Sounders’ Saturday scouting report: FC Dallas

May 12, 2016, 1:20 PM
Sounders defender Chad Marshall is questionable for Saturday's match with muscle soreness. (AP)...
Sounders defender Chad Marshall is questionable for Saturday's match with muscle soreness. (AP)

Seattle travels to the Lone Star State this weekend, facing an FC Dallas side that knocked them out of the MLS Cup playoffs at the end of last season. The Sounders are coming off of a two-match, two-win homestand and will be hoping to ride into Dallas full of confidence and form. Despite Seattle’s last two wins, they still sit in eighth place in the Western Conference with just 13 points.

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FC Dallas started the MLS season extremely well, losing just once in its first eight matches in 2016. It should be noted that that single loss, a 5-0 drubbing by Lone Star rivals Houston Dynamo in Week 2. Despite not losing again until Week 9, the scoreline against the Dynamo was an omen of things to come for FCD. The club racked up three bad road losses in a row: 3-0 at Vancouver, 4-0 to New York Red Bulls, and 1-0 to Toronto FC. They won’t be headed into Saturday’s match as downtrodden as they would have been, as they finished off the Portland Timbers 2-1 on Wednesday night.

Here are a few of the threats that they could pose against the Sounders on Saturday:

Toyota Stadium is a fortress … somehow

While it’s true that away matches in general are significantly more difficult in Major League Soccer than in other leagues, FC Dallas’ home form is pretty exceptional, making it an even harder task for visiting teams. The club has only lost at home three times since the start of the 2014 season. Toyota Stadium is near the bottom for average attendance, but somehow the team has made it into a fortress. Can the Sounders beat FC Dallas and buck the trend? It’ll likely be sweltering hot for the Sounders, and a strong FCD defense is unlikely to break or tire as easily at home.

Dallas is still young, fast, and dangerous

The team that beat Seattle in the penalty shootout in last year’s MLS Cup Playoffs is still largely intact and poses the same threats it did during an exceptional 2015 season. Dallas finished first in the Western Conference in 2015 and were barely pipped to the Supporters’ Shield by the New York Red Bulls; their playoff dream was broken in the Western Conference Finals by the Portland Timbers. But a strong team got them very far in 2015, and many of those players are back in 2016 and already wreaking havoc.

The three-headed dragon of Dallas’ attack – midfielder Mauro Diaz, Maximiliano Urruti, and Fabian Castillo – have had a flying start to the season and will pose a number of threats to Seattle’s defense. The trio has six goals between them thus far, and will hit Seattle on the counter with a ferocity the Sounders haven’t really seen yet this season, except for maybe the Colorado Rapids. All three are excellent with the ball at their feet and will likely be keeping it on the ground when attacking. After all, they’ve only scored one goal from a header this season. The Sounders won’t need to worry too much about Dallas’ attack threatening in the air, however…

They have an extremely well-rounded defense

To make up for their attackers’ lack of height and aerial prowess, FC Dallas has extremely competent, powerful, and tall defenders. Maynor Figueroa and Ryan Hollingshead are two of the most highly rated full-backs in the league, and 22-year-old Walker Zimmerman looks to be one of the most promising central defenders in the league. Zimmerman scored Dallas’ first header of the season against Portland on Wednesday, and Hollingshead scored the other with a terrific strike from the middle of the box.

Dallas’ defense likely won’t be as cavalier in the attack against Seattle, and it will be very difficult to break down at home. The Sounders may need to balance speed and strength to manage more than a point in Dallas, and pray that set pieces and chances fall their way often.

Spenser Davis also covers the Sounders for Sounder at Heart.

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Sounders’ Saturday scouting report: FC Dallas