After the calamitous result in Chicago, FC Dallas must quickly bounce back as they travel to Seattle to take on the Sounders and fight for their playoff hopes.
Date: Wednesday, September 18th
Time: 9:30 PM CST
Location: CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Washington
How to Watch: TXA21 (DFW only), ESPN+ (outside of DFW)
This will be the second match-up of the season between FC Dallas and the Sounders with the first match-up in Dallas on June 1st ending in a 2-1 victory for Dallas. Historically, Dallas has struggled mightily playing away to Seattle. Dallas has only ever recorded a win at CenturyLink Field once, way back in 2011, and in 14 games played in Seattle, they’ve only taken a total of 5 points off the Sounders. Seattle is certainly one of the toughest places in the league to play with teams having to adapt to CenturyLink Field’s artificial surface and deal with one of the best atmospheres in MLS.
Seattle enters the match-up precariously perched in 2nd place in the Western Conference following a 4-2 win over the New York Red Bulls. Seattle sits on 49 points from a 14-7-9 record, their goal differential isn’t substantial, they’ve scored a lot of goals, 50 to be exact, but have struggled to defend since the retirement of longtime stalwart center back Chad Marshall at the start of the season. Their 47 goals allowed are only eclipsed by the Galaxy’s 49 among Western Conference teams in the playoff picture. A win for Seattle would just about ensure a playoff spot at the minimum, but the Sounders will certainly be pushing to host as many games as they can in the playoffs.
For Dallas, this is their most important game of the season, this is their make-or-break point. This has been a common refrain in this column over the past few weeks with the season winding down, but those words are coming straight from Reggie Cannon. After Dallas’ calamitous 4-0 loss to Chicago, they enter the match-up with Seattle on the outside of the playoff picture in 8th place. Their 43 points from a 12-7-11 record are even with Portland’s 43, but Portland currently edges Dallas for the last playoff spot by virtue of the games won the tiebreaker. A loss in this game would give every team ahead of Dallas a chance to get further ahead, and pending results from the weekend, Dallas could lose touch with the rest of the pack.
This lineup is mostly unchanged from the team that beat the Red Bulls 4-2 on Sunday. Joevin Jones replaces Brad Smith at left back and Emmanuel Cecchini replaces Jordy Delem in midfield in this projection but doesn’t be remotely surprised to see a fully unchanged 11 from Seattle’s weekend match-up. Kim and Arreaga have struggled to develop a strong partnership in the absence of Chad Marshall, Gustav Svensson’s play in midfield will be key in Seattle’s efforts to break up Dallas’ play in midfield. The attacking four have been lethal for Seattle over the course of the season, especially since Jordan Morris has returned to the lineup.
The most notable change here is the return of Bryan Acosta from suspension in midfield. Acosta’s absence was certainly felt against Chicago and his return should help shore up things defensively and help Dallas going forward. Servania returns to the starting 11 after being subbed in for the second half against Chicago and Pomykal moves into the more forward midfield role that has been occupied by Jesus Ferreira in recent weeks, Ferreira drops to the bench. With Santiago Mosquera back 100% from his injury, he gets the start on the left-wing, leaving Dominique Badji on the bench. Perhaps surprisingly, the Dallas backline remains unchanged after a disastrous weekend performance. The only real substitution option there is bringing Bressan in at right-back or in one of the center back spots but this back four has largely been good all season so it is unlikely that Luchi Gonzalez moves away from it.
Keys to the Match
Tighten Up Defensively
Obviously, any game where you give up 4 goals in under 40 minutes is going to be a game with some defensive errors. Throughout the season, the Dallas defensive unit has been one of the sturdiest in the league. The Chicago game was only the fourth time all season that Dallas conceded more than 2 goals in a game. Worryingly, however, three of those four times have come since the start of August. Generally, a defense should improve over the course of the season but it seems that there has been some regression over the course of the season with the FCD defense. They’ll need to reverse this trend immediately against Seattle, a team loaded with quality attackers. The kinds of mistakes that happened against Chicago absolutely must be cleaned up.
Pressure Seattle’s Back Line
As mentioned previously, Seattle score a lot of goals, but they also concede a significant number of goals. Seattle’s typically rigid defense has shown signs of cracking following Chad Marshall’s retirement early in the season. Kim Kee-hee and Xavier Arreaga are talented center backs, but they lack of calm composure and game reading abilities of Marshall. Dallas needs to consistently get pressure on the Seattle defense, they’ve shown throughout the season that there are cracks and holes to be exposed, but if Dallas reverts to what they’ve often done this season, passing around the outside of the opponent’s box looking for the perfect opportunity, they will struggle to penetrate and find those holes and gaps in the defense. Dallas needs to be aggressive and get bodies forward to attack the backline.
Get Paxton Pomykal Involved
Pomykal started the Chicago game in place of Brandon Servania, who had been excellent in Dallas’ brief two-game win streak, but he never really influenced the game in a meaningful manner. Dallas was able to beat the likes of Houston and Cincinnati without major contributions from Pomykal, but this season has shown that without Pomykal making an influence in games against the top teams in the league, Dallas will struggle going forward. However, Luchi Gonzalez plans to do so, Pomykal needs to be heavily involved in this one.
Can Dallas reverse the course of history and get 3 points in Seattle to keep their playoff hopes alive? Who will get into the starting eleven for this crucial match-up? What does Dallas need to key in on to come out of Seattle with a win? Sound off in the comments below!
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