Playing the seventh seed in the playoffs at home looked to be an easy task, with the second seeded Sounders racing to an early two-goal lead and barely missing multiple strong chances to net a third. Then Dallas got some hope with a goal against the run of play, and made excellent halftime adjustments that led to a tying goal midway through the second half. Suddenly, the home team looked tired and as Dallas added fresh players and continued to adjust, Seattle was in danger of letting the match slip away. The herculean efforts of a number of key players got the game into overtime, where Jordan Morris continued his excellent form. His hat trick goal was the game winner, and Seattle escaped 4-3 after squandering yet another chance to put a team away and failing to adjust proactively or as quickly as their opposition.
Stefan Frei – 8 | Community – 8.0
Frei had zero saves in the first 90 minutes and gave up three goals. Then he had five absolutely enormous saves in extra time. His performance supported a leaky defense that was on fumes in extra time, and he was absolutely masterful.
One thing I liked: Frei steps up when the pressure is on, and with Dallas coming at Seattle in waves in the extra period, Stefan was at his best. Starting with a 96th minute save, he followed this up with absolutely incredible stops in the 103rd, 106th, and two to close out the match in the 120th minute of the game. What an overtime performance.
One thing I didn’t like: Frei never seemed settled in regular time. From plenty of nervy moments in possession in the back to giving up three goals, he was mediocre for the first 90 minutes. His misplay on the third goal saw him completely out of position and backpedaling, allowing the tying ball behind him.
Going forward: Frei is an absolute monster when it counts, and it counts now.
Brad Smith – 6 | Community – 6.3 (off 67’ for Rodríguez)
Brad was pretty good for much of this match, finding a balance between defensive positioning and pushing forward to assist the attack. His 77 percent passing and only seven defensive actions were offset by two key passes going forward, and he subbed out midway through the second half.
One thing I liked: The offense was roaring early and part of that was Smith keeping width with Morris pinching inside. This combination nearly connected in the 14th minute with Morris missing an open header on excellent service.
One thing I didn’t like: Smith tired and started to let Michael Barrios chip in free crosses prior to leaving the match. Most of Dallas’ positive attacks came through the Seattle left.
Going forward: Smith got some extra rest but will have to play again in only a few days, and that is a bit worrying for Seattle.
Kim Kee-hee – 6 | Community – 5.9
Kim was again solid but not outstanding, and the absence of the usual midfield strength looked to trouble him after a strong first half, with eight of his 13 defensive actions recorded before the first intermission. He was active, aggressive, and linked up well with teammates. He faded a lot as the game wore on, however, and his impact on the game shifted negatively as the match got late and into overtime.
One thing I liked: A very aggressive step up onto an overextended Jesus Ferreira created a turnover that directly led to the first Sounders goal. This pressure from the center backs on the midfield creates the kind of transition Seattle dominates in.
One thing I didn’t like: Kim faded down the stretch and as he and others tired, giant gaps started to materialize in the defense. In extra time, two of Kim’s worst giveaways occurred, and either one could have been disastrous.
Going forward: With fixture congestion in the playoffs, Kim might be the odd man out for a midweek match.
Román Torres – 6 | Community – 6.3
Torres was also solid but not outstanding. But unlike his CB partner Kim, Román started off slowly and improved throughout the match, with some of his best work coming late while desperately holding on. He had 11 clearances, choosing to just boot the ball forward defensively when put under pressure, and this led to a poor 65 percent completion rate.
One thing I liked: This wasn’t the sparkling match from last week, but once again I was impressed with Torres’ fitness. He improved throughout the match and got more intense in crunch time. His casual dispossessing of Santiago Mosquera and shrug after the Dallas player hacked him in the 105th minute was fantastic.
One thing I didn’t like: Clearing the ball is fine when necessary, but when Seattle was trying to work the ball out of the back against a press, Román punting it forward to lose possession ran counter to that.
Going forward: Román’s play in the last two matches warrants serious consideration for playing again on Wednesday.
