FRISCO, TX - MARCH 26: Fabian Castillo #15 of of FC Dallas dribbles past Ramiro Corrales #12 of the San Jose Earthquakes at Pizza Hut Park on March 26, 2011 in Frisco, Texas. (Photo by Layne Murdoch/Getty Images)
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After pulling out a last-minute win over hapless Sporting Kansas City the Seattle Sounders face a much more difficult task on Wednesday as a red-hot FC Dallas team comes to town. Five points from this home-stand wouldn't be a disaster for Seattle but it's tough to think that it's what they were targeting going into it and with a trip to Rio Tinto to face Real Salt Lake on Saturday there's something of an increased sense of urgency surrounding this game. Seattle are still right in the thick of things in the Western Conference (at least as far as points are concerned) but with teams 2-6 all sitting between 16 and 18 points it wouldn't take much to shift the race dramatically.
It's not a huge secret that the Sounders have had a tremendous amount of difficulty finding goals as of late and Sigi Schmid has not been shy to tinker with the lineup and tactical approach of the team in hopes of finding the right approach, and though it's tough to say these days with any sort of certainty it wouldn't be too much of a surprise to see that continue. Mike Fucito is one name that's been on the lips of many a Sounders fan as of late and while there are reasons to think that a Montero/Fucito pairing might struggle in a league as physical as MLS but with the Sounders struggles in the attack as of late it may very well be worth a shot.The idea of Nate Jaqua playing as a lone striker with more attacking intent from the wide midfield is also a possibility, as is an attacking 4-3-3 with Montero and one of Fucito, Erik Friberg or Mauro Rosales on the wings. Rosales and Friberg are both expected to be available to start meaning that even with Brad Evans still questionable the Sounders are as close to full-strength as they've been in quite some time.
With three points and some confidence ahead of the toughest road trip in MLS two things the Sounders must be looking to take from this game, it seems reasonable to expect a slightly more attacking look from Seattle than we're used to. They'll need it to get on the board against FC Dallas. After losing reigning MLS MVP David Ferreira to a severe ankle injury Dallas have been forced to reinvent themselves to some degree and it's largely been a success. While they might not be as exciting to watch or as dangerous in the attack without Ferreira it's difficult to argue with their recent results; unbeaten in their last five (having taken 9 of the available 15 points) and allowing just one goal, Dallas has shaken off a poor start to reclaim their stake on being one of the league's best. To have been so successful after losing one of the best players in the league just serves as further proof that this is an elite collection of talent. As stout a back line as there is in all of MLS with enough attacking talent in the counter to make nay coach nervous, the key will be finding a balance between going for three points and being reckless. It's one that a lot of teams have had a tremendous amount of difficulty finding as of late and with Dallas likely content with a point breaking them down will be no easy task.
Neutralizing Fabian Castillo will be key for Seattle as the young 19 year old Colombian has been an absolute handful as of late and is Dallas' most explosive and dangerous attacking player by far. Seattle will likely dominate possession but against a tight and patient defense it's going to be down to Seattle's creative forces like Fredy Montero and Mauro Rosales to exploit what little space they can find if the Sounders hope to emerge victorious. Perhaps even more than is typical the first goal in this game will be key; if the Sounders are able to pull Dallas up-field and out of their bunker, that opens more space in the final third for Seattle. If Dallas manage to get one past Kasey Keller first, it could mean ten men behind the ball and a frustrating evening for the Sounders. Seattle has a tough task in front of them on the evening, and it will be interesting to see How Sigi Schmid chooses to go after it.