After a one-year hiatus the Seattle Sounders return to the MLS Cup Playoffs tonight against a familiar foe in FC Dallas. This will be the sixth time that these two teams have faced off against each other, with the Sounders advancing in the previous three matchups. The most recent being in 2020.
From a matchup perspective, these two teams look pretty similar in what they try to do in a game, except Dallas isn't as good at everything as the Sounders are. I guess you could say that Dallas is the "store brand knockoff" version of Seattle this season. Both teams focus on controlling the entire field. Both teams want to have more possession. Both teams defend well and have trouble scoring. It's just that throughout the regular season, the Sounders have done everything just a little bit better than Dallas.
So, how do you separate two teams that are so similar? Experience. And the Sounders have loads of experience in these moments. Just about the entire roster that won the Concacaf Champions League last year is still here – and more importantly, healthy. Add in that 10 or so of the core of this roster also won the 2019 MLS Cup, well, it's easy to see how the pieces come together for another playoff run.
At this point, the downsides should be pretty obvious. The core of this roster is aging, the DPs have largely underperformed all season, and maybe this is when Father Time comes for the Sounders. If they want to cap off this group's time in Seattle with another cup, they'll need big performances from Raúl Ruidíaz and Nico Lodeiro. Now, those performances might not necessarily come from starting roles, but you can't have guys like that on your roster disappear in big playoff moments and hope to go far.
One key stat
9 - Both teams are on nine-game unbeaten runs, tied for the longest active streaks in MLS.
I think the vibe around this whole thing feels very relaxed. This group of players and the manager have worked extremely hard to get to this point. They have a familiarity with each other that they can fall back on and everything is rounding out nicely for them. It is, however, up to them to make the best out of the situation. The new playoff format in the first round is seemingly forgiving to the higher seed, but I'd rather not test that theory out tonight. The Sounders just need to keep winning games for the vibes to stay good. Easy, right?
How healthy is everyone?
- Any conversation about a leftback controversy in Seattle will be put on hold, at least for the next few games. Reed Baker-Whiting came off injured in the Sounders' regular-season finale against St. Louis. RBW will be out for this game, maybe the second leg, and could potentially return to the bench for Game 3 or the next round.
- FC Dallas will be without Facundo Quignon, their starting defensive midfielder. They have plenty of good replacements in the midfielder, however. The bigger question is around Bernard Kumongo, who has been on a tear but is dealing with a muscle injury.
Sounders (4-2-3-1): Frei; Nouhou, Ragen, Yeimar, A. Roldan; Joao Paulo, Atencio; Chu, Rusnak, C. Roldan; Morris
FC Dallas (4-3-3): Paes; Farfan, Tafari, Ibeagha, Twumasi; Velasco, Illarramendi, Pomykal; Arriola, Ferreira, Kamungo
What you need to know
Sounders record (2nd in the West): 14-9-11, +9 GD
FC Dallas record (7th in the West): 11-10-13, +4 GD
Where: Lumen Field, Seattle, WA
Kickoff time: 6:09pm Pacific Time
Commentators (AppleTV): Max Bretos and Briand Dunseth