Whew. Good thing we had a 3-0 cushion going into the second leg of the series. The Sounders used this advantage well, coming out smart and compact and forcing Dallas to chase the game. With just the right amount of counterattack and an ever-dependable defense, the Seattle team advanced with a 1-2 “win”. This victory moved the Sounders another step towards MLS Cup via a 4-2 aggregate.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 7.5
Dallas had 24 shots, but only six were on target, and I thought Frei did well with the opportunities presented to him. Opening with a 3-0 lead, it was up to Stefan to make sure that Dallas didn’t gain momentum. By allowing only a single goal in the first half, he put immense pressure on the opponents to push for goals, which opened the game.
Early on the Sounders’ strategy was clear – chunk long balls to Valdez to secure and bring the team up as a unit. Frei was a big part of this plan, and he didn’t play short all game, instead taking no chances and playing everything directly up field. In the 11th he was strong against Atiba Harris to corral a loose ball, and he received a dragged foot to the hand for his trouble. Angry about this dirty play, Frei promptly kicked the ball out of bounds, something he repeated twice more on the night.
The biggest moment for Frei came in minute 20, when, after a fumbled defensive play in front of him, Stefan was forced to lunge to his right and reach back with his legs to make a save on Harris who was clean on goal. This was a tremendous save, and earned Seattle more time without conceding.
Frei could have been more aggressive off his line in the 46th, he picked up a weird yellow card in the 67th, and in the 78th fumbled a ball in the box but recovered well. There were some misplays and a lot of cautious positioning from Stefan, but he did well and managed the game efficiently to ensure Seattle moved on.
Joevin Jones – 5 | Community – 6.6
Jones didn’t impress in his defensive shift. Dallas coach Oscar Pareja did a fantastic job of adjusting to the Sounders’ strengths from leg 1. Instead of Jones and Morris running wild on the wing, Dallas pushed Harris and Michael Barrios very high, and overloaded the Seattle left with Mauro Rosales. This pressed the Seattle team over, and forced a ton of pressure onto Jones as well as Roldan and Morris.
In the 18th minute Jones completely whiffed on a header, allowing Barrios, the shortest guy on the field, to win a ball inside the box and get a shot off. A minute later Joevin made one of his few forays up field only to lose possession. Jones struggled with the home team presses, and looked ill-equipped to deal with numbers thrown down his side. Almost all of Dallas’ offense came directly through his quadrant in the first half, although he limited most of these opportunities to half-chances. A bad choice to pull down Rosales enabled Dallas to set up a free kick late in the half and ended a rough defensive shift.
In the second half Jones moved into the winger position vacated by Morris and, relieved of having to make quick decisions, was much improved. He played all over the field as happens with Nico, and I was happy to see a 48th minute attack from the right side finished with a right footed cross. When Seattle was scoring its huge equalizing goal, it was Joevin who started the play well outside the box on the left before drifting into the middle and finishing off his run near-post. A small hesitation before diving near brought two defenders and the goalie towards his run and opened enormous space behind. This was a purely instinctual but perfect run.
After a few rough touches in possession Jones dribbled directly on goal in the 89th and was fouled (no call). Joevin needs to defend better, and needs to be able to handle the pressure of multiple players not giving him space – or teams are going to do what Dallas did and overload his side until he makes a mistake.
Chad Marshall – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 7.2
Marshall was absolutely huge in this game. I counted THIRTEEN headers! One thing that Jones did well on defense was force play to cross in behind him, and when Marshall was there that ended attacks. Unfortunately, Dallas’ first goal was one of the few times Chad wasn’t there, because it came off a quick throw-in after a cleared corner kick.
Marshall led the game with a ridiculous 14 clearances, ten more than anyone else on the field. He blocked two shots, had three interceptions, and had a 70% completion rate even when part of a defensive philosophy that was “when in doubt, boot it out”. He even almost scored on a 37th minute header.
I had zero negative marks for Marshall, and he just continues to amaze with his ability to be in the right place at the right time. He doesn’t commit fouls in bad places, he doesn’t let players behind him, he wins every single aerial cleanly, and he moves so smartly that his speed is unnoticeable. Marshall stopped every attack through his area and made zero mistakes that would allow Dallas to gain any advantage. I was very impressed by his play in this game, and he is a huge reason we are advancing.
Zach Scott – 5 | Community – 6.0
Even though most the attacks came from the opposite side of the field, Scott struggled to limit his mistakes in this match. Tasked similarly to his teammates, many of his clearances and passes were rushed and directionless, often straight up. His 60% passing rate was low for him, and he struggled to find anything other than chunked long balls.
