FC Dallas faces a quick turn around following their Wednesday night Knockout Round win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC as they host Seattle Sounders FC in the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinals.
Seattle won the season series against FC Dallas in 2014 with two wins before losing to FC Dallas in Frisco back on September 24.
How they got there
Seattle enters the 2014 MLS Cup Playoffs, presented by AT&T, as the league’s Supporters’ Shield winners for having the most points earned in the regular season. The Sounders finished the regular season with 64 points thanks to a 20-10-4 record.
Sigi Schmid’s squad hasn’t had nearly as many injuries this season to deal with as FC Dallas. The Sounders long-term injury is forward Kevin Parsemain, who is out with an ACL tear. Midfielder Andy Rose is also listed as out with a bone bruise on his knee.
Defender Daimon Lowe is questionable going into Sunday’s match as well.
Blas Perez vs. Chad Marshall - Perez was relatively quiet on Wednesday against Vancouver but that may have been due to the matchup against Kendall Waston. Marshall will present an equally challenging matchup for Perez in how he likes to play up front and physical against his opponents. Perez will need to do a good job of pulling Marshall away from his goal to help open up the attack.
Matt Hedges vs. Obafemi Martins - Hedges has been doing a very good job this season at dealing with the best that the other team has to offer. Martins is an MVP candidate for Seattle this season and always finds ways to put himself in dangerous spots. If Hedges can close down the space that Martins works in around the penalty box, it will possibly keep the Sounders attack at bay.
Key Player for Seattle
Clint Dempsey - Martins is getting all the MVP talk that he deserves but the flow of this team still goes through Dempsey. The Nacogdoches native ended the season with 15 goals and 10 assists. He has given the Sounders either a goal or an assist in nine out of his last ten matches.
Schmid has lately been using a 4-4-2 type formation with Dempsey sitting just slightly behind Martins in the attack.
Goalkeeper: Stefan Frei; RB: DeAndre Yedlin; CB: Chad Marshall, Zack Scott LB: Leo Gonzalez; RM: Brad Evans; CM: Osvaldo Alonso, Gonzalo Pineda; LM: Lamar Neagle; FW: Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins
Keys to three points
How FC Dallas handles the quick turnaround and the home field advantage in this leg will be key in whether or not they head to Seattle with a lead next week.
Seattle is such a talented team from top to bottom that they make for a tough matchup for anyone in the league. But where FC Dallas can be successful is remembering how well they frustrated the Sounders back in September during their last visit.
When Dallas is at their best, they spread the ball around in the attack from side-to-side. Involving the speed on the wings with Fabian Castillo, Tesho Akindele and Andres Escobar is absolutely key. The Sounders do have pace on the wings but have shown not to be able to handle the speed and craftiness of the Dallas wingers in the past.
Defensively this game will come down to how well Dallas does in the middle of the field. If they limit the turnovers and close down the open field that Dempsey and Martins can create chances in, they’ll have a good shot at going to Seattle with an advantage in this series.