When a team is missing five potential starters, it's reasonable to expect some struggles. And for 55 minutes, that's exactly what the Seattle Sounders did.
But just as it was starting to look like something crazy was going to need to happen in order to get a goal in a series that had stretched 251 minutes without one, Lamar Neagle happened. Yes, the Sounders beat FC Dallas 3-0, but that's deceiving.
The Sounders had struggled to hold the ball during the first half and hadn't generated a real chance after the 10th minute. But Sigi Schmid inserted Brad Evans for an injured Gonzalo Pineda at the half and the game changed, quickly.
Following a nice slide tackle from Evans to keep the play alive, Neagle picked the ball up, took a couple touches to settle himself and then fired in an absolute laser from about 25 yards out to beat Dan Kennedy to the far post. It was the kind of goal that instantly reminds everyone that for all of Neagle's struggles, he's still capable of scoring long-range goal with remarkable regularity.
That seemed to spark a somewhat listless attack and before you knew it, the Sounders were flying up the field. Obafemi Martins made all that work count, scoring an impressive back-to-the-defender goal from inside the six-yard box to make it 2-0 and Leo Gonzalez finished off Dallas with his first goal in five years, expertly finishing a pass through the box from Neagle.
Sounders moved back into the Supporters' Shield lead, taking a one point advantage over D.C. United.
- Oscar Pareja may be hailed as one of the few bonafide tacticians in MLS, but Schmid made all the key adjustments in this one. Yes, Dallas was forced to start two midfielders as defenders and, sure, the Sounders were able to bring Evans and Martins off the bench, but Schmid deserves credit for not just waiting for something to happen. The Sounders had been forcing the ball down the wings during the first half, trying to exploit a perceived weakness. But they were also struggling to move the ball quickly through the middle. Evans wasn't perfect, but he was active and he helped give the Sounders some presence in the middle of the park. Who knows what happens if Schmid doesn't bring him in?
- Stefan Frei only needed to make two saves, but he absolutely earned his eighth shutout of the season. Frei's big moment came in the first half when Kyle Bekker got an open look off a cross from about eight yards out. It was a shot that looked like a goal as soon as Bekker ran onto it. But Frei made a sprawling save to keep it scoreless and give his team a chance to catch their breath.
- Thomas showed some moments of promise in his first MLS start, most notable this nutmeg early in the match. But he also showed why he's had trouble sticking around anywhere. Thomas showed only a passing interest in anything happening on the defensive side of the midfield stripe and didn't get too involved on the offensive side either. He's definitely got talent, but he's got a ways to go before he's starting in MLS on a regular basis.