Kelvin Leerdam – 6 | Community – 6.3 (off 111’ for Silva)
Kelvin had another sneaky solid match on the right side, earning 12 defensive actions and combining to support various right midfielders in front of him. Whether it was tucking in next to Román or pushing forward to link with Joevin Jones, Leerdam was active on both sides of the ball.
One thing I liked: Barrios struggled when matched up with Leerdam and had little success in the first half on the Dallas left. At the same time, Kelvin made interesting underlapping runs into the right channel offensively, creating problems for Dallas.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 92nd minute Leerdam had a wide-open shot courtesy of a Morris pass and Kelvin put it right into the goalie. With a chance to be a hero, Leerdam missed.
Going forward: Kelvin is a player to watch on Wednesday, as he has consistently struggled when playing on short rest or tired in any fashion.
Gustav Svensson – 6 | Community – 6.9
While not able to recreate his domination from last match, Svensson was still excellent early before tiring badly in the second half. Ten of his 14 defensive actions came in an action-packed first half where Goose leveraged his passing and tackling ability to help control the center and had more than 10 extra touches compared to a quieter second half. Much credit is due to Dallas who adjusted and when Seattle finally did too, Svensson looked strong to close out the match.
One thing I liked: Gustav led the team with six tackles and was instrumental in Seattle building the early lead, but he also popped up sporadically in huge spots in the second half, such as his near-post flick in the 74th that found Morris for a goal.
One thing I didn’t like: Svensson was badly beat by Matt Hedges for a set piece goal in the 64th minute that brought Dallas all the way back. This came amidst a decided downturn in energy and coherence through Seattle’s midfield.
Going forward: Svensson didn’t pace himself too well, likely assuming Cristian Roldan had more in the tank, and he will need to do better with an entire tired squad around him against RSL.
Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.8
Roldan was clearly tired in this match; it was obvious 10 minutes in. His range was limited, his acceleration a little muted, and his overall movement markedly less than we’ve grown accustomed to. That being said, he still managed to have five tackles among 17 defensive actions, a shot on goal, and two key passes (one assist).
One thing I liked: Even tired, Roldan still managed a stellar 87 percent passing, which kept possession for Seattle. His assist was a tidy bit of play where he outworked a dispossessed opponent and found Raúl Ruidíaz in space to create some magic.
One thing I didn’t like: This was a quiet game from Roldan when it came to connecting with teammates, with Goose having 12 more touches, and he was clearly tired. This put extra pressure on Svensson who overexerted, and the spacing from Nico to Cristian got stretched in the second half.
Going forward: Even tired, Cristian still went to right back and played well in extra time. His endurance will truly be tested this week.
Jordan Morris – 9 (MOTM) | Community – 9.3 (MOTM) (off 114’ for Delem)
Jordan frickin’ Morris. It was just immense what he did with 68 touches and nearly two hours of gameplay: Five shots. A key pass. 83 percent passing. Three tackles. Three interceptions. Two clearances. Five recoveries. Positional defense. Ghosting into attacking areas. Stretching the field. Nearly every time he got the ball, he was goal-dangerous and had a hat trick for his efforts. It was a fantastic individual effort.
One thing I liked: The way he scored shows just how dynamic Morris has become. Dangerous with both feet, able to beat you with speed, power, jumping ability, reaction time, and technical aptitude. He was always hugely talented, but this match showed he has great instincts for the ball and his runs are improving exponentially.
One thing I didn’t like: Morris was clearly tired, and every time he grimaced and stayed down a moment got scary. We shouldn’t have to rely on him being Superman.
Going forward: Last week I said he wasn’t done getting on the scoresheet. Is it cliché to just repeat myself?
Nicolás Lodeiro – 7 | Community – 7.6
Dallas did many smart things against a tired Seattle midfield, and one of them was limit Nico Lodeiro. Although he had 110 touches, nearly all were contested, and he was fouled six times that the whistle actually sounded. Fighting through that much physicality was tough, yet Nico still managed a stellar five key passes (one assist) and somehow won four aerials.
