The Seattle Sounders are taking on FC Dallas on Sunday in each club’s second match of the 2018 Major League Soccer season (2 p.m. PT; JOEtv, Univision-Seattle, YouTube TV, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM). Ahead of the game, we caught up with FC Dallas’ Digital Manager Carter Baum to discuss what to expect in Frisco.
SOUNDERSFC.COM: What is something about FC Dallas this year to look out for?
BAUM: This is definitely an interesting season coming in for FC Dallas. Given the nature of last season’s late collapse, there has understandably been a high amount of turnover this offseason compared to the past few years. In the early going, the biggest thing to watch will be the inclusion and adaptation of those new faces, namely along the back line which has three new starters.
Reto Ziegler brings some experience in the middle, Anton Nedyalkov and Reggie Cannon on the wings are both great at working forward in the attack, but also staying sound defensively. For now, it’s all about developing the relationship and communication at the back, something so vital in that position. As the season rolls on, though, Homegrowns Paxton Pomykal and Jesus Ferreira are looking to have more elevated roles this season, as well as newer Homegrown signings Brandon Servania (who will be out for at least the next month after surgery) and Kris Reaves. It’s an organization-wide effort to continue to integrate these young Academy products and they’ll play larger and larger roles into the summer.
SOUNDERSFC.COM: Is there any player(s) who has stood out to you so far in the early going?
BAUM: First, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the great preseason Mauro Diaz has had working back from his Achilles’ tear back in October 2016. He’s showed great signs of the dynamic playmaker we all know from years prior and that’s going to be trouble for the league as a whole. He’s had a bit of early injury trouble, but Anton Nedyalkov is another name that has really impressed on the left wing in the physical, gritty style he brings to the back line. Lastly, I’d say Santiago Mosquera just in what he brings to the table. In his very first preseason game just 48 hours or so after officially signing, he made a 70-yard run past a pair of New England defenders before pulling up inside the 18-yard box and delivering a perfect pass to Maxi Urruti for a tap-in goal.
SOUNDERSFC.COM: What does new DP Santiago Mosquera bring?
BAUM: Think Michael Barrios 2.0, but maybe even faster. That’s what Mosquera’s potential is when he’s fully integrated into the system and with his teammates. Early on, he’s been eased in just because he was signed at the tail end of preseason. His ability largely lies on the left wing as a speed threat who can cut to the middle and bring havoc to opposing back lines. He also possesses a goalscoring threat almost equal to his creating threat and is going to play a large role in spreading the attacking load down both sides of the field, where Dallas has overwhelmingly worked through Barrios on the right since the departure of Fabian Castillo.
SOUNDERSFC.COM: How has the defense adjusted to losing Walker Zimmerman in the offseason?
BAUM: I think if you look at last year, it’s tough to say there’s a direct transition from Zimmerman to 2018. It’s more along the lines of Zimmerman in 2016 and the first half of 2017, then the entire defensive struggle of late 2017 and now 2018. It’s pretty well documented that the club and Zimmerman were on different terms late in the season and his move in the offseason was inevitable despite his tenure here. For both sides, I think it will prove beneficial in a new start.
Bringing in Reto Ziegler is going to be a huge gain for the club from the struggles at the end of 2017 just in what he brings to the table in terms of leadership and experience, along with his abilities on the field. We’re talking about a guy who has played in three of the top four leagues in the world and has been to two World Cups with Switzerland. There’s always going to be a newness to the situation and kinks to work out, but Ziegler and Matt Hedges have both said they’re very comfortable together in the middle already and as that relationship grows, both will benefit from it.
SOUNDERSFC.COM: Dallas and Seattle always seem to have intense battles, but usually much later in the season. What are you expecting from this match?
BAUM: I actually looked this one up the other day and seven of the last 11 meetings between the two clubs have come in the months of September, October and November — right in the heart of the playoff race and postseason runs. I think obviously this match doesn’t have as much to offer in terms of what is on the line right here and right now because both are only playing their second MLS game of the year. What it does offer is a big chance for both to get their league campaigns back on the right course.
If you look at Dallas, it’s a team that had a disappointing exit in the CCL Round of 16 and then three days later opened up their league schedule with much of the same players in the lineup. They earned a 1-1 draw against an improved RSL side, but the emotional and physical toll of the previous 10 days played a role. For Seattle, their first MLS game was without some of the familiar faces from CCL action because three days after the season opener, you’ve got a CCL quarterfinal match. A 1-0 loss at home is not something you often see from the Sounders, but given the circumstance, completely understandable. This weekend is a chance for both to get back on track in the early going and I think it’s exciting in its own right.