The playoffs are here and for the third straight season, it's FC Dallas vs Seattle Sounders FC with a ticket to the Western Conference Finals on the line. Both of the previous matchups have seen Dallas and Seattle tied after 180 minutes with Seattle advancing via away goals in 2014 and FCD advancing on PKs in 2015. It's going to be tight. It's going to be cagey. There's going to be controversy. It's going to be a lot of fun.
Dallas held the 2-1-0 advantage over Seattle in three meetings this season. In mid-May, FCD relatively easily dispatched of Seattle 2-0 after an early Mauro Diaz penalty, Michael Barrios put the game to bed taking a wonderful ball from Mauro Rosales in and beating Stefan Frei.
In the second meeting, Seattle, playing a Dallas team with a lineup missing many regulars, thumped Oscar Pareja's side 5-0. A red card shown to Maynor Figueroa in the early minutes of the match meant Dallas was down to 10 men for basically the entire game.
The third and final meeting on the penultimate weekend of the season was by far the most dramatic. With plenty on the line, Nicolas Lodeiro gave Seattle the lead on a free kick late in the first half, but FCD fought back. Maxi Urruti finished a scrappy equalizer and then Carlos Ruiz scored his first goal for Dallas since 2007 to give FCD an unforgettable 2-1 victory.
Key Player for Seattle
Stefan Frei - There are plenty of player who will have an impact for Seattle, but Frei in goal will decide whether Seattle advances. The Swiss goalkeeper made eight stunning saves in last year's second leg and made 11 saves total in the semifinal series. There's no better 'keeper in MLS at coming off his line and claiming crosses, and if Frei is on top of his game, it will take something special for FCD to score.
Carlos Gruezo vs Nicolas Lodeiro - A battle we've seen in South American World Cup Qualifying, Lodeiro had way too much time and space against FCD a few weeks ago. The Uruguayan had over 60 touches in the match and it will be up to Gruezo to hound Lodeiro around the pitch and make sure he is not able to have an impact on the match.
Michael Barrios vs Joevan Jones - The Seattle outside back is among the best in the league at getting forward while Barrios is tied for the FCD lead with 9 goals this season. If Barrios can get forward and keep Jones pinned in, it will go a long way to stifling the Sounders attack while jump-starting FCD
(4-2-3-1) - Stefan Frei; Tyrone Mears, Chad Marshall, Roman Torres, Joevan Jones; Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Erik Friberg, Christian Roldan, Nicolas Lodeiro; Jordan Morris
Key to the match
The most important thing for FC Dallas is to use their experience from last year and not turn off for even a second, especially in the last 10 minutes of matches. Late goals in games at Seattle and Portland put FCD in very tough positions to advance so the key for Dallas is to stay compact at the back and counterattack quickly. If FC Dallas can return to Frisco with a draw, they'll be in great position to advance.