FC Dallas-Sounders Preview
By JEFF MEZYDLO
STATS Senior Writer
Seattle Sounders FC has already secured a playoff berth in its inaugural season. FC Dallas’ postseason hopes, however, have come down to the final weekend.
Dallas looks to continue a late-season surge and keep its playoff chances alive with a fifth consecutive victory Saturday night on the road against the surprising Sounders.
After missing the playoffs for the first time in four seasons a year ago, Dallas (11-12-6) has done all it could over the last month to make sure that won’t happen again. Defenders George John and Ugo Ihemelu scored as the club won for the fifth time in six matches, 2-1 over Colorado last Saturday.
Dallas is in a four-way tie with Toronto FC, New England and D.C. for the eighth and final playoff spot – one point behind seventh-place Colorado. Though two postseason berths remain, Dallas faces a must-win situation and needs the right combinations of other matches to go its way in order to keep playing after Saturday.
“We don’t even talk about it,” coach Schellas Hyndman said. “It’s too complicated and we need to win a game before we can dream about anything else.”
Though Jeff Cunningham didn’t find the back of the net last week after scoring 16 of his league-leading 17 goals over a 13-game stretch, Dave van den Bergh recorded his 11th assist for Dallas, which has outscored its opponents 8-2 during a four-game winning streak.
“Week after week, we’ve just been fighting and playing our style of soccer,” Ihemelu said. “This is the way we want to keep going into the next game and hopefully into the playoffs.”
That might not be easy against upstart Seattle (11-7-11), which beat Kansas City 3-2 last Saturday to join the 1998 Chicago Fire as the only clubs to clinch a playoff berth during their expansion seasons.
The Fire’s improbable run culminated by winning the MLS Cup, something Seattle coach Sigi Schmid knows would be a tall order. The Sounders should be motivated since next month’s title match will be played on their home pitch at Qwest Field.
“The scenario was different when Chicago did it because the league was a lot younger,” Schmid told MLS’ official Web site as he prepares to guide his third different team to the playoffs after coaching Los Angeles (2002) and Columbus (2008) to MLS championships.
“I’m proud of our team, and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished. I still think we can play better soccer, but that’s just me.”
The Sounders can also earn the top spot in the Western Conference. Though in fourth place, Seattle is one point behind West leaders Los Angeles, Houston and CD Chivas USA.
“The sky’s the limit with this team,” said forward Nate Jaqua, who scored his eighth goal of the season against Kansas City. “You know we’re going to go in there and fight every time we play.”
Tyrone Marshall had a goal with an assist, Freddie Ljungberg added two assists and Roger Levesque scored for the second consecutive match to help Seattle win its second straight last week.
Jaqua assisted on Jhon Kennedy Hurtado’s goal when Seattle and Dallas played to a 1-all draw May 16 at Pizza Hut Park.