After an emotional final round of FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, the Seattle Sounders return to MLS play for their penultimate match of the 2017 regular season.
The Sounders welcome FC Dallas to CenturyLink Field for the first time since Seattle scored three goals in eight minutes in the first leg of last year’s Western Conference semifinals. The West’s sixth-place team, FCD has only won once in their last 13 matches and has not won in Seattle since 2011.
FC Dallas played through last week’s FIFA international break, earning a road point at the Colorado Rapids, while the Sounders are looking to erase the bad taste in their mouth from a 2-0 defeat the Philadelphia Union on Oct. 1.
“They obviously played through the break, so they’re still in stride,” Sounders forward Will Bruin said of FC Dallas. “They’ve got pace on the wings and they’re going to sit in and try and hit those guys high and wide on the counter, but if we can control possession and control the tempo of the game, we’ll get our chances.”
Added midfielder Cristian Roldan: “They’re a quality team, they catch you on the break. They have [Mauro] Diaz, who makes the game for them. You have to be always aware of where he’s at. Their back line is pretty strong. They have big guys who are pretty physical…We have to take it to them and make them defend because that’s not their game.”
Seattle went to Philly bereft of a first-choice roster with Osvaldo Alonso (knee), Román Torres (knee) and Jordan Morris (hamstring) all inactive. Roldan played through a broken arm, and Víctor Rodríguez was home in Barcelona with his wife expecting the birth of their first child.
The Sounders spent most of their time off recovering and recharging, getting their bodies and minds right ahead of the last two games of the regular season and hopefully a deep playoff run, something of which Sounders players are confident.
“We have pretty good depth. We have Víctor, we have Lamar [Neagle], we have Harry [Shipp], who hasn’t played much lately, but those guys are all quality guys and can be put in a lineup at any point. Going into the playoffs, you need those guys. Last year, we saw Erik Friberg coming in and then [Andreas] Ivanschitz coming off the bench and [Alvaro Fernandez] coming off the bench. It’s a bit different though [this year] because I think we have better players throughout our roster.”
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With a win on Sunday, the Sounders can book their ninth consecutive trip to the postseason, a feat that would be the longest active streak in MLS. In order to get there, and to produce once the playoffs begin, Seattle is focusing on capitalizing on and taking advantage of small opportunities as they present themselves.
The Sounders had a plethora of players step up when called upon during last year’s title run — Nelson Valdez’s game-winning header versus Sporting Kansas City, Tyrone Mears’ steal on Walker Zimmerman at FC Dallas and Morris’ “Flu Game” goal at the Colorado Rapids to name a few — and they know they’ll need just as many this time around if they hope to repeat.
“Little moments in games can have a big impact,” said Bruin, “and I think teams that take care of the little things will come away victorious at the end.”