Coming off of a loss to Chivas Guadalajara that ended the Seattle Sounders CONCACAF Champions League run, and their only MLS game — also a loss, Brian Schmetzer’s team is battered, weary and on the road. The 2 PM Pacific start offers the opportunity to reboot a season which includes two road losses, two home wins and a home loss already.
There are injuries to several of the key players that put Sounders into MLS Cup two years in a row. They will be without Jordan Morris, Osvaldo Alonso, Nicolas Lodeiro, Will Bruin and Victor Rodriguez. Most of the players they do have just went to Guadalajara and looked exhausted immediately.
The match against FC Dallas will be trying.
Drew Epperley from Big D Soccer answers Three Questions. The Questions were exchanged between Thursday and Saturday.
SaH: The Dallas defense got reworked over the offseason. Is it improved for the better or does losing Zimmerman, Harris, and Grana create issues in the early season?
BDS: It really is a little bit of both here early on this season. Adding in foreign guys is always tricky, especially in the defense. Reto Ziegler has shown well so far in three games despite being part of a defense that has given up a fair amount of goals. Anton Nedyalkov has been banged up so far, which is another issue to deal with. So far the chemistry is still a work in progress as Oscar Pareja is leaning more heavily on Reggie Cannon at right back. On top of that, he’s had to rotate goalkeepers with Jesse Gonzalez having some knee issues this season.
I still believe this group did get better as a whole for this season. The two European players bring a lot of talent to the table and they both allow guys like Matt Hedges to be themselves again, which Dallas really needs if they want to return to that 2016 form.
SaH: Santiago Mosquera is the biggest addition in the attack. What type of player is he?
BDS: He’s a dynamic player for Dallas. We see a lot of Fabian Castillo-like skill and speed from him but the more intriguing part is how much more polished he is than Castillo was when he entered the league. We’re not going to just get a speedster that takes on players and then fires a shot ten rows into the stands. We’re getting a guy that will slash inside more and help create chances for the rest of the attack. We had brief glimpses of that in preseason play where he beat a man on the outside before pulling the ball into the middle to help release Maxi Urruti on goal.
SaH: Three new Homegrown Players joined the squad. Will they contribute to success this year or are they long term projects?
BDS: Anytime Dallas adds HGPs the question always comes up, will they contribute now or down the road? Out of the three, I think Brandon Servania has the best chance to see plenty of minutes this season in the midfield. He is dealing with an injury right now that will keep him out for a month or so, but he has the natural talent to earn minutes this season. With the other two, they are guys that I think could see some spot minutes in the defense once we get to Open Cup time later this year. Jordan Cano and Kris Reaves have the talent to compete for minutes but it may take some injuries to happen before we see them a lot this season.
Jimmy Mauer; Anton Nedyalkov, Reto Ziegler, Matt Hedges, Reggie Cannon, Carlos Gruezo, Jacori Hayes, Santiago Mosquera, Mauro Diaz, Michael Barrios, Maxi Urruti
BDS: Seattle joined FC Dallas in the list of MLS teams that crashed out of the CCL this month, how did that series with Chivas affect the team? And what kind of gas do they have in the tank for Sunday after the heavy travel this week?
SaH: It broke the team. Already suffering from a significant set of injuries, the loss to Guadalajara took away the last healthy forward, plus it displayed that a couple players aren’t fit enough for two starts in less than a week, and yet they’ll still have to do it. If there is any bit of good news it is that Sounders can now focus on only one tournament for a bit. This is a blessing since five starting quality players are injured. Maybe Seattle’s best XI are capable of winning in Mexico, but their 7-20 are not.
BDS: Seattle didn’t appear to add a ton of new players this offseason like Dallas; are there any new faces that we should know about who will be making an impact this season?
SaH: For all the bluster within the Seattle fanbase regarding the lack of signings there were two TAM players, plus a rotational leftback, an HGP who looks every bit like a future MLS starter and their first round pick. Let’s break it down for you.
Kim Kee-Hee: He’s a fringe South Korean centerback who joins from Shanghai Shenua. Unfortunately the Sounders are on the tab for his full contract; no magic Svensson-like money with this one. His first game was as a first-half sub for the injured Chad Marshall. It’s hard to use that to judge his skill set. He’s big, but mobile enough to get starts at right back on a World Cup quality team during qualifiers.
Magnus Wolff Eikrem: That’s the last time you’ll see his full name. He just goes by Wolff. He kind of fell into Seattle’s lap. He’s another in their list of “mostly central attacking midfielders.” He’s a bit more direct than Rodriguez, but shares his skills in set-piece delivery. He’s also quite hungry for goals, hungry like a wolf.
Waylon Francis: Francis shouldn’t yet be aged out of starting at left back, but injuries took time away from him during the past few seasons with the Crew. He is slower and more cautious than Nouhou, which generally should mean that he provides more defensive support. His matches against Chivas were not good.
Handwalla Bwana: Seattle’s latest HGP is a wunderkind who has been likened to Darlington Nagbe, but Bwana looks goal dangerous. Signed after his second season with the UW Huskies Handwalla is only 18.
Alex Roldan: Most well known for being Cristian’s younger brother, Alex is a bit more attacking. He was a star at Seattle U and looks to have earned his contract by working just as hard as one would expect for a Roldan.
BDS: It may be too early to tell, but is there any concern in Seattle after the first couple weeks of the season after seeing the injuries pile up and the results not stick?
SaH: There’s concern. There was already concern about the offense after Jordan Morris went down. Now there is no Will Bruin until he can pass concussion protocol. While the defense can be extraordinary still the attack can stagnate into possession without bit. It is going to be up to Clint Dempsey, Harry Shipp, Bwana and Wolff against FC Dallas. That’s the attack. It’s not great. Reenforcements may have to wait until the secondary transfer window, forcing the fanbase to slog through another half season of struggles.
Lineup predictions: Stefan Frei; Nouhou, Roman Torres, Kim Kee-Hee, Kelvin Leerdam; Jordy Delem, Cristian Roldan; Harry Shipp, Wolff, Handwalla Bwana; Clint Dempsey