FC Dallas and the Seattle Sounders FC will play the second leg of the MLS Western Conference Semifinals on Sunday at Toyota Stadium. The Sounders enter this match knowing that a draw or a victory will get them to their third ever Western Conference Final. Dallas can only advance with a victory at home.
Clint Dempsey secured the Rave Green a late victory 2-1 at CenturyLink Field last Sunday in the first leg. Now with the narrow 2-1 aggregate lead, Seattle heads to Texas looking to wrap up the series.
If Seattle advances, they will be facing a different foe than the LA Galaxy in the Conference Final for the first time. Both times in the past LA eliminated the Sounders, and now with them gone the Rave Green must be feeling confident. However, before Seattle begins to celebrate they must first survive the challenges that await them at Toyota Stadium.
Dallas is not out of the race yet. Yes their road is a little more difficult since they must win. However, if Dallas manage to score once and keep the Sounders scoreless, that will be enough to guarantee them their passage to the next round, because of the away goal. However, if Seattle scores a goal at Frisco, TX then the Toros have to win by two to advance. Additionally, if Dallas were to win by a scoreline of 3-2, 4-3, etc then Seattle would advance on away goals.
Yet another scenario is if regulation time ends and the score is 2-1 in Dallas’ favor; in that case, the game would go into extra time as the aggregate score would be level at 3-3 and each team would have one away goal.
Seattle steps into Frisco not lacking any confidence. Their history against Dallas on the road is an impressive (W-D-L) 4-5-1 record, which dates back to 2009 when the Sounders joined MLS. Regardless, the Hoops have been nothing but dominant at home this year going 13-2-2. In spite of that formidable home record, Seattle is an opponent beaming with confidence after defeating LA in the Knockout Round. This club has a sense of destiny in the 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Although Dallas' young goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez and his defense have made Toyota Stadium a defensive fortress by only allowing just 15 goals in 17 matches and the Hoops have shut out seven different clubs throughout the season, with Dempsey and Obafemi Martins healthy and picking up steam it seems very unlikely that the Rave Green will blow their lead.
If Dallas wants to end the Sounders dream run then their midfield will need to be the main catalyst. Mauro Diaz, Michael Barrios and Je-Vaughn Watson must contain the ball and run at Seattle’s defense. The Rave Green might be without one of their key leaders in the back in Brad Evans. The U.S. international is labeled questionable with a left hamstring strain. If he is unable to go, then Sounders center back and veteran Chad Marshall will have to be the anchor and keep the rest of the defense calm.
The midfield of Dallas will need to be the aggressors since Seattle could be without their bulldog Osvaldo Alonso. The Cuban native is also placed in the questionable category with a left adductor strain. Alonso himself will want to suit up and play but Sounders manager Sigi Schmid might want to give him another game to rest and save him for the next round.
The Hoops will need to pounce on Alonso's potential abscence and get the ball to strikers David Texeira, Fabian Castillo, Tesho Akindele and Blas Perez who are going have to fire at will and test Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
At the end of the day the keys to victory for Dallas are simple: convert their chances and at the same time limit Seattle's offense by not turning over the ball.
Prediction: Dallas 3-2 Seattle (Aggregate Dallas 4-4 Seattle, the Sounders advance on away goals.)
The Sounders will find a way to pull through and score the second goal on Sunday. In the process, they will eliminate Dallas and continue their journey towards a franchise first MLS Cup Final.