by Charles Therrell (DISK DOKTOR)
Greetings to my brothers and sisters in Green. Throw out the form book. It’s time for Cup football, American style. With the Sounders winning midweek, in what was perhaps the most bizarrely refereed contest in MLS history (barring the US Open Cup Final in 2012 in Kansas City, infamously and incompetently refereed by Baron von Salazar), this year’s Cup story continues anew with a Quarter-Final 1st Leg cup tie, tonight at Royal Brougham Park. Our worthy opponent: The Dallas (the reason I call them this, is that in the song We Came to Drink, the only way the fill-in-the-blank-team-here lyric can fit properly, is if you sing it “Can you hear the Dallas sing?…” because if you do “Can you hear Dallas sing” awkward pause, right. And if you do “Can you hear FC Dallas sing.” jamming too many lyrics in a tight space yeh? Just sayin’). Our vital support has helped see our boys in Green through two heart-wrenching, must-win football matches – the league finale a week ago against the Salt Lake, and the midweek cup tie against Kansas City which was more out of control than the 1990 World Cup Semi-Final between Italy and Argentina. And that’s saying something for those that haven’t had the pleasure of seeing that match. http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/matches/round=3464/match=28/index.html I understand that as a referee you don’t want to book a player in a knockout match, unless you absolutely have to. However, if you eat your whistle for too many severe fouls, the match spins out of control and more often than not, players get hurt. Ismail Elfath has hopefully learnt his lesson, as did Michel Vautrot in 1990. With all that said, we – through the massive last gasp Goal of Redemption by Nelson Valdez – booked our place in the Quarter-Finals against MLS League Champions, the Dallas. By virtue of the Salt Lake falling to Los Angeles, the Galaxy, having finished higher in the conference than we, earned the privilege of playing the lower-seeded Colorado Rapids. This is by no means a holiday for our rivals from the Southland, as the Dallas were only two points clear of runners-up Colorado when they won the league on the last matchday of the season. As we were slower to put together a comprehensive season portfolio, we get the league champions. So be it. The side have never backed down from a challenge before. Tonight will be no different. Keep your sedatives and heart medication handy as we buckle in for another woolly one. I will keep the faith, and so will ye. Sounders supporters across the vast expanse of America, join me in the auld toast: TO THE SEATTLE SOUNDERS FOOTBALL CLUB…AND VICTORY!!!
The Good News
Although you can generally throw out the form book when it comes to cup football, it is noteworthy to mention that although the Dallas were unbeaten in their last five league matches, only two of them were wins. One of them against us, unfortunately. In fact, in Dallas’ last league match, they only managed a 0:0 draw against Los Angeles at Avalon Boulevard. This proves out that, at least this season, the Dallas’ away form shows them to be rather ordinary. This would be underscored by the 5:0 thrashing we dealt to them in Seattle this July. Our’s and Dallas’ goals scored/conceded numbers in the league were pretty much the same. So the ultimate result of this cup tie is going to boil down to grit, nerve, and mentality. Meanwhile, in the Evergreen, Seattle has managed to grind out two must-win results to get this far, 2:1 over the Salt Lake to cement qualification for MLS Cup, and memorably 1:0 over Kansas City in the Cup midweek. Will the recent battle-testing of our Sounders see us through? Will the rest from the knockout bye-week fortify the Dallas to victory? I can honestly say, without reservation, that I am glad that I am not an oddsmaker for this match. Barring a lapse in our current play and/or exhaustion, it would seem reasonable to say that in the first leg, our boys in Green could be in with a shout.
The Bad News
For every silver lining exists it’s opposite leaden one. You won’t find that maxim anywhere as I think I just created it (™DISK DOKTOR ©2016). Playing such a big match after a midweek fixture could present problems for the Sounders with regards to squad depth and fatigue. It’s true that statistics in goals scored/conceded we are roughly the same as Dallas. It’s true that we beat them 5:0 in our home league meeting in July. However both away matches at the Lamar Hunt Boulevard ground were lost. With a 2:0 defeat in May, and more recently and painfully two weeks ago, the one that got away, with a score of 2:1. The bad news doesn’t end there. This MLS Quarter-Final tie will be the third played in a row between these two sides in three consecutive years. We were eliminated from MLS Cup on aggregate scores of 1:1 on away goals (2014), and 3:3, losing spectacularly in a 4:2 penalty shootout (2015). Of the four matches just mentioned, we only won one of them outright. So the numbers, albeit from a very limited sample, do not favour our success. In addition, the last match our side were extremely fond of gifting possession to Kansas City at every turn. The lack of player movement to support the football, was also troubling as playing one-twos are the best way to beat quality opposition. There were far too many instances of Sounders players thinking they had time for a control touch, only to be dispossessed promptly by a Kansas City defender. Although Kansas City weren’t able to punish us for these transgressions, you can be assured that the Dallas will not have that problem. The September purchase of legendary Guatemalan goalscorer, Carlos “Pescado” Ruiz from CSD Municipal does not bode well for us. Our top quality centre-halves, Marshall and Torres, have generally handled some of the best strikers the league has to offer. It is worthy of mention, however that even at the advanced age of 37 – Ruiz is a predatory finisher, as he demonstrated by torpedoing any hope of a result two weeks ago in Frisco, Texas with his 89th minute winner. It is worth noting that FC Dallas were able to incite the normally even-tempered Landon Donovan into a booking for unsporting behaviour. Mind that temper of yours, Ozzie. Also, Salazar is the referee. The hits just keep on comin’.
