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Sounder Strategy: the fiasco in Frisco

Fresh off their first big win, Seattle faces a Dallas side with familiar injury woes.

Last Updated
5 min read
Mike Fiechtner | Sounders FC Communications

Injuries struck early in both Seattle and Frisco, and the Sounders and FC Dallas have underwhelmed as they tried to cope. But while Dallas is winless in five with four losses, the Sounders just exploded in a five-goal party at home last weekend. Seattle will look to prove that their offensive fury was not a fluke while FC Dallas hope to build on their first shutout of the season against St. Louis. Let’s look at what went right for the Sounders against Montréal, and how they might get the most out of a road trip to balmy Dallas.

Sussing out Seattle

Against Montréal, Albert Rusnák made a convincing case that he was the key attacking ingredient that had been missing since game one of the 2024 season. While he is a steadying presence in possession in front of the Sounders’ young midfield pair, his shining moments in this match were his central attacking runs that created two goals and could have earned more.

Raúl Ruidíaz did his best in the left-sided creative role for a few weeks in Rusnák’s absence, but Albert has the close control and burst of speed that no one else but Pedro de la Vega can provide in the current Sounders roster. Brian Schmetzer gave Rusnák more freedom to push forward from midfield in this match, he was richly rewarded:

Rusnák drives forward into the box, and Montréal defenders cannot keep up with him.

The entire offense looked like a weight had come off their shoulders. The Sounders’ combinations in tight quarters were finally working: one-touch passes, flicks, and dynamic movement wowed the home fans. It was especially encouraging to see Obed Vargas so involved in positive possession moments. Though the Sounders’ attack has suffered without João Paulo in the early season, the silver lining to his absence may be Vargas regaining confidence and showing some of his most dangerous attacking moments since returning from a back injury in 2023.  

Vargas, Atencio, and the Roldan brothers combine to advance the ball up the right wing.

Nouhou’s early injury – which thankfully appears to be minor – gave Cody Baker the opportunity to strut his stuff. The contrast between the two players at left back was made quite clear. When isolated on the left wing, Baker was beaten on a couple of occasions that Montréal ended up wasting:

Baker is drawn in and concedes a cross to Ruan, but Josef Martínez skies his shot.

Baker’s advantage on the left is his ability to cut inside on his right foot and play passes to attackers in situations where Nouhou often recycles possession:

Baker draws defenders and splits the back line with a pass to Jordan Morris.

If Baker is to win more starting minutes from Nouhou, Brian Schmetzer will certainly want him to improve his defensive awareness on the wing, since he lacks Nouhou’s recovery speed:

Baker bites on cutting off a pass to the wing and loses Ruan.

Down with Dallas

With most of their starting midfield on the injury report, FC Dallas sit dead last in expected goals per game. The absences of Jesús Ferreira, Paxton Pomykal, and Asier Illarramendi, combined with defensive regression, have made both ball progression and defensive solidity difficult. Dallas has the fewest progressive carries per game and are dead last in attempted tackles. On the road at St. Louis, Dallas tried to stop the bleeding with a conservative 5-2-2-1 with a box midfield. This forced St. Louis into many long balls and switches out to the wings against Dallas’ back five:

FC Dallas’ 5-4-1 defensive shape with a compact box midfield.

The Dallas attack has been bleak with their midfield talent injured. Only Montréal and Nashville are averaging fewer touches in the attacking penalty area than Dallas, despite having average possession numbers. Paul Arriola is the main attacking threat holding what is left of the offense together:

Arriola finds space to send it a cross that should have been turned in for a goal.

New Designated Player Petar Musa’s introduction to MLS has not been an easy one with a second-choice supporting cast. But with Jesús Ferreira on the mend, Musa may have a strike partner to get him the ball in good areas again against Seattle so he does not end up so isolated:

Musa tried to do it all by himself against St. Louis, and won a yellow card foul on this occasion.

While dealing with major absences in the attack, the defense is also in flux. Both Ema Twumasi and Nkosi Tafari, who started their final game of 2023 against the Sounders, were riding the bench against St. Louis. Veteran centerback Omar Gonzalez started in the middle of the back line.

Keys to victory against FC Dallas

Bring the pressure

Against St. Louis, Dallas’ makeshift back line struggled to deal with pressure:

St. Louis force a turnover as Sebastien Ibeagha undercooks his pass under pressure.

Seattle has the opportunity to continue where they left off against Montréal with effective pressing moments:

Cristian Roldan times his pressing run perfectly to force an errant pass, leading to a dangerous opportunity.

Target Jordan Morris out wide

FC Dallas had an exceedingly hectic and sloppy match against St. Louis, and Dallas’ defenders struggled to deal with long balls:

Despite facing a five-man back line, St. Louis was able to create chaos by sending long balls to the wings and over the midfield.

With Morris likely to start on the left wing, he has an opportunity to both win aerial duels out wide and use his speed centrally against a slower centerback like Omar Gonzalez.

No falling flat

We rarely get to see sharp performances from the Sounders at Toyota Stadium in Frisco. Seattle’s league-best defense conceded three playoff goals on that pitch five months ago. But with moderate temperatures projected at kickoff and all the momentum on the Sounders’ side, there is no reason why Seattle cannot build on their confident performance and pick up their first road points of 2024.

Statistics in this article were sourced from, Opta Analyst, and American Soccer Analysis.