Monday, November 10, 2014

FC Dallas at Seattle Sounders - November 10, 2014 - MLS Semifinal Playoff 2nd Leg

So let's put a few things in one place here.

First, while some at the time thought the away goal scored by Seattle in the first leg would prove to be big, I am not so sure. What it does mean is that Dallas did not win at home, but unless the game ends 0-0, that away goal does Seattle no good.

Considering that Seattle has kept Dallas scoreless only once in the last two years - in seven meetings - I think while possible, it is unlikely that the Sounders will keep Dallas off the scoreboard tonight.

So if the game ends 1-1 - which is very possible - it would go to extra time and then kicks from the mark (often incorrectly called penalty kicks - what penalty is called?). Otherwise, a tie would put Dallas through at 2-2, 3-3, etc.

Simply put, Seattle should be playing to win the game outright. Interestingly, Dallas should be playing to score. This ought to be a pretty open game and will in large part be shaped by the first goal.  Dallas scores first and it is game on. Interestingly, if Dallas does score first, keep in mind that FCD in the last half of the season has generally been solid at the back, unlike the Galaxy. Recall that LA was up 2-0 on Seattle before they came back to tie the match with two late scores in the second to last game of the season. Barring that breakdown, it very easily could have been the Galaxy with the Supporters Shield.

Then again, let's acknowledge the simple fact that Seattle is a tremendous home side. They are the Supporters Shield winners for a reason. They will be dangerous throughout the game. If you haven't fastened on your big boy helmet, better do it now.

The really good news for Dallas is their attack has been strong. Very strong. FC Dallas has scored first in every game between Dallas and Seattle, and only once has Dallas been kept to just one goal. That, of course, was the 2-1 loss in Seattle this year.... Add into that the effectiveness of Michel alone - the Brazilian has been putting goals in the net against the Sounders at almost a goal or assist a game pace.

The other good news is Dallas has kept Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey off the scoreboard in their last two games. Of course, as college football fans know, transitive properties and all. Especially as it relates to the last regular season game between the teams - a 3-1 victory by Dallas in Dallas. Seattle had been in Philadelphia eight days before, winning the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, and then had to travel to New York to play another game.

As we saw, last Sunday, though, the defensive pairing of Hedges and Loyd has been able to make it relatively hard for Martins and Dempsey to get open and create the kind of havoc that they have been known for this year.

The bottom line, I think, though is how can Mauro Diaz change the game. When on, he is what makes Dallas more than just good. He makes them something really special. As such, I expect Pareja to play the 4-2-3-1 and go for it. Not all out attack, but the usual Dallas possession and pressure that they used well in the first two months of the season. 

The challenges are can they get back into that flow with so few games played that way (really, only the Vancouver playoff win...) and will Diaz and that attack be affected by the turf. The other thing is how long Diaz can be effective - while he was very good in the first half against Vancouver, he tired late. Granted, that was his first game back after a long layoff and he has had twelve days to work on his fitness, but he probably can't make 90 minutes so we will have to see how far past 45 minutes he can go.

One other thing to look for - if Dallas can get a lead late, especially if they have scored at least 2, look for Adam Moffat to come on and shut the game down. He did this against the Los Angeles Galaxy on October 12th and was very effective.

Of course, Sports Happens, as we saw last night with the huge win by LA over Salt Lake. I bet the odds were pretty low for the Galaxy to win 5-0. So we will see one heck of a game with huge drama. Dallas has all the tools to bring it home, but it will be anything but easy. Hope you've made your popcorn!

Update with lineup - Seitz instead of Fernandez. A bit surprising to me. The rest: Hernandez, Hedges, Loyd, Watson; Ulloa, Michel; Castillo, Diaz, Akindele; Perez. 

Seattle's lineup - Frei; Yedlin, Marshall, Scott, Gonzalez; Evans, Alonso, Pineda, Pappa; Dempsey, Martins. 

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