Know Thine Enemy
Goalkeeper – Seitz is able and has won an MLS Cup with Salt Lake. Seitz’s only fault might be seen in the fact that he hasn’t yet played 100 pro matches (currently at 77 appearances as of May 2016). Seitz’s understudies, Gonzalez and Herman have 17 appearances between the two of them.
Defence – Harris, though able (28 goals) and experienced (226 matches played), is getting long in the tooth at 31 years-old. Hedges is able if unspectacular, and in the peak of his career. Zimmerman, at the tender age of 23, has played several times at various youth levels for the United States, but his pro experience is limited at less than 100 matches. Figeroa is a mainstay for Honduras and his experience and leadership will fortify the Dallas’ defence. Look for the Argentinian, Paparatto, to fill in as needed. He is experienced, once winning the MLS Cup with the Treecutters.
Midfield – Acosta is quickly becoming a fixture in the American team. Although his professional experience is limited at under 100 matches, it’s clear Jurgen Klinsmann sees enough in him to award him four United States caps. Gruezo has a lot of experience for a 21 year-old along with 10 caps for Ecuador, and a club championship with Barcelona SC (Ecuador). Barrios scored against the Sounders in our May matchup in the league. He is still relatively young at 25, scores goals, and played a great deal of top division football in Colombia. Diaz has a ton of experience for a 25 year-old mixed with a bit of goalscoring ability, and played 49 times for River Plate in Argentina.
Forward – Urruti started for Dallas in the win against LA. He is reasonably experienced for his age (25), scores a fair amount (nearly a goal every two matches), played nearly 60 times for Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina, and won an MLS Cup with the Treecutters in cursed 2015. Akindele, though listed as a midfield player in last weeks lineup, is listed as a forward on the Dallas team roster. His experience as a pro is limited although this is mitigated by his goalscoring ability his 10 caps for Canada, and his MLS 2014 Rookie of the Year award. And Carlos “Pescado” Ruiz. See above.
Urruti and Paparatto were part of the Treecutters MLS Cup winning side in 2015. Mauro Rosales played nearly 90 times for the Sounders from 2011-2013.
Selections for Last Match
Sounders FC (MLS Cup 1st Round): Frei, Mears, Torres, Marshall, Joevin Jones, Alonso, Friberg, Roldan, Lodeiro, Fernández, Morris.
Bench: Miller (gk), Scott, Fisher, Valdez, Evans, Kovar, Gómez.
FC Dallas (Final match of MLS league schedule): Seitz, Harris, Zimmerman, Hedges, Figueroa, Barrios, Acosta, Gruezo, Hollingshead, Urruti, Akindele.
Bench: Gonzalez (gk), Paparatto, Ulloa, Ruiz, Rosales, David, Lizarazo.
[Injury reports during cup tournaments are rather closely guarded secrets by all clubs. This is my best estimate, based on current appearances or lack thereof]
Sounders FC –
OUT: Dempsey (irregular heartbeat), Ivanschitz (knee), Remick (concussion).
FC Dallas –
OUT: Lloyd (concussion), Diaz (Achilles tendon).
MATCHDAY DECISION: Acosta (hip).
Alonso carries his booking for unsporting play into this match. Alonso may be out next booking, provided that during MLS Cup, the FIFA system (second booking out next match) is used, rather than the (five bookings and out next match) MLS league approach.
As this is Dallas’ first match in this tournament, their disciplinary slate would seem to be clean.
US Open Cup namesake since 1999, Lamar Hunt and his family are the owners of the Dallas MLS franchise. The original trophy for the US Open Cup was the Dewar Cup donated by Sir Thomas Dewar. Yes the Scottish distillery owner – that Dewar. It was awarded by Sir Thomas for the promotion of football in the United States in 1912 until the trophy’s retirement in 1979, due to poor condition. The United States Adult Soccer Association brought the Dewar Cup back into use in 1997, apparently as a display item at the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, New York.