Preview: Seattle Sounders host a resilient, underdog FC Dallas in MLS Playoffs

Seattle Sounders vs. FC Dallas Preview 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs
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Preview — The Seattle Sounders FC are looking to continue their MLS Cup Playoff success on Tuesday night. A ticket to the Western Conference Final is on the line, and the journey to one of the two coveted spots runs through Seattle. Heading up north to stand in the Sounders’ way is FC Dallas.

FC Dallas is a young, resilient and underdog team in the Western Conference. Managed by first-year head coach Luchi Gonzalez, FC Dallas upset the Portland Timbers on penalty kicks to advance.

Seattle is a tall task for FC Dallas. The two sides met in the playoffs last year, too, with the Sounders advancing in extra time, courtesy of Jordan Morris’ game-winning goal. Morris had a hat-trick in that match, with FC Dallas being overwhelmed by the U.S. men’s national team forward.

However, Seattle wasn’t picture-perfect in last year’s match, with the defense giving up three goals.

But, the slate is brand new and it’s a different year.

Can Dallas head up to the Pacific Northwest and upset the mighty Sounders? Or, will the Sounders repeat last year’s success and punch their ticket to another Western Conference final? Take a read and preview tomorrow night’s contest.

A different-look defense for the Sounders

The Sounders have a few new pieces on the defense from last year’s match. While Kelvin Leerdam remains the anchor on the right, he was out against LAFC with a hamstring injury. According to Sounder at Heart reporter Jeremiah Oshan, Leerdam returned to training on Friday.

Taking the role of right back against LAFC was Alex Roldan — yes, the younger brother of Cristian. However, Alex stepped out of his brother’s shadow and put together a commendable and impressive performance against LAFC. He earned praise from Brian Schmetzer after the contest.

“Tonight was a big game for the club, it was against a tricky opponent, and Alex performed over and above my expectations,” Schmetzer said immediately after the LAFC victory. “That’s how I feel. Alex is a tremendous young player. He lives in the shadow, a little bit, of his brother. Tonight, I don’t think you’d say that. I think you’d say Alex is a very good, capable right back in MLS.”

Xavier Arreaga could return and face off with FC Dallas, although he is currently still in quarantine after traveling to Ecuador for international matches two weeks a go. Meanwhile, Brad Smith, who is coming off a hamstring injury, subbed in for Nouhou against LAFC. There is a chance he could return to the starting lineup and send Nouhou to the bench.

Should Arreaga not be able to start, Shane O’Neill will hold it down on the backline with Yeimar Gomez Andrade once again.

Attack will be key for FC Dallas

The Sounders like to press hard, so FC Dallas will certainly be on the defensive swing. However, the attack is going to be big for the young Texas club.

Franco Jara led the team in goals this year with seven tallies, while Ryan Hollingshead and Santiago Mosquera tied for second with four goals each. Newly acquired in 2020, midfielder Fafá Picault scored three goals.

Michael Barrios led FC Dallas with five assists, while Bryan Reynolds was right behind him with three assists. FC Dallas has a youthful crop of players who, at the guidance of Gonzalez, aren’t afraid to get up in the attack.

When previewing the contest against Seattle, Hollingshead said that FC Dallas wants to “redeem” themselves from last year’s playoff loss.

“We’re excited to redeem ourselves from last year,” Hollingshead said. “I thought we put in an amazing shift last year. We thought the game was in our hands. To be able to go up there and try to redeem ourselves is great. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Prediction: Seattle Sounders vs. FC Dallas

It’s hard to pick against a Sounders team in the playoffs. There is just a different mentality for the Sounders. Expect big things from Raúl Ruidíaz, who is on a different level in the postseason with eight goals and six assists in his seven postseason appearances in three years.

Seattle will win this one, but it won’t be comfortably. FC Dallas will give the Sounders a bigger headache than LAFC. However, I do believe the Sounders will end this contest in 90 minutes with a final score of 2-0, giving Stefan Frei a clean sheet.

Seattle will host FC Dallas on Tuesday night at 9:30 p.m. EST/6:30 p.m. PT. The match will air on Fox Sports 1. The winner will face either Sporting Kansas City or Minnesota United FC — who face off on FS1 on Wednesday night at 9 p.m. EST — in the Western Conference Final.

If Sporting Kansas City wins, the winner of Tuesday’s match will head to Kansas City, no matter the outcome. However, if Minnesota United wins and the Sounders win, the Sounders will host Adrian Heath’s club. If FC Dallas and Minnesota both win, Minnesota would host the Western Conference Final.