FC Dallas has the worst record in Major League Soccer. The Hoops have scored the second-fewest goals in the league and have allowed the second-most. Through one win, six losses and a draw, their goal differential is minus-eight, tied for worst in MLS.
Most folks would look at those statistics and see an opportunity for Seattle Sounders FC to get back in the win column tonight after back-to-back draws.
Coach Sigi Schmid sees cause for concern.
“They are a team that is probably a little bit desperate,” he said after wrapping up training Friday. “Those teams are dangerous.”
That may not just be coach-speak because half of Schmid’s starting back line didn’t board the plane to Texas, and neither did his No. 2 goalkeeper.
Right back James Riley will miss his first start of the season while serving out a suspension after drawing a red card in Seattle’s 1-1 draw with Los Angeles on Sunday. And left back Nathan Sturgis was left home with a hamstring injury.
Schmid doesn’t like giving away lineup secrets, so he has stuck to his week-long story that the possible replacements could come from among an assorted cast.
“Evan Brown is an option there,” he said. “Tyson Wahl is an option at left outside back. Patrick Ianni is an option at right back as well. ... We can also bring (Taylor) Graham inside and move Jhon Kennedy (Hurtado) outside. There are different ways to look at it.”
Evan Scott seems likely to move up in place of Sturgis, as the two have shared starts at the position. However, among the other options Schmid mentioned, neither Brown, Wahl, Ianni nor Graham have seen the pitch yet this season.
Any of those would make their debut against a team the Sounders say has more offensive firepower than the stat sheet would suggest.
“I know they get great service from the wings,” Scott said. “Dave van den Bergh is great on the ball, provides a great cross. (Kenny) Cooper is just a handful up top. We definitely have to put a lot of pressure on their wingers and their outside backs, and hopefully we can do a good job of marking up Cooper in the box and not letting him get any service.”
Behind Seattle’s reworked defense will be Kasey Keller, the league’s top-rated keeper with a 0.32 goals-against average. However, No. 2 keeper Chris Eylander didn’t make the trip after suffering a leg injury in practice. Schmid said it is possible that Eylander will be placed on the injured reserve list.
In his absence, the Sounders have activated former USL Sounder Ben Dragavon from the MLS’ pool of goalkeepers under the league’s extreme hardship rule.
Dragavon, 25, has been called up by the Sounders four times previously and has trained with the team regularly since January. He appeared in one game, allowing a goal when Keller was red-carded in the 1-0 loss to Kansas City.
One area of concern for Schmid is simply getting his team’s adrenaline up at Pizza Hut Park, where the Hoops’ average home attendance of 9,747 is second-lowest in the league. If that number turns out today, it will be the smallest crowd the Sounders have played in front of. And Schmid didn’t like the way his team reacted last time they played in a half-empty stadium.
“In Chicago, I don’t think we started out the best way, so maybe we can look at that a little bit,” Schmid said. “Our guys know what is at stake.”
The stakes show up in the Western Division standings, where Chivas USA has moved eight points ahead of the Sounders, and where Houston and Colorado loom three points behind, meaning they could draw even today if the Sounders don’t pick up at least a point on the road.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808
SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC (4-2-2, 14 pts) AT FC DALLAS (1-6-1; 4 pts)
Time: 5:30 p.m., Pizza Hut Park, Frisco, Texas.
TV: KONG 6/16. Radio: 97.3-FM, 1210-AM (Spanish).
Stats: For Seattle – G: 3 Fredy Montero; A: 3 three players tied; Sh: 18 Montero; SOG: 6 Montero. For Dallas – G: 4 Kenny Cooper; A: 2 Dave van den Bergh; Sh: 31 Cooper; SOG: 19 Cooper.
Notes: Dallas has played three straight road games, all losses. FCD’s lone victory came in its last home game, 3-2, over Toronto on April 19. ... Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman made three changes to his lineup last week, and Seattle’s Sigi Schmid said the team is difficult to prepare for because he expects more changes may be made. ... Cooper leads MLS in shots and shots on goal. He has scored four of Dallas’ seven goals this season. ... Dallas rookie George John was born in Shoreline and played at the University of Washington. ... Dallas is an MLS charter member, which began its history as the Dallas Burn. The team is now sometimes called the Hoops because of the horizontal stripes around their jerseys.
Next: Colorado Rapids, 6:30 p.m. May 23, Dick’s Sporting Good Park, Commerce City, Colo.; KONG 6/16.
Don Ruiz, The News Tribune