoffs, fending off the ‘Quakes and RSL.
Drew from Big D Soccer answers Three Questions.
SaH: I hate to start off with the bad, but what's going on with the winless run?
BDS: How much time do we actually have here? Seriously. We've gone into a long list on our site about the defensive issues, the offensive issues, how the transfers that were brought in this year haven't paid off. You name it.
A lot of it has to do with timing in my book. Law of nature if you will that its all piling up at the same time and nothing seems to correct it. We've had a lot of key players miss time for international duty during this stretch, along with injuries to other key players. Throw that on top of Oscar Pareja's weirdness in not playing some of his younger players for a change and you get a stretch of games like this.
SaH: Dallas made the choice to keep two of their best rather than sell. Was that the right move?
BDS: They always say hindsight is 20-20. Honestly, we may not know if this was the right move until next year but right now it was probably wise to keep both Maxi Urruti and Michael Barrios, rather than selling them for a solid $5 million to San Lorenzo. I know in the back of everyone's mind around the club is that this group just needs a couple solid games to get back on track before the playoffs and having both of these guys there is far better than not having them at all for this run. Its a dangerous gamble given all that has gone on lately but one that fits the mold of this club.
Personally, I would have sold and moved on. Any time you can get that much allocation money from a transfer in this league you take it. Sure the timing wasn't great for it but if they were able to go into 2018 with that sort of allocation money from two guys that they spent very little to get in the first place, it seemed like a no brainer to me.
SaH: Is this still a playoff team and can it go on a run?
BDS: That is easily the hardest question to ask about this club right now. I still believe that one win will be all this group needs to get back on track. After all, they are the same group that went toe-to-toe with Pachuca earlier this year in the Champions League and nearly came out on top of it. The foundation is still there and if they get over the mental aspect of this run, anything is still possible. The big thing this group knows, is what Seattle and Portland have taught them over the last two years: just get into the post season and have a strong run then. This group can still do that but boy are they making it interesting.
Project Lineup: Jesse Gonzalez, Hernan Grana, Matt Hedges, Walker Zimmerman, Maynor Figueroa, Carlos Gruezo, Kellyn Acosta, Michael Barrios, Mauro Diaz, Roland Lamah, Maxi Urruti
BDS: Seattle has been enjoying a pretty nice unbeaten run as of late but is there a sense that there are starting to be too many draws and not enough wins?
SaH: A 6-0-6 +12 record can seem disappointing when its most recent games are three-straight 1-1 draws -- all winnable. Plus, the "start" of the run (it was actually the 4th game) was that wild 4-3 come-from-behind win over D.C. United. People's opinions about this run are rooted entirely in their state of mind.
The optimist sees 12 unbeaten, and a defense that is as good as any in MLS with both supported by a grit and heart that are incomparable. The performance late in games is incredible.
The pessimist sees three games without a win and a month without more than a single goal scored in a game. Performance metrics aren't matching advanced metrics. The defense can't hold a shutout, with only four clean sheets in this stretch, mostly against bad teams.
Truth likely lies in the middle. Despite a poor start the Seattle Sounders are situated well to finish with a bye in the first round and a top 5 position in the Shield race for an outside shot at hosting an MLS Cup. This is a good, if flawed team.
BDS: No Jordan Morris this weekend due to his injury, how does Seattle step up in the attack to replace him?
SaH: Will Bruin will be the lone forward. Acquired in a classic MLS offseason trade of allocation money for player Bruin's performance is strong enough that many think he should start over Jordan Morris even when both are healthy. Will is merely a rotational player as used by Brian Schmetzer, but he has 8 goals in his 15 starts and 10 sub appearances.
His role will be to open space by using his broad shoulders. He is a stable, if unspectacular target forward type who can score with his head. His pressing after turnovers is nearly as good as Morris' pressing, but the lack of speed limits the effectiveness. Seattle has done well with Bruin who does a fair job of opening space for Clint Dempsey.
BDS: It feels weird even asking this since we're already into September but since our two teams haven't met this season, who are some new faces that FC Dallas should be on the look out for in this game that we may not know about?
SaH: There are four key additions. We just covered Will Bruin, so let's move on to Kelvin Leerdam, Victor Rodriguez and Lamar Neagle. Unlike Bruin they were all added in the summer window. Leerdam is a Dutch right back who gets forward quite well. His crosses are not the most dangerous part of his attacking game, instead it is his long throws that contribute. A solid dribbler in tight spaces Kelvin adds a bit more penetration when the team is at its best, but he can fall into a pattern of lofting the ball into the area.
Victor Rodriguez came to Seattle from bad La Liga teams after having a youth career with Barcelona. He is tiny, but pressures well. His skill-set is similar to Marco Pappa, but he moves much quicker and all that technical skill is amplified. Victor is also quite dangerous on direct kicks.
Lamar Neagle is a Sounder again. A late trade meant that the local hero is now the first or second attacking option on the bench. Neagle is still the direct-to-goal player he's always been. A hard worker, Lamar works best as a support player rather than how D.C. United counted on him to be one of their key players in attack.
All will play this weekend.
Lineup projections: Stefan Frei; Joevin Jones, Chad Marshall, Roman Torres, Kelvin Leerdam; Cristian Roldan, Osvaldo Alonso; Victor Rodriguez, Clint Dempsey, Nicolas Lodeiro; Will Bruin