The top seeded Seattle Sounders FC (20-10-4) travel to Frisco, Texas on Sunday to take on the fourth seeded FC Dallas(17-12-6) in game one of a home and home Western Conference Semifinal clash in front of a national television audience. The 6pm Pacific time kick off will be carried live on ESPN 2, and ESPN Deportes. The two teams are no strangers to each other having played three times this season with Seattle winning two of the three games. The last time the two teams played Seattle suffered a 3-1 defeat last month at Toyota Stadium.
“That left a sour taste in their mouth,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said of his players. “I know they weren’t happy with the game we played in Dallas the last time…so I know that’s going to make it easier to motivate our team.”
Motivation or not, here is how the two teams match up.
Seattle’s high powered offense of Obefami Martins (19 goals, 13 assists) and Clint Dempsey (15 goals, 10 assists) has scored 65 goals (34 away) and is a dynamic duo that is as good as any in and out of MLS .The two will try to test a Dallas defense that has conceded 46 goals( 15 home ). The Dallas FC defense is led by Matt Hedges a solid defender who has taken on the assignment of stopping the opponents top offensive threat . On Sunday Hedges will need help from Brazilian defender Michel and the rest of the Dallas defense in closing down the space in the middle of the field and penalty box in hopes of limiting the amount of touches and looks Dempsey and Martins have on the Dallas goal.
Dallas FC’s offense is led by Blas Perez(11 goals, 6 assists) and Fabian Castillo( 10 goals, 4 assists) two gifted attackers who can score if left unattended. Castillo is a quick and crafty player who can beat any defense in MLS if given space to dribble. Perez’s ariel prowess has been a problem for MLS defenders all year and Seattle’s back line of Chad Marshall DeAndre Yedlin, Zack Scott and Leo Gonzalez will need to be extra disciplined when defending set pieces.
Sounders FC midfield of Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso, Gonzalo Pineda and Lamar Neagle has had success when it spreads out to the touchline and attacks from the flanks. In order to do that, Seattle will need to have the majority of the possession. Dallas FC is the one team that can and has frustrated Seattle’s midfield. Dallas FC will be playing without Mauro Diaz who was suspended by MLS for leaving the team sideline during a scuffle in Dallas FC 2-1 playoff win over the Vancouver White Caps. Even without Diaz in the line up, the speed and tenacity of Fabian Castillo, Tesho Akindele and Adres Escobar has been difficult for Seattle to contain in the three previous encounters. The Dallas FC midfield’s only achilles heel is that it is prone to turnovers in the middle of the field. If Seattle is patient there is potential for a counter attack goal.
Sounders FC goal keeper Stefan Frei finished with 99 saves, a 1.47 goals-against average and a career-high nine shutouts, good for third in the league.Frei’s weakness is his positioning on crosses and has been know to stay flat footed on crosses and set pieces having said that, Frei is a solid keeper who can help Seattle get to the promised land. Dallas FC goal keeper Raul Fernandez has 95 saves, a 1.24 goal against average and four shutouts. In 2013 Fernandez was an MLS All Star. Like Frei , Fernandez is a better than average net minder who can make the big saves if need.
Sounders FC are coming off a demon exorcising win over long time nemesis LA Galaxy and celebrated the clubs first ever Supporters Shield as a result. Seattle is a battle tested club that seems focused on it’s goal of winning it’s third trophy of the season. The teams focus and determination should enable them to score at least one away goal. Dallas FC is in the playoffs for the first time since 2011. While young and some what inexperienced , Dallas FC has the fire power to make Seattle work for every possession and a quick goal by the home team could make things interesting.
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