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November 2, 2014 at 8:50 AM

What to watch for: Sounders FC vs. FC Dallas, first leg of the Western Conference semifinals

Seattle’s postseason begins Sunday evening in Frisco, Texas, where it will take on at F.C. Dallas in the opening leg of the Western Conference semifinals.

Last time out: F.C. Dallas 3, Sounders 1 on Sept. 24 at Toyota Stadium – Second-half goals from David Texeira and Blas Perez overshadowed Lamar Neagle’s long-range strike.

Battle to watch: F.C. Dallas vs. Mauro Diaz’s suspension

Dallas is used to playing without creative midfielder Diaz: Prior to Wednesday’s narrow victory over Vancouver in the Western Conference play-in game, Diaz had made just a single league start since April.

But when he’s healthy and on the field, Diaz provides Dallas with an extra gear – and with a different formation, more of a 4-2-3-1 instead of its standard 4-4-2.

“They go a little more central and play the ball through them,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said.

With Diaz having picked up a one-game suspension for leaving his bench during a late confrontation during the ‘Caps match, it will be interesting to see how the hosts adjust.

One option – to me, the mostly likely one – is to settle in defensively and look to play fully on the break, taking advantage both of the new away-goals rule and its speed out wide.

Dallas coach Oscar Pareja likes to thinker with his teams, though, and keep opponents off balance. Take nothing for granted until we see the lineup sheets.

Player to watch: FCD forward Fabian Castillo

Castillo’s MVP hype cooled after he missed three vital stretch run games – that Seattle win and two Dallas losses – with injury.

But overlook the tricky Colombian at your own peril.

He has scored 10 goals and dished out four assists this season, and the numbers don’t fully reflect how he can influence matches when he’s on his game.

As nervous as FCD winger Andres Escobar made the Sounder back line during that late-September meeting, Castillo will like his chances when isolated on the wing.

How to watch: The match will be televised nationally on ESPN2, with kickoff scheduled for 6 p.m. PST.

| More in MLS, Preview and prediction

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