I thought Scott’s defense very hit or miss in this game, starting with ball watching in the 14th minute, leaving Maxi Urruti wide open to put a deflected shot on goal that almost scored. Six minutes later he took a very awkward miss-touch in the box that was nearly a handball, but instead went directly to Harris. Panicking, Scott dove in on this opponent, who easily touched by him and forced a fantastic save from Frei.
In the second half it was disappointing to see Zach get caught in no man’s land in minute 56. This was awful defending that led to him missing the initial cross and then was unable to defend the second header behind him; this one scored. I’m not sure what he was thinking then or in the last few moments of the game, when Scott was giving up free kicks to all the way across the field in front of Marshall.
At times in this game Zach did well, pushing Urruti across the field or bodying up opponents. His positioning in line with the defense was better than last game and he was adept at the “no-nonsense, chunk it” method of defense.
Tyrone Mears – 6 | Community – 7.1
Minus a few plays either way this score could be a 4 or an 8. Tyrone somehow was involved with almost all of both team’s best chances, and that made it challenging to rate him.
The good: Early on Mears recognized the Dallas strategy of overloading the left side of the Sounders defense and he came across well to head away in minute three. In the 31st Tyrone showed off his pace, racing across the field from his free safety position on corner kick defense to stop a counter. His two best plays came in the second half, and both were on offense.
The first came in minute 54, which saw awesome effort from the right back to churn 40+ yards up field on the right wing to support some rare width to the attack. I LOVED how he attacked Walker Zimmerman instead of easily giving up possession, and when Tyrone won the ball he took a nice direct first touch to goal. This set him up for an even better low, hard, perfectly placed cross that found an eager Lodeiro waiting far post. Enormous goal for Seattle and almost entirely from his effort. This wasn’t the only time, he repeated nearly the same run in the 73rd; this time he was taken down in the box and clearly deserved an uncalled penalty.
The bad: After a 17th minute ineffective header to the middle, it was Mears failing to get a response from Scott eight minutes later when he was clearly asking for backline organization. Without any help, it was up to Mears to mark Tesho Akindele after a quick throw-in and he was roundly beat, allowing Dallas to score their first. In the 56th Mears combined with Scott to both horribly miss a cross over their heads, and then Tyrone watched meekly as Rosales and Urruti combined to score Dallas’ second. In the 88th Mears was lucky to see an offside flag raised after he was again caught flat footed on defense.
So there you have it. A guy who was worth one (two?) goals for and involved in both against.
Osvaldo Alonso – 7 | Community – 7.5
Alonso was quiet in this game, and I was happy to see it. He failed to get remotely close to a second yellow card of the playoffs, ensuring he will be available for leg 1 of the Colorado series. Even so, his play wasn’t greatly diminished, and we still saw a lot of very high quality work from the midfielder. Sitting back deep, Alonso didn’t touch the ball nor have as high a passing completion rate as normal (83.3%) This was due to Dallas flooding the middle and Seattle sitting back and absorbing pressure without pushing forward. Gone was the metronomic possession that Ozzie dominates, replaced by a compact central box of defense that often bypassed the midfield completely.
Alonso still did well to move the ball forward, and he was very tidy with possession in the center of the field. I was repeatedly impressed by his tight control, as well as quick touches to create space. Unlike many of his teammates who would lose the ball or be forced to clear long, Alonso was very adept at holding a dribble and forcing Dallas to foul. He was fouled a game high five times (eight by my count), but never lost his cool. Continually getting hacked when he beats people is often inflammatory, but kinder, gentler Ozzie took his dead ball, clock running, and played out the game each time. Late in the game when things started to get desperate, often it was Alonso coming out of the scrum with the ball and eating up the clock with possession.
Cristian Roldan – 5 | Community – 6.7
Directly contrary to Alonso’s demeanor was Roldan’s. Cristian appeared hyped for the game, and he came out very physical to the point of recklessness. On various occasions, it looked a bit like pinball, with Roldan bouncing off players with fouls applicable on both teams.
Early on Cristian was pretty much playing left winger, forced into the space between a high Morris and pinned back Jones. Roldan didn’t have a lot of direct play luck but had smart movement in minute 21 to give Valdez an option during a header scrum in the box. I continually see this play open, and hope for Sounders to look to pass instead of head direct on goal at every opportunity. Following stellar defensive work to dispossess and then hold off Urruti, things got a bit wild in the 26th. After a multitude of bad touches, Roldan leapt two-footed at a loose ball and trapped it between his legs, with studs down. Unfortunately, Kellyn Acosta had gotten to the ball just prior, and Roldan completely took him out. This was a VERY dangerous foul, one that many referees would have given a straight red card for. Roldan was lucky to see yellow and stay in the match. After that it was Cristian’s turn to get hacked, multiple times receiving blatant fouls that went uncalled or uncarded, the worst being a 29th minute cynical foul via Rosales after the ball was well away.
