Sounders FC (2-2-1) at FC Dallas (4-0-1)
Saturday, April 12, 5:30 p.m., Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas
TV/radio: JOEtv, KIRO 97.3 FM (Ross Fletcher, Kasey Keller)
Spanish TV/radio: THIS-TV (KOMO2), ESPN Deportes 1490 AM
Referee: Juan Guzman
KEY FC DALLAS PLAYERS
M Mauro Diaz — Perhaps an early frontrunner for MVP. Dallas has the top-scoring offense in the league, and this addition from midway through last season has really found his groove as a central attacking threat. He has two goals and a team-high three assists. Teams have also paid notice as he’s been fouled 19 times, one off the league lead. “You’ve got to eliminate the supplier,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “If you want to eliminate the goals, he’s the one who’s supplied a lot of goals.”
M Michel — Another way that Dallas has jumped out to the league’s best start on offense by getting six of its 13 goals off set pieces (both MLS highs). The provider of that service from dead balls is the 32-year-old Brazilian. Said Schmid: “You don’t want to give up unnecessary set pieces with him on the field.” Michel, a well-traveled veteran, also has two goals, one off a penalty kick.
M Hendry Thomas — Oscar Pareja wasn’t the only successful import from Colorado. The new coach also brought his stalwart defensive midfielder from the Rapids to assume a role long held by Sounders villain Daniel Hernandez. The 29-year-old Honduran has been known to put in a crunching tackle or two in games, so I expect Clint Dempsey will get to know him pretty well by the end of the night.
Diaz vs. Osvaldo Alonso — I don’t often like to double up with an opponent in both sections of this post, but this is perhaps the matchup of the weekend in MLS. Alonso’s top two central-midfield partners coming into the year were probably Brad Evans and Andy Rose, but both have been unavailable for a while due to injury. Neither Michael Azira or Gonzalo Pineda have the strength/physicality of the other two, so Alonso will need to be at his best against one of the league’s top playmakers in the early going.
Fabian Castillo vs. DeAndre Yedlin — Want speed? Here you go. Castillo, a 21-year-old Colombian, will have the advantage in nearly every game this season, but Seattle’s homegrown product will be able to match him. Yedlin, though, will need to be sharp, because his recovery speed sometimes bails him out of situations and catching up won’t be easy. Also key here? Castillo has been called offside a league-high 11 times, so he likes to test that line.
Fast-starting Dallas vs. the real Dallas — A result of extreme temperatures in a Texas summer is that FC Dallas gets a lot of home games early in the season. As such, the team can be prone to fast starts. That was the case in 2013, but the team faded down the stretch and didn’t even make the playoffs. That is the case against this season. So is it a mirage (from getting four of six at home to start) or an indication of real quality? Perhaps we shall see.
I have shortchanged the Sounders on both my predictions for them on the road. I predicted a tie in Montreal (Seattle got a 2-0 win) and a loss in Portland (Seattle came back for a 4-4 tie).
The only way to avoid that this time is by predicting a win, but I feel the dynamic Dallas attack will be able to put something on the board against a defense that was blitzed for four goals against the Timbers. That is probably the reason all six MLSsoccer.com editors are picking the home team to win.
But like we saw in Portland, I also think the Seattle attack, which has proven dangerous, will be able to do something against an FCD defense that has hardly been impenetrable.
Should be a fun one…
Sounders FC 2, FC Dallas 2
FCD — Blas Perez (Jair Benitez) 23′
SEA — Obafemi Martins (Clint Dempsey) 43′
SEA — Chad Marshall (Gonzalo Pineda) 49′
FCD — David Texeira (Je-Vaughn Watson) 78′
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How do you see this one playing out?