When the Seattle Sounders take on FC Dallas on Saturday (5 p.m. PT; JOEtv, KIRO Radio 97.3 FM, El Rey 1360 AM) in the first of two crucial meetings before the end of the regular season, there will be plenty of familiar faces at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.
United States Head Coach Bruce Arena called up 26 players for CONCACAF 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers against Costa Rica and Honduras early in September. Five play for either Seattle or FCD.
The Sounders’ Clint Dempsey, Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan and Dallas’ Kellyn Acosta and Matt Hedges all wore the U.S. kit just two weeks ago and will likely don it again next month in the final two WCQs. In the meantime, though, they line up as opponents, as friends behind enemy lines.
“Matt is a solid defender,” Roldan said of Hedges on Thursday ahead of Saturday’s match. “He’s come up the ranks. He’s a really good person off the field too. He’s a good player and has a bright future at center back with the national team especially.
“I think the world of Kellyn as well,” Roldan continued. “He can smack the ball well with both his right and left foot, he covers a ton of ground, gets into tackles, plays forward as much as he can. Those two guys are great human beings and even better soccer players.”
Roldan, Morris and Acosta are all 22 years old and figure to be U.S. mainstays over the course of the next decade. Hedges, 27, is finally getting consistent international opportunities after several successful years anchoring a stalwart FCD back line. He has one goal in 21 starts for Dallas this season, while Acosta has three goals and two assists in 17 starts.
Playing and spending time together at the international level has helped forge a relationship between Seattle and Dallas’ young stars, and Roldan is hoping he can use a little of that knowledge to help the Sounders earn a result this weekend.
“Kellyn likes to play the ball forward as quick as he can,” Roldan said. “I’m going to see him quite a bit because he bombs forward as well. He plays like a traditional No. 8 where he finds his way into the box and I have to always be aware of him because he adds another player into the attack.”
If the Sounders can contain Acosta in the middle and routinely test Hedges in the box, they’re confident they can return from Dallas with points in hand.
“We’re pretty familiar with them,” said Sounders Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. “It’s a really deep squad, good squad. [They are] a motivated team. They haven’t been in a great run of form, but Oscar [Pareja] is a great coach and he’s going to get them ready to go.”