Roldan played the second half quietly, likely being spoken to at intermission, content to support his side but rarely if ever getting forward. Cristian finished with a lousy 56% passing completion rate that shows just how much he struggled with the pressure from Dallas. For someone who touched the ball the 4th most times on the team and who is tasked with being a holding midfielder, he must do better with possession.
Erik Friberg – 6 | Community – 5.9 (off 77’)
Friberg rarely touched the ball, but when he did he was much better at keeping possession for his team, and the 77% passing was much appreciated in a midfield that was often choked off from the rest of the team. Most my notes on Erik were his usual workmanlike things: clogging passing lanes, tackling, and being an option for others.
Friberg got forward in the 48th and put in a good cross. The Sounders mostly ignored the width on the right side and it was Friberg’s vision and attempt in the 54th to get the ball to Mears in space that led to good things. In fact, it was again a first time pass in the 73rd from Erik to Tyrone that should have resulted in a penalty kick and Seattle’s second huge chance through this combination.
Other than being involved in both scoring plays, Erik was quiet in this game. He just doesn’t seem to have a killer instinct, and doesn’t finish off plays in ways I would like him to. An example was his 68th minute shot on goal that he didn’t follow through on, or multiple tackles that he bails on. This penchant for dropping out of plays makes his random ultra-hard tackles very confusing.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 8 | Community – 8.1 (MOTM)
Dallas did a good job adjusting to the Nico experience, but they still had no way to contain him for the full 90 minutes. They forced Lodeiro into some turnovers, beat him repeatedly with fouls and contact, and yet at the game’s conclusion he had racked up 74 touches, 78% completion rate, one rattled post, four set pieces earned, two shots, three key passes, and one enormous goal.
Nico was everywhere as usual, floating around to support both offensively and defensively. In the 12th he just missed Valdez on a give and go into the box, and nine minutes later his set piece service into the area was fast and dangerous. Minute 36 saw Nico’s dribbling skill win him a free kick that he took himself direct on goal. His long-distance curving shot was breathtaking, curving over the wall and past the keeper only to clang off the post and out. Go watch this shot if you haven’t seen it.
The Dallas strategy to push forward also led to them frequently fouling to slow transition, and Nico was constantly taking advantage of these set pieces to give Seattle quality chances from dead balls. In the 51st he sent in a perfect free kick, this time finding Valdez with an open header he missed. Lodeiro’s game doesn’t end with distribution though, and three minutes later when Mears posterized Walker Zimmerman it was Nico who floated to the space back post and finished true for an enormous away goal. Others on this team failed to finish their chances, but Nico isn’t slowing down at all. Still playing hard in the 89th minute on defense, I was impressed again by Lodeiro’s perpetual energy.
Jordan Morris – 5 | Community – 6.1 (off 45’)
By not changing his lineup or strategy, Coach Schmetzer allowed Pareja to game plan for Morris on the left and frankly, Jordan was almost completely neutralized. A fair amount of this was definitely due to his hamstring injury, but even before that Jordan was struggling to support his wing with the Texas team overloading his side.
Jordan tried to start out high, and this pulled Roldan over behind him. The disconnect was from Jones to Morris, and Jordan was left trying to break a strong offsides line. He did show a great motor in the 10th minute to drop into a play and steal the ball on defense, which led to a counter attack. He remained opportunistic, and after some Valdez magic he just missed an open net in the 16th minute. I couldn’t tell whether Morris fully committed on this play, and he later mentioned that might have been when he pulled his muscle. Either way that would have been an astronomic goal, which could have led to a Toronto-NYCFC score line.
Instead, Morris missed the goal, hurt himself, and disappeared from the game. He worked hard on defense, but the burst desire to go forward was gone, and with it Morris’ impact. A healthy Morris likely gets a goal in this game, and there were plenty of chances in the second half where he could have scored had he been in.
Nelson Haedo Valdez – 7 | Community – 6.3 (off 58’)
I loved Valdez this week. This is exactly what we needed for a game like this – a guy to come in with his back to goal, control the ball when it’s launched to him from 50 yards away, hold it and bring a bunkered defense out to support him. Nelson did this very well throughout his 57-minute shift.
