Revived Dempsey and Company Enter Rising Frisco

High times in Frisco will be tempered quickly with the arrival of Clint Dempsey’s Seattle Sounders.

But maybe the spirit of confidence exuding from Toyota Stadium has been doused with reality already. After all, a calendar year ago FC Dallas found itself gaining the same results. The emotional drain that was the midseason winless streak of 2013 reminds us all what is within the realm of possibilities during an MLS season.

Different means mean everything, though. Oscar Pareja has turned Dallas into a youthful, attacking crop of confident players who have yet to face defeat in 2014. Free kicks and balls from stoppage were the crutch the carried Hyndman’s 2013 FCD. However, Oscar has proven that the mastery of the dead ball never left Frisco, but it’s been incorporated into an array of tools at FCD’s disposal. The goals have been spread quite well between open play/crosses (5), penalties (2), indirect kicks (3), direct free kicks (2), and the occasional, lucky own goal (1).

If nothing else it’s a testament to the new prodigy in Frisco, Mauro Diaz, and his pair of gilded feet that have been behind several of the team’s goals. His transformation from a slow-starting, talented, but egregiously green trequartista into a provider and master of the attack has been nothing short of breathtaking. In many ways, as the game for Mauro goes so goes FC Dallas.

What of the visitors, though? Do the Sounders pose enough of a threat? Or will the confines of a grass field, southern heat, and roughly 17,000 fans be too different of an environment and invite a minor sense of culture shock to Sigi’s side?

Seattle has been inconsistent at best this year. In five games they’ve won as much as they’ve lost and drawn only one (Overall, 2-2-1). That inconsistency was on display last week against Portland. Despite shipping four goals to Cascadia rivals Portland, the Sounders nabbed a point in a violent and raucous event that could potentially boost their spirits heading into Frisco.

Clint Dempsey was the lynchpin in Portland, netting a hat trick. He suddenly resembled the Deuce that saved Fulham from relegation in 2007, topped Fulham’s all-time Premier League goal scoring charts in 2011, or the Deuce that is now worth a reported $6.6 American dollars. Tie that form down to a pacey, crafty Obafemi Martins, and it’s easy to see how difficult the task may be for Hedges and Keel come tonight.

Kenny Cooper’s presence may through a bit more fuel on the fire. After the disaster (let’s face it – we love hometown Kenny, but it was) that was Cooper’s most recent stint in Frisco, he has actually looked like the Cooper of old in Seattle. Two goals to his name thus far this season, he is even playing on the flank and scoring, which is something that couldn’t be said last season. Too nice of a guy to have a chip on his shoulder, Kenny will still have faithful swaths of fans in Frisco to please.

Dallas will have to respect and fear Cooper’s motives, Dempsey’s newfound form, as well as Seattle’s road record. At 1-0-1 it’s nearly 50% of FCD’s road wins in 2013. This early in the season, however, it is something to hang a hat on for the Sounders. Given their struggles at Century Link so far, a maintained, solid road record may be a rallying point. Simply put: they’re a solid side, but so far more solid away from Seattle.

If Moffat, Thomas, and Diaz are all present in the Dallas midfield come tonight FCD has every chance in the world at maintaining perfection at home. Diaz’s vision and workrate compliment Thomas and Moffat’s backline screening quite well. Osvaldo Alonso, typically the only holding midfielder for Seattle, will have his hands tied with Mauro. Truthfully, Thomas and Moffat (if he is 100%) will have a difficult duty in stopping service into Dempsey and Martins alike.

Expect a sizeable battle on the flanks, which Seattle loves and adores, tonight. Yedlin and Gonzales, both outside backs, push quite high into the attack on a regular basis. You can imagine how diligent and dedicated Castillo and Watson will need to be in order to provide extra cover for Loyd and Benitez on the defensive flanks. Exposed flanks could lead to an opportunity for open counters for Seattle. Given the lack of speed in the back for FCD in the form of Keel and Hedges, it will be necessary to avoid.

But none of this is new to FCD. In fact Seattle’s approach may appear very similar to that of Houston’s. Schmid’s  Sounders, despite a few new faces, stylistically haven’t altered themselves much from last year, let alone any year of the Sounders’ existence. Given how tactically astute Pareja can be, as was shown in the Kansas City match, it shouldn’t be a worrying point for FC Dallas or its fans.

This fixture went Dallas’ way in 2013, despite the overall series landing in the Sounders’ favor. Pareja hasn’t achieved much against the Sounders during his career, managing only a solitary win in two years. Current confidence withstanding, a healthy squad tonight will have every chance of keeping an undefeated record at home for Pareja and his second win against Sigi Schmid.

Cory Jensen

About Cory Jensen

Removed from his ancestral Texas, he longs for Whataburger, Peticolas, and a quality breakfast burrito.