Seattle Sounders vs FC Dallas: Three Players to Watch

Seattle Sounders vs FC Dallas
Sunday, October 30th
CenturyLink Field | Seattle, Washington
9:30pm Eastern
This Sunday the Western Conference’s number one seed FC Dallas begins their playoff campaign and quest for a historic treble when they take on the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field in the first leg of the Western Conference semi-finals. These teams met exactly two weeks prior in Texas and Dallas escaped with three points after an 89th minute winner courtesy of Carlos Ruíz.
Seattle enters the match in solid home form, having won four of their last five matches at CenuryLink. The Sounders have been one of the hottest teams in MLS since late July when Brian Schmetzer took over as interim manager. They made it to the West semifinals amid controversy, eking out a 1-0 home victory against Sporting Kansas City on Thursday. They will be short on rest relative to FC Dallas who enter the match benefitting from a first round bye.
FC Dallas added another piece of 2016 silverware to the trophy cabinet last Sunday when they captured the Supporters’ Shield with an away draw against the LA Galaxy. Dallas is unbeaten in their last eight outings but are still reeling from the loss of playmaker and team captain Mauro Díaz. Díaz suffered a season ending achilles injury in the last meeting with Seattle two weeks ago. 

Three Players to Watch

In the absence of Mauro Díaz, Oscar Pareja opted to push Tesho Akindele forward from midfield into a more true striker’s role along side Maxi Urruti. Akindele was not particularly effective last week, but Dallas largely played for a draw against LA given the situation in the Supporters’ Shield race. FC Dallas’ attack has lacked cutting edge at times and Akindele will have to take advantage of this opportunity if Dallas are to get the goals they’ll need to advance.
Without Clint Dempsey, the playmaking for Seattle largely falls into the hands of Nícolas Lodeiro. The Uruguayan leads the team in assists (tied) and has had a stellar second half of the season. He and the Seattle offense have cooled-off over the past few games though. Lodeiro hasn’t produced an assist in the past six games but he did score against Dallas in their last matchup.
Goalkeeper Stefan Frei came up huge for Seattle on Thursday, recording seven saves and a clean sheet against an incisive Sporting Kansas City offense. Seattle will need Frei to be good again if Seattle intends to get a favorable resulting heading into leg two of this series.

Familiar Foes

These two teams have playoff history without a doubt. They have clashed in the Conference Semifinals in each of the last two seasons. Seattle advanced in 2014 by virtue of the newly instituted away goals tiebreaker. Dallas advanced in 2015 by winning a second leg penalty shootout. The third consecutive postseason meeting between these familiar clubs should again produce nail-biting moments and a winner with a chance to lift MLS Cup.