By Fletcher Whiteley
Both FC Dallas and Seattle are guaranteed to have different starting lineups this week with this week being the week of international play. Here is a list of each player that is called up and how important they are to their squad on a scale of 1-10 with one meaning zero importance and 10 meaning the highest.
Bear in mind that in addition to this weekend’s MLS matches, most teams have a second game early in the week next week and this will impair the players’ ability to train with their teams in preparation for the April 4 weekend slate as well.
Note from the Editor – this report has been updated with information that developed on Tuesday, March 24. An additional report surfaced implying that Dempsey might actually be available for the Sounders this weekend.
Blas Perez-8. Blas would be higher if Tesho Akindele had not scored last weekend versus Philadelphia. This might be a situation where either Tesho moves up to the forward spot or David Texeira comes in to start. Even with all that, Blas still is tied with the one other person who will appear in the list soon.
Moises Hernandez-6. Hernandez has had a great start to the season and already has an assist that lead to the game winning goal versus San Jose. Even with all that, Hernandez is still not a top tier defender in the MLS, but it will be interesting to see what Dallas does to fill that hole. See Fletcher Whiteley’s article on Hernandez and his decision to play for Guatemala last week.
Atiba Harris-5. Harris has been the regular starter at right fullback for the squad in each game. If the team had cover this number would be lower, but now all three of the usual suspects at outside fullback are away. [Editor’s note – Harris has been recalled and will be available for FC Dallas on Saturday.]
Je-Vaughn Watson-4. Watson nearly came in last weekend against Philadelphia, but Texeira came on instead. Watson has not played all season and has only made the 18 once this season. Like Harris, his number was lower before Harris got the call for St. Kitts and Nevis.
Kyle Bekker-3. Bekker has only played in two games this season and both were as a sub. He was key in helping FC Dallas maintain the lead in both games he came in, however FC Dallas was up two goals both times he came in.
Jesse Gonzalez-1. The netminder got a chance to travel with the team to Philadelphia for last Saturday’s win and soon will be headed to join Mexico’s U-20 squad. While the homegrown player was not likely to see the 18, and even if he was, Dan Kennedy is still available and a really good keeper, this is just another staff hit for this weekend. [Editor’s note – Gonzalez has been recalled due to the back spasms suffered by Kennedy that kept him from traveling to Philadelphia this weekend.]
Clint Dempsey-9. If Obafemi Martins was called up to Nigeria, this would be a 10. Seattle without Dempsey is missing a man who creates a lot of chances for Seattle and is tied with Blas atop of the goal list. They still have Martins who has two on the season, however nobody else on the team has scored a goal and could not beat a San Jose squad down a man. They will miss Dempsey bad. [Editor’s note – according to reports from Seattle, Dempsey suffered a hamstring injury while with the US national team and has returned to the team. The reports state that the Texan will miss 2-3 weeks. That is different from THIS report that says Dempsey might be available for this weekend. It seems logical that Schmidt would not risk it, and if the US staff found a hamstring issue, you would think it was not a phantom finding. Maybe Klinsmann was speaking of after this weekend? Such a big player, though, requires careful thought and evaluation.]
Marco Pappa-7. This might sound like a stretch, but outside of Dempsey and Martins, Pappa has been the best offensive weapon for Seattle so far. He has two shots on target and is third with most shots.
Micheal Azira-5. He is a starter so he gets five points automatically, after that he has not done much to get more points.
Before the Harris call up, this was in favor of FC Dallas even though they had more players out in large part because sliding Loyd over to cover for Hernandez and bring on Watson for Harris – with Zimmerman replacing Loyd at centerback – was a solid solution that kept players who had decent experience playing the position in those spots.
Now, it is unclear. Pareja has been the master magician so far this season and he pulled quite a few rabbits out of the hat last year as well (Watson at centerback, anyone?) so there is reason to think he will have a good solution this week, and Seattle is still out two major offensive starters to Dallas’ one, but the defense is going to be stretched thin at the start and cannot afford an injury or even a poor performance. This is going to be very interesting to watch.
March 24 Update:
With the recall of Harris, now FC Dallas looks more settled as the only real remaining open question is left fullback, with the loss of a little depth. The loss of Perez is significant, but compared to the loss of Dempsey and Pappa, Dallas seems likely ahead on the situation.