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Tyrone Mears is season’s latest redemption story

His play on Sunday is a huge reason Sounders are moving forward

MLS: Playoffs-Seattle Sounders FC at FC Dallas Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

The postseason is virtually built for redemptions stories. Whether it be for teams or players, they have a chance to turn a season’s worth of struggles on their head and make everyone forget it ever happened.

The Seattle Sounders seem to be taking this to an extreme.

The team is obviously one. For well over half the season, they were horrible. By the time Sigi Schmid was let go in late July, a last-place finish seemed more likely than a playoff appearance. Yet, here we are in the Western Conference finals, as far as the team has ever advanced and looking as likely to make their first MLS Cup as ever.

The most clear player example was Nelson Valdez, who scored a pair of playoff goals after going nearly a year without scoring in MLS play.

Tyrone Mears was probably not in quite as much need of redemption as these other candidates, but what we saw from him on Sunday was quite unlike the player we’ve been often complaining about this year.

Mears’ big moment was on the goal. It wasn’t just his cross, which was perfect — so perfect in fact, Nicolas Lodeiro didn’t even have to hit his shot well. Look at the run Mears makes.

That run starts around midfield, probably deeper. We don’t actually know because he was so far out of the picture that it’s impossible to tell.

But he doesn’t just make the run, he fights Walker Zimmerman to win the ball. He also does something he hasn’t done enough of this year, he continues his run into the box before putting the cross. This forces defenders to be pulled away from the box and gives Lodeiro time to crash. It’s just perfectly played.

Mears had another great play in the 73rd minute, charging up the right flank, cutting in and earning a corner. Replays showed it should have been a penalty, but either way Mears showed great hustle and without his play who knows how the game goes.

These sorts of plays also underscore why Mears is such a frustrating player. We know he’s capable of this kind of stuff. Heck, he was arguably the best right back in the league for the first half of last season. It’s just that he has seemingly become content with being a far more conservative player, one so concerned with not getting beaten over the top that he rarely exposes himself.

Either way, he deserves a ton of credit for his performance against FC Dallas. It would just be nice to see more of it.

Can’t say enough about Frei: Dallas fired off 23 shots and put six of those on frame. They can look themselves in the mirror content that they applied just about as much pressure as they could muster, especially considering their top creator was missing.

A big reason that didn’t prove to be enough was the play of Stefan Frei, who once again showed he’s an elite goalkeeper. His biggest save of the evening came when Atiba Harris somehow found himself with the ball and all alone in front of goal. Frei made himself big and kept the game scoreless.

No other save was quite as remarkable, but he was constantly off his line, grabbing crosses and generally providing a sense of calm. Sure, Dallas beat him twice but there wasn’t much he could do about either goal.

Ozzie was a monster: The Sounders only made 297 passes — a far cry from 507 they made in Leg 1 or the 433 they averaged during the result season — and as a result Osvaldo Alonso was a bit less active on that front. He more than made up for it with a defensive performance that was vintage Honey badger.

Alonso ended up with 12 recoveries, four tackles, four clearances and three interceptions. He also had a rather large hand in a goal-mouth scramble in which the Sounders cleared one shot off the line and blocked two others. You could say it got Alonso a little pumped up:

Gotta love it.

Pour one out for Dallas: We’ve been in their shoes, almost exactly. Back in 2014, the Sounders won the U.S. Open Cup-Supporters’ Shield double only to fall short. What Dallas’ relative failure shows, though, is just how hard winning the treble is.

It’s not just being the best over a long season or gutting it out through a single-elimination tournament. It’s doing both of those things and then getting through the season healthy enough to be in position for one more last push.

This was not the same Dallas team that won those two other trophies, just like this wasn’t the Sounders who farted their way through 20 games. The MLS playoffs are designed to reward best team right now. Dallas isn’t that, but it shouldn’t take anything away from what they did accomplish.

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