Last week we saw a toothless Houston Dynamo offense take on the "yet-to-score-a-goal" Colorado Rapids which resulted in both defenses doing what they do best - prevent goals from being scored. The Dynamo were missing four players to international duty and saw four players return from injury including Ricardo Clark who decided a fractured rib was no big deal (my words not his).
In our preview of the match we broke down the upcoming game, but we wanted to get the Seattle perspective so we asked Dave Clark of Sounder at Heart to fill us in on what's going on with the Sounders and what can we expect.
Dynamo Theory: The Seattle Sounders have consistently been one of the most competitive teams in the league since they joined and are coming off a Supporters Shield winning year. The Sounders seem to get to the playoffs, but just can't get all the way to the final game of the season. What are the expectations for the Sounders even though the Western Conference just got a little more crowded?
Sounder at Heart: After six years in MLS with five major trophies the Sounders faithful have high standards. They expect to be in contention for every trophy on the board. That means making the Western Conference Final at a minimum, within the final month of the season being capable of making a run and winning the Shield again and making the Open Cup Final. If Adrian, Garth, Sigi & Co made that kind of run and wound up without trophies it would be hard to consider it a failure. That's a very high standard, one that probably only LA comes close to matching. That creates a lot of pressure on the front office, the coaches and the players.
DT: It looks like the injury bug has bitten Seattle particularly hard with Obafemi Martins, Chad Marshall, Clint Dempsey, and Osvaldo Alonso all missing time against Dynamo rivals FC Dallas. Are any of those guys expected to return soon and what measures have the Sounders taken to remain competitive with some players expected to miss longer periods of time?
SaH: I've got bad news for Dynamo fans. The magic 8-ball is saying that the full strength Sounders XI should take the field against Houston on Saturday. Pappa is back from Guatemala National Team duty. Alonso was always projected to return around now. Marshall, Oba and Clint weren't significantly injured and some indications were that if they were needed in a must-win game they would have played last week. If they all play this will be the first time that Sigi gets to give a run to his first choice selection in 2015.
DT: Despite an early red card to FC Dallas player Kellyn Acosta, the Sounders were unable to put away the 10-man side. How are the Sounders looking to rebound after that performance?
SaH: The key to that is that Seattle was playing without its five (or five of six) of its best players. There aren't many teams in MLS that are good on the road in those circumstances. Just look at Chad Barretts two chances that he pushed wide. If Oba or Clint are in that space they almost certainly score. Even the dearth of chance creation probably gets fixed just by having Pappa and Alonso. Seattle's midfield is broken without them. On set-pieces having one of the league's best heading CB's back is a significant cure for illness.
It sucks to lose those possible points. But no one should look at the circumstances and think it signifies of how the team will behave over a season. Now, this is two games in a row where Seattle couldn't capitalize on being up a man. That's pretty awful.
4-4-2 Frei; Gonzalez, Marshall, Evans, Mears; Neagle, Pineda, Alonso, Pappa; Dempsey, Martins
For my answers to Dave's questions head on over to Sounder at Heart!