In terms of results, FCD is not doing badly, but it is also not looking anything much like the confident, efficient bunch that captured back-to-back conference titles in 2015 and 2016. Against Tauro FC it tied, 3-3, on aggregate and lost on away goals, 2-0; in its only league match, it needed a late own goal to claim a 1-1 tie at Toyota Stadium with Real Salt Lake.
Keeper Jesse Gonzalez conceded a soft goal in both games against Tauro FC and his status is one of several issues head coach Oscar Pareja and his staff are contemplating as they prepare for Seattle. Last year the Sounders thrashed FCD, 4-0, at CenturyLink Field on the penultimate weekend of league play after securing a 0-0 tie at Toyota Stadium in mid-September.
“Every game against Seattle is intense just because they’re in-conference-rivals,” Tesho Akindele told FCDallas.com. “Even though they play on Wednesday, this league is at a point where it’s deeper now and they can throw in their second lineup and they have players that are just as good as their first team.”
FCD did not play a league match last weekend -- Seattle also had a bye -- and so Pareja and his coaches looked a few different nuances during a scrimmage with the FCD U-19 academy team a week ago and an intrasquad skirmish on Saturday.
The game with RSL marked the MLS debuts as starters for keeper Jimmy Maurer, centerback Reto Ziegler, right back Reggie Cannon and winger Santiago Mosquera, and just the third league start for midfielder Jacori Hayes in place of Kellyn Acosta, who is recovering from sports hernia surgery performed in late February.
Yet the "work-in-progress" label will soon wear off if FCD can’t exploit situations such as the one in play on Sunday, even though the Sounders reached last two MLS Cup finals. In the 2017 conference standings, the teams finished just seven points apart but landed on different worlds in every other respect.