All year, the Seattle Sounders have taken us on a roller-coaster. Their final game of the season was no different. For 80-odd minutes their defense held, only to see FC Dallas grab an apparent winner on a Tesho Akindele header from Je-Vaughn Watson cross. But just when all hope seemed to be lost, Marco Pappa sent in a glorious corner kick that Chad Marshall rose to and powered into the net. The Sounders had, what appeared to be a 90th minute winner.
Those glorious emotions barely had time to settle in. Just a minute later, the Sounders failed to clear a corner, Blas Perez put in a prayerful overhead attempt and Walker Zimmerman was first to it, putting his header into the back of the net.
The Sounders never got back onto their front foot. Stefan Frei made several strong saves in extra time -- and ended the match with eight -- but the Sounders' legs looked dead and rarely threatened on the other end. It was a minor miracle for the match to get to penalties.
But that only prolonged the Sounders' suffering. Clint Dempsey converted their first attempt, but Andreas Ivanschitz and Chad Barrett each had their attempts saved and FC Dallas converted all four of their attempts. Zimmerman, fittingly, got the eventual winner to lift Dallas to a 3-3 (4-2 PKs) aggregate goal victory on Sunday to put them into the Western Conference finals.
- There will be much second-guessing about the Sounders' tactics in this one. While it's true that from about 70' on they seemed to be playing for the shutout, they put in an honest shift until then. Once Dallas scored, they were forced to scramble. Sigi Schmid's final two subs -- Barrett and Pappa -- injected at least some life into the attack, but there were a lot of tired legs out there. Cristian Roldan ended up playing left back for the entire extra time and Dallas was clearly intent on picking on him.
- The Sounders' absolutely needed their stars to shine in this game and they most certainly did not. None of the offensive studs who had got them to this point came particularly close to scoring a goal and Obafemi Martins was particularly bad. Martins' hasn't quite seemed himself for awhile now and it was disconcerting to see him throwing his hands up late in the game rather than putting his head down and chasing with everything he had. Martins' touch was off all night and he again had more turnovers than positive moments. It was not a great performance, to say the least.
- This offseason will be interesting, to say the least. It's been said the Sounders are built to "win now" and while that window should be open at least one more year, it's fair to ask if their age was a detriment as this game got longer. Dallas had far more energy down the stretch and all the Sounders' veteran guile was useless in penalties when a 20-year-old goalkeeper stopped a pair of attempts. At the same time, there's so much talent here and some semblance of face can be saved by a strong run in the CONCACAF Champions League.