In the 8th minute Valdez moved back into his own half to play defense, something he kept up the entire game. He didn’t just play defense in Seattle’s half though, and in minute 16 he showed Seattle the playbook for the game, pressuring Zimmerman high and creating a turnover. After picking the defender’s pocket, Valdez drove into the box and looped a deflected cross to a wide-open Morris on the far post, in a wonderful play that deserved a finish. Five minutes later he headed a ball down to Roldan during a scrum instead of trying for goal.
Valdez was the only one who noticed Harris open in the 25th, and he desperately tried to get over to support before their goal, even though he is a center forward. Nelson continued to drop in all game, helping by holding the ball before dropping a pass to Nico or Ozzie to bring the midfield in. Without Morris or Jones or Mears charging up the wings, his options were few but Valdez did exceptionally well to mix up his play and not be predictable, while often left with few options. 48th minute pure hustle off a free kick won possession in the corner before an immaculate holdup vs. three defenders brought Alonso into the offense.
I was surprised Nelson missed a wide-open header off a free kick in minute 51, especially with his current form, and it’s a shame he got a cramp five minutes later. His injury aided Dallas on their goal and we missed his work rate up top after he subbed.
Oneil Fisher – 6 | Community – 6.0 (on 45’)
Fisher came on and did better stand up defense on the left wing than Jones. He immediately showed 1v1 defense in the corner upon the start of the second half and was active on the left. One play in the 53rd was great to see: upon losing the ball attacking up the left side very deep in Dallas’ half, it was Fisher who hustled back, won the ball, and earned a free kick for his troubles.
Oneil needed to close down Harris on the 2nd Dallas goal; he was simply allowed too much space to cross the ball. Other than that, spacing and a few turnovers going forward, I was impressed with how seamlessly Fisher and Marshall worked the second half defense. Fisher was particularly impressive in the 78th, making two plays in a row: the first saving a shot off the line and the second charging out to block another shot. This was a promising outing for a player who had fallen from favor.
Herculez Gomez – 4 | Community – 5.2 (on 58’)
Gomez subbed on for Valdez and the drop in play quality was massive. There was zero holdup play, and Herc was more apt to try making diagonals on goal. Unfortunately, he has no idea how to move for Nico, and this meant he was aimlessly running around up top. This resulted in him being offsides three times (66’, 84’, 90’). He added nothing to the game.
Brad Evans – 5 | Community – 5.7 (on 77’)
Man. Evans is a decent player, but he just doesn’t seem to get involved when he subs on late. He is very good in possession, yet he isn’t seeing the ball when he comes in to be a possession guy. Brad touched the ball a measly three times. He didn’t turn the ball over at all but for a 15 or so minute shift we expect much more involvement from a player as skilled as Brad.
Hilario Grajeda – 4 | Community – 5.2
Hilario started out well. In the 7th minute he played advantage off an Acosta foul, and then the physical play made the refereeing very choppy. Harris left a foot in on Frei and kicked him in the hand on a dirty play in the 11th that should have been carded. After not giving Frei any love when he was kicked, it’s a shame a very quick delay card was issued to the Sounders keeper later in the game as well as no card being given to Carlos Ruiz who obstructed Frei from punting the ball.
Grajeda traded off calls like a 13th minute Barrios handball uncalled right in front of him before a 23rd minute foul after a Roldan shield called appropriately. I was happy to see him reach for the front not the back pocket after a very hard Roldan foul in the 26th. The ref opted for a double yellow for Roldan and Harris, who pushed him down. (See why calling that earlier yellow was doubly important?) Following this Rosales and Gruezo in quick succession deserved yellows for fouls committed on Roldan.
Another blatant yellow that went unshown was to Zimmerman, who yanked Alonso’s shirt for a deliberate “professional” foul after being beat on a counter attack in the 50th. This is almost always a card. Although he ignored a Urruti dive to earn a pk and a Rosales dive, Hilario was suckered by Lodeiro for a cheap foul call in the 51st. In the 69th Gruezo kicked Fisher behind the play without so much as a whistle.
The most ridiculous non-whistle was an obvious PK call for Mears when he was cut down not once but twice in the box in the 73rd. This would have killed off any hope for Dallas. A late Jones run resulted in him being cut down without a foul in the 88th to end my bloodbath of calls. This referee lost it in the second half and allowed Dallas – who had nothing to lose – to continually disrupt the midfield (18 fouls committed compared to 9 by Seattle) without penalty.
FC DALLAS MOTM:
A beloved former Sounder who worked hard for his team and managed an assist? Yeah, that’s an easy choice for most valuable player from our readers.
Three down. Three to go.