The Seattle Sounders relied on a couple of uncommon goal scorers when they rode a brace from Brad Evans and an insurance goal from Mauro Rosales to a home win, an elimination of FC Dallas from playoff contention, and a guaranteed top 3 finish in the West.
For much of the game it had all the makings of a match in which Seattle dominates possession and chances but can't convert enough of them and ends up surrendering points to a team with an inferior attack that converts their opportunities. Seattle fans have certainly seen enough of those over the years. The Sounders controlled the central midfield with dominant possession play from Osvaldo Alonso and Christian Tiffert with help from Brad Evans and Mauro Rosales coming in from the wings. That foundation supported an endless run of dangerous attacks for Seattle and limited the FC Dallas offense to set plays and attacks from the wings.
But for the first 60 minutes Seattle could only convert one of those attacks, when Fredy Montero juggled the ball to get free in the box and was pulled down for the penalty, which Brad Evans calmly converted (and reminded us that there's another reason he should be in the conversation for every day left mid, despite our depth there). There were other good shots that just didn't go in — a close range blast from Montero that nearly took Kevin Hartman's head off, a rocket from Alonso near the endline that Hartman pushed away with a diving save, another Montero curler that was deflected just outside the far post.
But more often there were dangerous build-ups that failed to end with a shot. Here's an example possession from just after halftime that included 15 straight passes starting from Hurtado at the back, including a back heel, a cross field chip, 9 passes within spitting distance of the Dallas 18 yard box, and yet it finished with a speculative cross from Marc Burch that deflected off of Eddie Johnson and out of danger. Just off the top of my head there were probably at least 5 more similar runs of possession around the box that never found a shot.
But the team stayed patient (probably more patient than the fans) and maintained their focus even after FC Dallas tied the match at 1-1 in the 40th minute when a ball off a set piece pinged around the box for Blas Perez to knock in. Dallas looked dangerous on set pieces all night and Michael Gspurning had to do yeoman's work punching crosses away. Seattle managed to get enough ragged clearances out and to control Fabian Castillo to limit Dallas to the one goal.
The breakthrough came in the 60th minute when Montero brilliantly took a quick free kick after being fouled, sending the ball to a wide open Tiffert who crossed to a wide open Evans, who completed his brace. That opened up the game as Dallas was forced to chase an equalizer to keep their playoff hopes alive. And the game was finished off in the 79th with a gorgeous sequence of passes that should be preserved in bronze and hung on a wall somewhere. Rosales to Johnson to Rosales to Johnson to Montero to Rosales and Goal. It showcased just how beautiful the beautiful game can be and erased any concerns built up from the wasted opportunities earlier in the game.
The win not only locked in a top 3 spot for Seattle, it let Vancouver back into the playoffs — a favor they didn't return when they allowed Portland their first road win of the season and which handed the 2012 Cascadia Cup to the Timbers. Relying on Vancouver seems to be a tricky proposition, but we'll do it again next week when the Whitecaps visit Real Salt Lake with a chance to help Seattle into a 2nd seed in the West. Regardless, if Seattle play in the playoffs like they did tonight — especially in the second half — it doesn't matter where or who they play.