In all their history, the Seattle Sounders have never had a playoff performance quite like they did on Sunday. Following a scoreless first half, the Sounders scored three goals in a eight-minute span to take a 3-0 lead over Supporters’ Shield-winning FC Dallas into next Sunday’s Western Conference Semifinal second leg.
Making it happen were a pair of goals from Nicolas Lodeiro and a goal from Nelson Valdez. Joevin Jones had two assists and Jordan Morris, who was deployed on the wing for much of the game, got one as well.
The Sounders have never before led a playoff game or series by three goals and this marked just the second time in their history that they’d scored so many goals in a single contest.
Both teams came into the match with somewhat compromised lineups.
Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer was forced to make a handful of changes to his starting XI from Thursday’s knockout round win over Sporting KC, including Zach Scott for Roman Torres and Nelson Valdez for Flaco Fernandez. Morris was moved to left midfield to make room for Valdez up top, and Cristian Roldan swapped his right attacking midfield spot for Erik Friberg’s central midfield spot alongside Alonso.
FC Dallas, meanwhile, opened in a 3-5-2 — the first time all year they’d used that formation — presumably to help compensate for missing playmaker Mauro Diaz.
The Sounders got things started early, taking advantage of Dallas’ packed formation to push up and down the flanks. Morris was able to get a cross in from the left to Valdez, who hit the ball right at Chris Seitz with his chest. Seattle continued to exploit Dallas’ lack of defensive width, producing a number of opportunities but no solid final balls.
Morris nearly had a great chance in the box after a Valdez flick, but he lost the ball before he could produce a shot. The rookie produced another chance after dummying the ball to Lodeiro, who tried to put Valdez through on goal, but the forward was too slow. Yet again, Morris had a great chance after turning his defender in the box, but his final shot was parried away by Seitz.
FC Dallas produced a few dangerous chances of their own, but mostly on set pieces and counter-attacks that the Sounders handled reasonably well.
Seattle turned up the intensity in the second half.
After their first couple of attacks missed the mark, the Sounders went up 1-0 through Valdez, who powerfully guided a Jones cross into the back of the net in the 49th minute.
Seattle relentlessly attacked the Dallas goal, and in the 55th minute, Morris went on a great run from the left side, managing to hold onto the ball long enough to slide a pass through the box to an unmarked Nicolas Lodeiro, who only had to tap it in.
The Sounders had barely finished celebrating the goal when Jones found Lodeiro with an excellent through ball on the left, splitting the defense and allowing Lodeiro to go 1-on-1 with Seitz. As the goalkeeper closed down and the defense started to catch up, Lodeiro went through Seitz’s legs to put the Sounders up 3-0 in the 58th minute.
Lodeiro and Valdez have now combined for four goals in the 2016 playoffs. From 2009-2015, all the Sounders Designated Players had combined for a total of four goals — three of them from Clint Dempsey, whose now tied with Valdez on Seattle’s all-time list.
There are only two other instances of a team going down 3-0 in the first leg of a MLS playoff series, the Sounders in 2011 and 2012. The Sounders were able to get within a goal in both series, but ultimately fell 3-2 and 4-2 on aggregate, respectively. The only time a team has overcome a three-goal playoff deficit was when the San Jose Earthquakes were down 4-0 on aggregate in 2003.