Know Your Enemy: Seattle Sounders FC
The schedule really begins to pick up for FC Dallas in the month of April with two straight home games. Up first is Western Conference rivals Seattle Sounders FC.
The Sounders have had a bit of a rocky start to their season, going 2-2-1. Their two losses have come at home, while the lone draw was picked up last weekend in Portland against their Cascadia Cup rivals in a wild 4-4 draw. Clint Dempsey scored his first hat trick with the Sounders in the come-from-behind draw.
Seattle has always given FC Dallas fits over the years. In their season series a year ago, the Sounders won two games to one. Sigi Schmid’s club also outscored FC Dallas 6-4 in those three matches. Dallas did pick up their only win in the series in former head coach Schellas Hyndman’s final game in Frisco.
Schmid’s squad hasn’t been hit too hard by the injury bug so far this season. Rookie defender Damion Lowe is out with a hip injury and forward Kevin Parsemain was lost for the season with an ACL injury.
Midfielders Brad Evans and Andy Rose have been listed as questionable on the injury report.
Toyota Keys to the Match
Clint Dempsey vs Hendry Thomas – The US National team captain has been firing on all cylinders to start the season, but he hasn’t quite faced a defensive midfielder like Thomas. Dempsey has been playing in more of a withdrawn striker role, which means he will likely try to pull either Matt Hedges or Stephen Keel away from Obafemi Martins and Kenny Cooper. Thomas will be tasked with making sure that doesn’t happen.
Mauro Diaz vs Osvaldo Alonso - Diaz has had his hands full lately with gritty defensive midfielders, but this weekend may be his toughest task to date. Alonso is arguably the best defensive midfielder in MLS and fans can expect him to be very physical with Diaz on Saturday evening.
Key Player for Seattle
Clint Dempsey - Right now it appears that the Sounders will go as Deuce does. He has four goals in his last two MLS matches, including the hat trick last weekend in Portland. All of those doubts about his play going into the season have quickly vanished.
Schmid has lately been using a 4-3-3 type formation with Dempsey sitting just slightly behind the other two forwards.
Goalkeeper: Stefan Frei; RB: DeAndre Yedlin; CB: Chad Marshall, Jalil Anibaba LB: Leo Gonzalez; RM: Michael Azira; CM: Osvaldo Alonso; LM: Gonzalo Pineda; FW: Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, Kenny Cooper
Keys to three points
The Sounders have proven in 2014 that they can be a very tough team to deal with when their offense is clicking. But the times they have looked weak have been when teams find a way to spread them out wide and take it right to them down the middle of the field.
In the second week of the season, Toronto FC managed to get two goals in the run of play due to the play out of their midfield. The Reds managed to cause turnovers in the midfield that lead to quick counter attack goals. Dallas has a little more speed than Toronto and if they press high with Fabian Castillo and Je-Vaughn Watson on the wings, it should allow more space for Mauro Diaz to feed them out wide or down the middle with Blas Perez.
The Sounders attack does go through Dempsey at the moment. He loves to move around the field and find pockets of space to cause issues with opposing defenses. The communication between Thomas, Keel and Hedges will have to be at a high level on Saturday. These three will need to work together to limit what Dempsey is able to do on and off the ball. Dempsey loves to break free from his mark and find open space in the penalty box where he has been most lethal this season.
For Dallas to win, it could come down to how well Diaz is able to slice up the Sounder defense. Last week against Portland, the Timbers were able to carve out a lot of space in the Sounders defense with simple through balls and smart passing from the midfield.