F.C. Dallas, as expected, coped with the absence of Mauro Diaz by shifting from the 4-2-3-1 formation it used in its play-in win over Vancouver to a 4-4-2 for Sunday’s Western Conference semifinal against Seattle.
“Could it have been different with Mauro?” Dallas coach Oscar Pareja mused after his team’s 1-1 draw against Seattle on Sunday. “It could have always been different when you have that talent there by him, but I don’t think too much about that.”
Maybe so, but his team’s style of play was certainly affected by Diaz’ absence. And the debate is instructive when looking ahead to the return leg at CenturyLink, when Diaz could make his return from a one-match suspension.
Very little of Sunday’s match was played through the midfield. Dallas tried to use Michel as an attacking hub, but his passing was inconsistent. Seattle wasn’t seeing much of the ball and seemed content with it.
“The plan wasn’t to sit back and counter, but plan was to sit back and see what they bring us,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said.
The answer, despite steady pressure on the edge of the final third, wasn’t a whole in the way of clear chances. Fabian Castillo and Andres Escobar dazzled in flashes – the latter earned FCD’s go-ahead PK – but only in flashes.
Action swung wildly, sometimes haphazardly from end to end, both teams trying to get their talented forwards the ball as swiftly as possible.
Dallas will be desperate to score again next Monday – if it gets shut out, it’s eliminated, no matter how the Seattle attack fares.
But if Diaz does return to the lineup, expect him to add some finesse, some control to those forays forward. He could provide the incisive final passes that Dallas was missing on Sunday.
The Sounder defense stood tall in the first leg. But though it faces the same club in next week’s rematch, it could be facing a different attack.
By the numbers: 74. FCD’s passing percentage on Sunday night, which still outpaced Seattle’s 61.
In their own words: “I don’t think we need to do anything different. We came out and played very well. We created a lot of chances. For a majority of the game, we dictated the flow and put a lot of pressure on them” – Dallas defender Zach Loyd
Up next: Sounders vs. F.C. Dallas in the second leg of the Western Conference semifinals, next Monday at CenturyLink Field.