The Seattle Sounders host FC Dallas on Saturday (12:30 p.m. PT; FS1, FOX Deportes, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM | TICKETS) in Round One of the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs. Here are three matchups to watch.
Jordan Morris vs. Reggie Cannon
Teammates at the national team level, Morris and Cannon will go head-to-head in arguably the most decisive matchup on Saturday. Morris enters the crucial fixture in high-flying form for both club and country, bagging 8 goals and 9 assists in his last 14 starts for the Sounders and U.S. Men’s National Team. Cannon, meanwhile, appears to have locked down the starting right back job for the Stars & Stripes.
Morris has proven that he can beat defenders in multiple ways as he’s developed into a true out-and-out winger. If he can continue to eliminate defenders in 1-v-1 situations, he’ll provide plenty of service for the likes of Raúl Ruidíaz, Nicolás Lodeiro and Cristian Roldan.
Nicolás Lodeiro vs. Brandon Servania
Lodeiro was built for the postseason.
An intelligent, mobile and creative midfielder with vast experience all over the world, the Uruguayan is already the club’s all-time leading scorer in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. Moreover, his ability to apply pressure in central midfield and dictate tempo means that Seattle’s game plan on both sides of the ball largely flows through him.
Servania, on the other hand, is a promising defensive midfielder from Dallas’ talent-rich academy. He’s done exceedingly well in the minutes he’s been given by Luchi Gonzalez, and there’s no denying he has a bright future. But in a single-elimination match at CenturyLink Field, Lodeiro’s experience and unmatched quality will give him the upper hand in controlling the midfield. Look for Seattle’s No. 10 and captain to drag Servania out of position all evening, exposing the center backs and creating space for the wingers to bomb inside.
Raúl Ruidíaz vs. Matt Hedges
Although Ruidíaz hasn’t scored in his last five outings for Seattle – his longest dry spell since joining the club midway through 2018 – he has evolved his game to benefit the team. Normally a No. 9 that likes to stay high and confound defenders with clever movements in the final third, he’s been dropping deeper into midfield to help facilitate play. Down the stretch, Ruidíaz has proven that he’s much more than just a poacher.
On Saturday, he’ll be facing off against Hedges, the seasoned veteran on FCD. Hedges thrives when he anticipates plays and jumps passing lanes, starving strikers of the touches they require to get into a rhythm. With Ruidíaz dropping deeper into midfield and Hedges defending on the front foot, expect large gaps in Dallas’ back line to open up. That’s a recipe for success for the likes of Morris and Lodeiro, as they can make vertical runs into acres of space.
When Seattle exploits this space and gets in behind Dallas, look for Ruidíaz to crash the box and finish off chances.