Sounders FC and its two opponents this week are dealing with the same challenge: long-term injuries to important players.
The Sounders are without midfielder Steve Zakuani, who suffered two leg fractures in late April. Tonight, they host FC Dallas – which is without reigning Major League Soccer MVP David Ferreira, who suffered a broken right ankle last month. And on Saturday, they visit Real Salt Lake – which is without midfielder Javier Morales, who sustained ankle and ligament damage early this month.
“Dallas has changed,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “With the loss of Ferreira, they’ve gone more into a 4-4-2, rather than a 4-3-3 the way they were playing it. ... But they’ve got some speed up top, and they’re relying on that. So, it’s changed a little bit how they play. But Salt Lake is playing the same way; they’re just missing an important element of their team.”
The Sounders are more like Dallas in that they are trying to overcome the loss of Zakuani, their fastest and most dangerous outside attacker. The process has been slowed because other injuries at midfield have limited the availability of Mauro Rosales, Erik Friberg and Brad Evans.
Even at that, the Sounders have gone 3-1-2 without Zakuani (including the game in which he was injured). And Rosales, Friberg and Evans all could be available tonight, which could allow a change in the diamond-shaped midfield the club has been using.
“You use the talents of the players that you have,” Schmid said. “We wanted to see how it would look with Mauro underneath so we wanted to take a look at that. We wanted to open up some space on the flanks for our outside backs. I thought (James) Riley got forward at times. Tyson (Wahl) got forward at times as well. We just figured it suited our personnel a little bit better. ... A system is merely a conduit to allow the players to best use their abilities, and that’s what we are trying to do.”
Ferreira was hurt April 23, and Dallas has gone 4-0-2 over that period.
“They still have a lot of threats,” Schmid said. “Obviously, Brek Shea had a good season for them last year (five goals, five assists), and he’s still a good player. Marvin Chavez has been playing up front; he’s fast. They’ve got good team speed. (Fabian) Castillo, the other forward, has good speed, good quickness as well. They bring in (Eric) Avila off the bench; he’s another guy who is pretty quick. Their outside back, Jackson (Goncalves) is a guy who will attack as well.”
The key to Dallas’ success has been on defense. The Hoops haven’t allowed a goal over their last 399 minutes, and their draw with Salt Lake on Sunday marked their fourth straight shutout.
“They’ve really concentrated on themselves defensively,” Schmid said. “And they’ve played four out of their last five at home. So for them to put a string of shutouts together has been good.”
Dallas has scored three goals while going 2-0-2 over its shutout streak.
That leaves FCD 5-3-3 and with 18 points on the season – one point ahead of Seattle and Salt Lake. Los Angeles leads MLS with a 6-2-5 record and 23 points.
“It was nice after (beating Kansas City last weekend) to see ourselves in second place,” goalkeeper Kasey Keller said. “It would be nice to do that again ... and see us just below L.A. and keep pushing them. Like we said before: We had these three games at home, we wanted to pick up as many points as we possibly can, and there’s no reason why we can’t finish these three games with seven points and be very happy about that.”
SOUNDERS FC GAMEDAY
FC DALLAS (5-3-3, 18 POINTS) AT SOUNDERS FC (4-3-5, 17 POINTS)
Kickoff: 7 p.m., Qwest Field.
TV: Ch. 6/16. RADIO: 97.3-FM (99.3-FM in Spanish).
HEAD TO HEAD: Seattle leads, 1-0-3. The return match is Aug. 20 at Frisco, Texas.
TEAM LEADERS: : For Dallas – goals 3, Brek Shea, David Ferreira; assists 3, Melvin Chavez; shots 22, Chavez; shots on goal 7, Chavez; goals against average 0.91, Kevin Hartman. For Seattle – G 4, Brad Evans; A 3, Mauro Rosales, Fredy Montero; S 36, Montero; SOG 16, Montero; GAA 0.92; Kasey Keller.
NOTES: Dallas has four straight shutouts and hasn’t allowed a goal in 399 minutes. That puts the Hoops 16 minutes short of the club record, and 15 minutes short of the longest shutout streak this MLS season (Columbus). … Seattle has scored one goal in four straight games. Dallas has scored three goals its last four matches. … This concludes a three-game home stretch in which the Sounders are 1-0-1. … Dallas is without reigning league MVP David Ferreira, who suffered a broken ankle last month, the day after Seattle midfielder Steve Zakuani suffered what is likely to be a season-ending leg fracture. … Sounders midfielders Erik Friberg (ankle) and Brad Evans (groin) could be available. … Donations of non-perishable food or cash will be taken at stadium gates for Food Lifeline, a nonprofit fighting hunger in Western Washington.
QUOTABLE: “It’s difficult when you have a midweek game because you really don’t have a lot of training time to work on (cohesion), so a lot of it is like on-the-job training. They’ve got to figure it out on the field, but they are intelligent players and they will be able to do that. This is an important game for us, and we’ve got to get after it.” – Sounders coach Sigi Schmid
NEXT: 6 p.m. Saturday, at Real Salt Lake.
Don Ruiz, staff writer