Sounders FC (3-3-3) vs. FC Dallas (7-1-3)
Saturday, May 18, 7:30 p.m., CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.
TV/radio: KING 5, 97.3 FM (Ross Fletcher, Kasey Keller)
Spanish TV/radio: THIS-TV (KOMO 4.2), La Gran D 99.3 FM
Referee: Mark Geiger
KEY DALLAS PLAYERS
M David Ferreira — The league’s MVP in 2010 missed last week with a leg injury, but it sounds like he should be back in the lineup. He, of course, scored here in 2010, an 87th-minute equalizer to sent the Sounders to 4-8-4 on the season (Seattle went on to close the season on a 10-2-2 run). He’s the engine in the attack, so much so the team runs more of a 4-2-3-1 formation around him when he’s playing and more of a 4-4-2 when he’s not.
M Michel — The Brazilian newcomer has three assists this season, tied with Ferreira for the team lead, and is a bit of a set-piece specialist. In the run of play, he’s played in the defensive midfield spot vacated by Daniel Hernandez. It’s a position that isn’t easy to quantify in stats, but coach Schellas Hyndman said the 31-year-old is leading the discussion for team MVP this year. Definitely someone the league is coming to know quickly.
D Matt Hedges — If local product George John (a Shoreline native and University of Washington product) isn’t able to return from his knee injury, a lot of defensive responsibility will fall on the second-year center back who was in the mix for MLS Rookie of the Year in 2012. At 6-foot-4, he’s a dangerous target on set pieces, as well, having scored a few weeks ago against Vancouver. He also had three goals his rookie season.
DeAndre Yedlin vs. Jackson — This could be one of the biggest tests of the season for Seattle’s 19-year-old right back. He’s facing a talented winger who already has three goals and two assists this season. The Brazilian, who recently went on loan with Cruzeiro, hasn’t scored more than four goals in his MLS career, a number that looks sure to fall this year. He’s had some big games against the Sounders, too (seven shots in a game in 2012).
London Woodberry vs. Eddie Johnson — Another new homegrown player will face a tall defensive task, as well, and that’s the Dallas center back against a U.S. national team forward. The 21-year-old Woodberry signed in January after his senior season with Maryland, and he’s also got U-18 national team experience. Boasts size at 6-foot-1, but does he have enough strength in this matchup at 160 pounds?
MLS’s best vs. Seattle’s best — FC Dallas has been the class of the league to start the year. A 6-0-3 unbeaten run is tied for the longest active streak in MLS and has led to a six-point cushion over second-place Portland. The Sounders, though, are getting much closer to full strength and could possibly start Johnson and Obafemi Martins up front, maybe even start all three designated players, as well. Whatever the lineup, there will be some weapons out there.
If you take a look at the league website, you’ll see the MLSsoccer.com panelists are split between Seattle wining and a tie. That’s my thinking, as well, but I’m leaning toward a Sounders win. This league is so close top to bottom that I think it’s about time things even out for Dallas, who maybe has had a few lucky breaks along the way (e.g. the Portland game a couple weeks ago).
Not having John against a Seattle offense that put up four goals here last week could be a big issue. The Sounders defense is also tightening up, with shutouts in four of five games and a 219-minute shutout streak, which is the longest active run in the league.
Seattle leads the series head-to-head at 4-1-4 and I’m thinking it gets to 5-1-4…
Sounders FC 2, FC Dallas 1
SEA — Eddie Johnson (DeAndre Yedlin) 29′
SEA — Shalrie Joseph (Brad Evans) 44′
FCD — Eric Hassli (Zach Loyd) 78′
* * *
What do you think? How do you see this one playing out?