In one of the games you probably circled when the 2015 MLS schedule came out, Orlando City will travel to Seattle to take on the Sounders on Sunday at 5 p.m. at CenturyLink Field. Both teams are looking to turn around a recent run of sub-par form and get back into favorable playoff position.
Here to help us break down the match-up is Dave Clark, manager at our sister SB Nation blog, Sounder at Heart. Dave gave us a lot of good information here and he's also the guest on this week's PawedCast, which will drop this afternoon. You can check out my answers to their questions, here.
Who are three players from Seattle that Orlando City fans should know about?
Dave Clark: First up is Tyrone Mears, the man who replaced DeAndre Yedlin. Mears resurrected his career in Seattle and is looking to be a much stronger defender than Yedlin while offering better passing in the attack. His crosses have been the main source of scoring opportunities during this long, dire period.
Second, recent signing Nelson Valdez will probably start up top with Obafemi Martins since Dempsey is out injured. Most MLS fans know the power of Clinfemi, but what's interesting about Valdez/Martins is that they've played together in the past, with Ruban Kazan. Valdez is kinda short, but great in the air. Like Dempsey he'll drift wide to come in on the attack.
Last, let's go with Stefan Frei. He's third in shutouts, fourth in win percentage, first in saves and second in save percentage among regularly starting keepers. Bill Hamid probably has Keeper of Year on lock (he could be an MVP), but Frei should be a finalist for that award.
What is the team's preferred style of play and formation?
DC: The preferred style and formation is a bit of unknown right now. The team is in the process of re-inventing itself. When they were great during the first 40% of the season they were a central possession team that looked to get a quick strike out of Clint and Oba. It was a 4-4-2/4-2-3-1 hybrid then. Sunday will do a lot to tell us if they're going to get back to that or use the defensive 4-3-3 that didn't score enough during the dire days.
What are the Sounders' strengths and weaknesses so far in 2015?
DC: Even during the Dire Days (the 1-8-0 stretch) the defense was generally strong. That will get even stronger after additions of Friberg and Torres, even without Alonso who is injured. The offense is rather pathetic recently, but we have hope. That hope lies at the feet of Obafemi Martins, last year's runner-up in the MVP race. Set-piece defense is horrible, all three of Vancouver's goals against the Sounders came via that route.
What is your predicted starting XI, notable absences and score prediction?
DC: Absences: Dempsey, Alonso, Barrett, Gonzalez
Predicted Lineup: Frei; Remick, Marshall, Torres, Mears; Neagle, Evans, Friberg, Thomas; Martins, Valdez
Predicted Score: 3-1 Seattle and the Dire Days are done. Hay Fe.
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Big thanks to Dave for helping us get to know more about our new enemies.