When you're a road underdog, like FC Dallas is for their Western Conference Semifinal matchup at the Seattle Sounders on Tuesday (9:30 pm ET | TV & streaming info), there are two different schools of thought on how to tactically approach the game.
Do you set up a bunker and hope that a counterattack goal, set-piece finish or penalty-kick shootout gets the win? Or do you throw caution to the wind and get out on the front foot from the jump?
The Extratime crew debated as much when assessing the upcoming Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoff game, with Matthew Doyle arguing that the best chance for head coach Luchi Gonzalez's team is taking the former approach. He noted that the Portland Timbers had success against Seattle in 2020 with that game plan.
"I think that the head-to-head aspect of it is going to be: Does Dallas feel comfortable dropping everybody behind the ball?," Doyle began. "Because the only time Seattle really, really struggled this year when they had a full team was against Portland, when Portland scored an early goal and then just said, 'OK, we're going to bunker. We're going to put everybody in the box. Go ahead and try to beat us.'
"And Seattle's only way of trying to beat that was crossing the ball 45 times. I mean, they literally crossed the ball 45 times right into the thick of a Portland bunker the last time those two teams played. Dallas are a really good defensive team – I think that their best chance is going to be doing exactly that. So I expect Dallas to just bunker and counter and the onus is going to be on Seattle to carry the game."
That drew a headshake from Calen Carr, who feels Dallas should take the opposite approach. Carr said that you need to look no further than when these clubs met in the 2019 playoffs, when Dallas gave the Sounders everything they could handle in a 4-3 extra-time defeat.
"No, they're going to play. Just look at what they did last year in the playoffs against Seattle," Carr said. "I went to Dallas before they went and played that match and I remember talking to Luchi. He was talking about, 'Are we going to sit back and go? Or are we actually going to try and go head-to-head?' And they went toe-to-toe. Yes, everybody remembers the LAFC-Seattle match as sort of the pinnacle match of the playoffs last year leading to MLS Cup. But nobody gave them a tougher task than that Dallas team in that first round."
That creates a blueprint of sorts, according to Carr.
"Here's what I would like to see: I would like to see them start (Ricardo) Pepi and (Tanner) Tessmann, and put both of them from the start, and play aggressive," Carr said. "I thought they deserved it. Based on their performance, I feel like those two deserved it, and you ride the hot hand. I think those kids are ready. Neither of them looked overawed by any of the situation. As a fan, that's what I want to see going against the Sounders, I want to see these two teams go head-to-head."