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Sounders vs. FC Dallas, Western Conference Semifinal First Leg Recap: Deuce the hero as Seattle wins it late

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Sounder at Heart / Mike Russell

After a cagey start, FC Dallas snagged the early goal after a controversial no-call on the side of the pitch, as Castillo latched onto an excellent long ball from Mauro Diaz in the 18th minute. The Sounders started to dominate possession and create a number of chances throughout the half, but errant shots and miscued passes fizzled the majority of them. A free kick from outside the box that resulted in a couple of saved shots were the Sounders' best chances, but the team just couldn't make anything out of them.

No changes for either team going into the second half, and the Sounders start very well, creating a number of chances that came agonizingly close--much like the latter part of the first half. Marco Pappa was up to his usual tricks, but none of his chances found their way to goal. Dallas had a spell of good chances, and could have possibly had a penalty when it looked like Tyrone Mears handled the ball in the box. Despite Pappa's brilliance, he was substituted in the 62nd minute for Nelson Haedo Valdez.

Seattle finally broke through after Andreas Ivanschitz made an incredible run from midfield to put the ball in the far corner past Gonzalez. Nelson Haedo Valdez almost came up with another one after a sweet volley hit the top of the net the most of CenturyLink assumed was a goal. Erik Friberg came off in the 76th minute for Cristian Roldan, as Seattle try to inject a little vitality and sharpness to match where they've had to run constantly. Valdez's entrance was certainly helpful for the Sounders in front of goal, but even his decision-making was a little suspect at times.

Martins took advantage of Dallas 'keeper Gonzalez's lack of positioning and almost put one in over his head, but the Dallas man palmed it away. The resulting corner was knocked away but a foul at the edge of the box gave Seattle a killer free kick that Clint Dempsey put right in the top corner to give Seattle the lead. Michael Azira replaced Andreas Ivanschitz late on to help cement the lead and keep Dallas from breaking down the middle.

Observations:

  • Yes, Seattle missed Osvaldo Alonso, but Wednesday's match showed that they could recover from that. Brad Evans' absence is far worse, especially against a team as quick on the counter as FC Dallas. Zach Scott was simply not fast enough to keep Castillo in check for Dallas' goal.
  • Sharpness in front of goal was a real thorn in Seattle's side, as chance after chance went begging. Marco Pappa created a lot of chances but didn't really put in the right final ball to turn them into goals. Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins simply didn't get the space they needed (or utilize it when they did) to take effective shots on goal.
  • It's not always a good idea to complain about officiating, as it can go both ways and isn't always clear without some detailed video evidence...but tonight's match official Kevin Stott truly had a horrendous game, making (or not making) horrendous decisions that went against both sides.
  • The away goals rule, which went both ways for the Sounders last season, could be the killing blow for Seattle if they aren't careful in Dallas. Sigi Schmid will likely be looking for a draw in the Lone Star State next Sunday.