Guest columnist Drew Epperley is the founder and editor of WVHooligan.com. His blog covers everything MLS and U.S. Soccer. You can follow him on Twitter @WVHooligan.
The season is down to the final two games. The first up for FC Dallas (9-12-11, 38 points) is the final road trip of the regular season to the Pacific Northwest to face Seattle Sounders FC (14-7-10, 52 points).
Seattle is coming off a nil-nil draw with Real Salt Lake on Wednesday. Defender Zach Scott picked up two yellow cards and forced the Sounders to play a man down for a decent portion of the game.
Dallas hosted the Sounders on Labor Day weekend and the two sides played to a 1-1 draw. Mauro Rosales got Seattle on the board early in the first half before Jackson tied the game up before halftime.
Seattle has already clinched a playoff berth and will be looking to position themselves better with three points while FC Dallas is still in the hunt for the fifth and final playoff spot.
Slowing down Montero and Johnson
One of the surprise picks by US Men’s National team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann this past week for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers’ roster was Johnson. The first-year Sounder has had a long way back to the national team camp and was rewarded with the call-up thanks to his 14 goals and two assists this season.
Johnson rewarded Klinsmann’s faith in him by scoring two goals against Antigua and Barbuda.
Johnson will likely be paired up front with Montero once again for this game. The two have combined well this season and have contributed 27 of Seattle’s 48 goals.
Montero has also added six assists of his own this season. A couple weeks ago in the 3-0 win over Portland, he helped cause the game’s first goal – an own goal on the Timbers – and showed some feisty play to score one of his own.
The offense will still go from the midfield with Designated Players Christian Tiffert and Rosales leading the charge. Tiffert was big against Portland, terrorizing the back line of the Timbers throughout the game.
Steve Zakuani has started to figure back into the line-up for head coach Sigi Schmid. He’s started three games since making his return to the starting line-up against Dallas back in September.
Brad Evans also is a contributing factor in the midfield. The veteran put in a solid outing against the Timbers and was one of the underrated reasons as to why the Sounders came away with a 3-0 score-line.
Alonso gaining Defender of the Year attention
Osvaldo Alonso may finally be getting the respect he deserves. The All-Star defensive midfielder has been making some noise lately for the league’s top defender award.
Games like the one against Portland and Salt Lake helped prove his case for that award. Alonso was a calming force in the middle of the field and allowed the defense behind him stay organized for 90 minutes against an arch rival.
Schmid continues to get plenty out of his back four too.
Central defenders Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Jeff Parke continue to be two of the more underrated defenders in MLS. Full backs Leo Gonzalez and Adam Johansson continue to contribute well in defense and also provide a spark offensively.
Schmid can also turn to left back Marc Burch to fill in. Against Salt Lake he helped spark the defense to a shutout despite being a man down.
Goalkeeper Michael Gspurning has solidified his role as the team’s main goalkeeper. He has seven shutouts on the season and has been a big reason in getting the Sounders into the playoffs for a fourth-straight season.
Keys to three points
This is once again a must-win game for FC Dallas. Thankfully the Sounders will be coming into the game on short rest.
By the time the game kicks off, Dallas will know whether or not they need three points or if Vancouver won their game with Portland.
Either way, Dallas has to go all out and get as much out of this game as possible. They’ll do so short handed with Julian de Guzman suspended and more than a few usual starters likely out or on the bench with injuries.
The mental mistakes that cost Dallas three points two weeks ago in LA against Chivas USA cannot happen again. Seattle is a good enough team that will capitalize on those mistakes and make Dallas pay for them. Dallas needs to keep it simple and work the ball through the wings.
Allowing David Ferreira and Blas Perez to have big games will be huge. Those two have to carry the charge offensively, while veterans like Daniel Hernandez lead the charge in the defense.
Three points are there for the taking and Dallas has yet to lose in Seattle for a regular season game. The fact remains, Dallas just has to want this game more.