If there was anybody wondering what happened to a one dimensional team when you take away that only dimension, well, they got their answer on Monday night. Everybody in the world knew what FC Dallas would attempt to do against Seattle Sounders in the 2nd Leg of the Western Conference Semifinals of the MLS Cup Playoffs. Gameplan: Have Fabian Castillo run around Leo Gonzalez and hope for the best in conjunction with drawing fouls in or around the penalty box. Result: zero goals. Result: season over. Result: grown men whining.
The difference between leg one and leg two of this matchup was that Marco Pappa definitely fouled Andres Escobar in the box whilst in Frisco, Texas. That was the only goal Dallas would score. In fact, the resultant penalty is the only goal Seattle has allowed since the 2nd half goal to Marcelo Sarvas in the Seattle's first game in the home-and-home series versus LA Galaxy to finish the season. That's over 300 minutes of play against two very potent offenses without giving up a run of play goal or a set piece goal (penalties don't count (except I think they do for statistical purposes (but for the sake of narrative it doesn't count in this instance))).
But those goals Seattle has allowed of late haven't been because of breakdowns defensively, instead they've been the result of bad luck. Two missed clearances lead to the goals against LA, who couldn't unlock Seattle's defense without them. Against Vancouver we had the Manneh he's-hurt-and-off-the-field-wait-a-minute-now-he's-scoring-a-goal goal, which isn't so much of a defensive breakdown as it is incompetent refereeing. Even Deshorn Brown's late 1st half goal for Colorado was the result of two poor Seattle clearances. So if we're talking about the last time an opponent broke down Seattle's defense on the way to scoring a goal, we'd have to go all the way back to September against Chivas USA who twice counterattacked quite well within the first 20 minutes.
Where this becomes comforting is twice in the past three games Seattle has been faced with the reality that if they shutout their opponent, then what they seek is theirs for the taking. In the season finale against LA Galaxy, get a shutout and the Supporter's Shield is Seattle's. Result: Shut out. Result: Supporter Shield. In the 2nd leg against FC Dallas, get a shutout and we move on in the playoffs. Result: Shut out. Result: Advancement. I took great pleasure seeing Blaz Peres and Michel on Dallas's bench late in the game, looking all sad and forlorn. It's okay, Dallas, you can go home now and hug your family and feel loved because your season is over now.
Next up is LA, who dismantled Real Salt Lake in their 2nd leg matchup thanks to the natures of two legged series. They'll be puffing their chests and feeling invincible after putting five goals past Nick Rimando, but he's no Stefan Frei. Robbie Keane still has to overcome Chad Marshall. If you only watch Sounders games and you're wondering who Robbie Keane is, he's the DP for LA that shows up in games that don't include Chad Marshall. Landon "I thought he retired" Donovan is still out there, yes, and without Osvaldo Alonso, he could pose a threat, but Michael Azira is a capable defensive replacement. It'll be a tough matchup, surely, one that will have wide ranging predictions on both sides, one that will have us collectively biting our nails for the next two weeks.
But this is what we wanted. This is what we expected. We knew the run to the MLS Cup wouldn't be easy. None of our trophies have been this season. When you think on the US Open Cup run, my mind goes to that 6-0 drubbing the Sounders put on Chicago Fire in the semifinals, but the Sounders went to extra time in three games. That's three white-knuckled games where it all comes down to extra time and sometimes penalty kicks. The Supporter's Shield wasn't any easier, which should surprise nobody. The Sounders had to overcome LA Galaxy, #LegenD, momentum, and their own demons to take home the Shield. So why would the MLS Cup playoffs be easy? If Seattle gets past LA, they get to face one of two teams who thrashed the Sounders in embarrassing fashion, whether it be New England Revolution or New York Red Bulls. So hooray. But this time, it'll be on the West Coast. It'll be on the Best Coast, in Seattle, where I'll be, where you'll be, cheering and shouting and making fans out of the game programs so we don't pass out due to over-excitement.
That's getting a bit ahead of ourselves though. We need to take care of the Galaxy the same way we took care of Dallas: one game at a time. We need to take care of the Galaxy the same way we took care of the Galaxy at the end of the season: one game at a time. I want to see Mr. Pointy-Shouty get all in a hissyfit. I want to see #LegenD finish his career with a wimper. I want to see Coach It's-the-referee's-fault look exasperated on the sideline. I want to see Sarvas and Dan Gargan get a red card within the first few minutes in the first game. And I want to see Seattle win. I want another new banner in the rafters of Century Link Field. I'm not greedy, no, I'm hella greedy.
As the movie Wall Street said, "Greed, for the lake of a better word, is good." The treble is ours for the taking, so let's take it.
When I say GIF, you say GIF. GIF?
Big game. We'll show Dallas what's for.
This will probably be another close match.
We can do it. Just one more game of falling bodies and frustration.
I can tell already this will be a testy game.
All these penalty shouts, I can't take it.
Our defense is potent tonight.
There's no way Dallas is breaking through.
Ozzie is hurt? Noooooo!
That's not good.
This game is a Dallas game, for sure.
Yay! We advance!
I'll celebrate a tie!
In your face, Dallas!
I hope you enjoyed your stay in Seattle, Dallas. Enjoy the rest of your season.
And thanks, Toledo, for not calling those penalties.
Next stop: LA.
I just hope Ozzie is healed up in time.
With or without him though, we can beat LA. #hellagreedy