SEATTLE — Will Bruin may not score pretty goals, but he doesn’t mind scoring important ones. The Seattle Sounders forward scored a pair of goals, both off rebounds, to lead the way to a 4-0 romp over FC Dallas on Sunday.
The Sounders clinched a playoff spot for a ninth straight season and will earn themselves a first-round bye if they can beat the Colorado Rapids at home in their season finale. Victor Rodriguez and Lamar Neagle opened and closed the scoring, respectively.
The Sounders were coming off long break for their penultimate match of the season, a virtual must-win for Dallas whose playoff hopes are now in serious trouble. Seattle’s various international players all returned straight into the starting lineup: Roman Torres, Joevin Jones, Gustav Svensson, Nicolas Lodeiro, and Clint Dempsey. Despite starting slow, the Sounders destroyed Dallas 4-0, clinching their playoff spot and chance to defend their MLS Cup.
The match started briskly as both teams were clearly getting used to be being back on the pitch, though it was the away side that managed to put together more coherent spells of possession. They didn’t do much with their time on the ball, and their relentless pressing burned them early when Javier Morales went in on Rodriguez with a dangerous two-footed tackle that earned him a yellow card within the first ten minutes.
Seattle earned their first real chance of the match not long after, when Jones flew down the left flank and torched Dallas’ Hernan Grana to cut a pass back to Dempsey, whose first-time shot was on target—but Jesse Gonzalez was equal to it and parried the ball away.
Before either team could get much momentum, Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer decided to make a substitution when Gustav Svensson pulled up with a hamstring injury. He brought on Nouhou, pushing Jones forward to an attacking role on the left side and sliding Lodeiro into a deeper midfield spot. Jones had already been beating Dallas right-back Grana, and this tactical move encouraged him to do so much more often. The change almost paid off immediately when Rodriguez took a shot from distance, but Gonzalez saved it fairly easily.
After taking control of the match after the substitution, Seattle’s play in the final third improved vastly; Dempsey found Rodriguez in behind the defense with a precise through ball that the latter finished brilliantly in the 31st minute to give the Sounders a 1-0 lead.
Even though Dallas tried to push the home team after the goal, Seattle kept their composure and continued to control for the rest of the half. Lodeiro had a shot fly over the bar, while Jones scuffed a late shot that rolled wide of Gonzalez’s goal.
FC Dallas came into the second half on the front foot, earning a free kick very early near the top of their box. Mauro Diaz’s free kick was close, but it slipped just over the bar and out for a goal kick. The away side’s momentum mostly ended there, as the Sounders held onto possession for awhile and created some dangerous opportunities on goal but couldn’t convert. Jones latched onto a brilliant through ball by Lodeiro, but his first touch let him down and Gonzalez was able to get to it at the edge of the box.
Things evened out a bit on the field when Dallas brought on Maximiliano Urruti to replace Morales, and almost immediately Stefan Frei was forced to rush away from his line and snuff out an attack from Michael Barrios. It took a few minutes, but the Sounders calmed things down and got back into a rhythm after adjusting to Dallas’ change.
In the 65th minute, Kelvin Leerdam brought the ball down with a great first touch just outside the box, cut inside and passed it to Dempsey, whose excellent shot was parried by Gonzalez. The ball bounced straight back into the path of Bruin, who fired the ball into the back of the net despite having a Dallas defender wrapping two arms around him.
Not long after the Sounders stopped celebrating Bruin’s goal, they charged back down the pitch through Jones, who put in a deep cross from the left to Bruin again. Despite Bruin’s first touch letting him down and conceding possession in the box, Rodriguez picked up the loose ball and twisted past defenders before losing the ball himself after a defender poked it out. Yet again, Bruin was in the right place at the right time to smack the loose ball into the back of the net and make it 3-0 in the 67th minute.
Dallas never really looked like they were going to recover from the drubbing, and just as they were almost put out of their misery by the whistle, Seattle twisted the knife in even further. In the first minute of stoppage time, Lodeiro curled a pass in from the right side of the box, and late substitute Lamar Neagle smacked a bullet header past Gonzalez to top off the 4-0 mauling.