Who You’ll Watch
The Seattle Sounders hit the road for the first time in 2018 when they travel to Frisco, Texas to take on FC Dallas. The Sounders will be playing this game on three days’ rest while Dallas will have had 14 days off.
Last time out in league play, the Sounders lost 1-0 to LAFC at home on March 4. FC Dallas drew 1-1 with Real Salt Lake, also on March 4. This will be the 23rd regular season meeting between the two clubs. Overall, Seattle is 11-5-6 against Dallas. Last time the two played in Frisco, the game ended in a 0-0 draw.
We all know about the injures that the Sounders have suffered so far in this young season. Jordan Morris (torn ACL) and Osvaldo Alonso (quad) are both listed as out. Will Bruin (head), D - Chad Marshall (eye), Victor Rodriguez (undisclosed), and Nicolas Lodeiro (right mid-foot sprain) are all listed as questionable but we don’t see any of them playing this Sunday.
Dallas have their own issues as well on the injury front. Kellyn Acosta (sports hernia surgery), Anton Nedyalkov (Achilles tendon) and Brandon Servania (Compartment Syndrome surgery) are all listed as out.
Referee: Christopher Penso
Assistant Referees: Jeffrey Hosking, Apolinar Mariscal
4th Official: Alejandro Mariscal
VAR: Kevin Stott
What to Watch
Dallas’ System: Oscar Pareja seems to currently be playing a fairly straight-forward 4-2-3-1 on offense. It’s a bit more structured than Seattle’s, at least in theory. Mauro Diaz fills a traditional No. 10 role and there is little switching between wings. Diaz looks to have regained much of his pre-injury form, Barrios and Mosquera are threatening attacking wingers, and center forward Maxi Urruti is still the same threatening (but wasteful) player he was with Portland.
Only a bit of fortunate scramble defense and a vintage Nick Rimando performance kept FCD off the board (their lone goal came from an own goal). This is a Dallas offense that’s struggled to find that scoring touch for a while, going back to last year, but that doesn’t mean the Sounders should feel safe.
With Acosta missing from the defensive midfield, Dallas’ biggest struggle in Week 1 was finding link-up between the defensive and offensive lines; his continued absence will be a point of weakness to be attacked. Jacori Hayes was highly active throughout the field, but most of his passes were short interchanges, not line-breaking. Carlos Gruezo is a competent passer, but has a tendency to step on the ball and look around for a pass no matter where he is. This led to Diaz dropping back to find the ball semi-regularly, a thing that every Toros opponent is going to be happy to see (though RSL was unable to capitalize on it).
Their defense is a thing in process, with a new starting CB (Reto Ziegler) and RB (Rich Cannon). Both looked good - Cannon at RB in particular - but there were also moments where issues from inexperience and unfamiliarity popped up. BigDSoccer reported that offseason acquisition LB Anton Nedyalkov is back to practicing with the starters, displacing Maynor Figueroa. That’s a lot of turnover without a lot of time to gel, and there should be opportunities to exploit this. None of them are particularly good in the air, offering at least one possible advantage, and Dallas struggled with runs in the channels, in particular.
Who still has legs? Chasing on defense for 90+ minutes is exhausting. The bench is already thin. Sunday should see a couple fresh sets of legs in Handwalla Bwana and Harry Shipp (assuming they, too, don’t get injured somehow), but there’s a good portion of the lineup that will need to once again play on short rest early in the season.
The midfield must step up. Both Cristian Roldan and Gustav Svensson (in particular) had forgettable games on Wednesday, but they’re far from the only ones at fault for it. In truth, they were the noticeable point of fracture as a result of a disaster of a match from Lamar Neagle, and a true Houdini-hides-an-elephant exhibition from Magnus Wolff Eikrem. Roldan and Svensson were left to pick up the pieces, and any success Sunday is going to have to start with functional play from the wing positions. This seems very much a match where smart and quick ball movement can unlock opportunities.
Is there a forward in the house? Jordan Morris is out for the season. Will Bruin is in concussion protocols. And... that leaves us at Lamar Neagle, I guess? This is normally the part of the show where I’d suggest moving Clint Dempsey up top, or going to a 4-6-0, but I’m skeptical the midfield can exist in its current state without Dempsey’s creativity and there are no longer enough healthy midfielders to pull off a 4-6-0. There really just isn’t a solution for this on the roster at the moment, and it’s tough to even guess which way they’ll go.
Bottom line: It feels a bit strange to be saying this already, but Seattle could really do with a win. Injuries have decimated the roster from the top down, leaving the team to yet again dig deep just to field a side, and the functional capability of whatever is rolled out will again be limited. Dallas is fully capable of taking advantage of the Sounders’ issues and has had two weeks to work on its own struggles. It still feels like Seattle has a chance, but this will not be an easy (or pretty) match.
How to Watch
Date/Time: Sunday, March 18 @ 2:00 pm
Venue: Toyota Stadium
Television: JoeTV, YouTube TV and Univision-Seattle
Radio: 950 KJR AM (English), El Rey 1360 (Spanish)