One thing I liked: Nico can create a good pass from poor possession better than anyone in the league and it was on full display against Dallas. His 35th minute slip pass was a bit of ingenuity that got Raúl the ball in the box for an open shot, and Lodeiro magically found near-impossible outside of the off-foot passes or flicks that went perfectly to teammates under duress on numerous other occasions.
One thing I didn’t like: The Sounders were very threatening to the goal and then suddenly they weren’t. With Dallas adjusting and Seattle not, Nico needed to drop from playing next to Ruidíaz and limit the gaps between himself and the tired defensive midfielders.
Going forward: Another quiet match that nonetheless ended up with Nico as usual pulling the strings and creating tons of good chances. Look for his amazing endurance to dominate the midweek match.
Joevin Jones – 7 | Community – 6.5 (off 97’ for Nouhou)
Jones once again started on the right wing and once again looked impressive in the first half. His movement in combination with Leerdam made sense and his ability to retain possession on the wing helped Seattle dominate the first half. The second half was a big dip in quality for Jones, as the central defense was less effective spreading wide and Joevin’s lack of defensive presence was exploited. Jones ended with a stellar 89 percent passing and four key passes.
One thing I liked: When Joevin is active he looks great. His combination with Leerdam and support to the underlapping right back was excellent, and Jones’ decision making has been very strong. His 22nd minute assist on Morris’ goal was a heady piece of soccering, from recognizing the flick potential, driving at the defense and laying off a well weighted pass. Also impressive were the back post runs that Jones made, nearly capitalizing.
One thing I didn’t like: The effort seems lacking at times, and it’s hard to tell whether it’s mental or physical or what. A 52nd minute play was telling of a guy who just wasn’t in the match, as Ryan Hollingshead easily out-hustled Jones to a Frei pass that Dallas nearly turned into a scoring chance. Moments later, Jones left Leerdam out to dry, and Joevin was nowhere to be found when Dallas had all the momentum.
Going forward: Jones played a lot of this game and his tired defense nearly conceded a penalty late. It will be interesting to see if he plays this week or if the elusive Harrison Shipp gets a chance.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 8 | Community – 7.5
Even when not scoring, Ruidíaz has been strong lately. In this match he was excellent and had an assist and a goal. Against Dallas, RR led the team with six shots and had four key passes, while completing 94 percent of his passes. He was dominant from the front, holding up, distributing, and being goal-dangerous every time he touched the ball.
One thing I liked: Raúl scored an absolute banger of a goal from well outside the box; he’s the first Seattle striker since Fredy Montero who looks capable of scoring from anywhere. Speaking of anywhere, a ridiculous karate kick shot from Ruidíaz was barely cleared off the line or he would have had another goal. Get the ball into the six-yard box and Raúl will teleport there and get a shot somehow.
One thing I didn’t like: Raúl was so close on a number of occasions, and if he had scored the excellent setup volley from near the penalty spot in the 35th minute, Seattle may have put the game away then and there.
Going forward: Raúl has this magic in the playoffs and nearly everything he did was crisp, clean, and goal-dangerous. If he gets even half a look, my money is on him scoring.
Víctor Rodríguez – 7 | Community – 7.1 (on 67’ for Smith)
While I didn’t understand Seattle’s delay in tactical adjustments and the refusal to sub anyone else until extra time, getting Víctor Rodríguez into the game was immense. His entrance completely changed the attacking dynamic. Time and time again he drove directly at the defense and forced Dallas back on their heels. In limited minutes he still had 40 touches, four shots, two key passes, and five defensive actions.
One thing I liked: Víctor is absolutely electric with the ball, and his attack immediately led to the Sounders scoring off a corner he created. The drift compatibility of Morris, Ruidíaz, Lodeiro, and V-Rod is amazing. The game winning goal came from Nico and V-Rod combining on the left, then coming out to Goose who found a hustling Rodríguez now on the center-right side. He doesn’t show on the stat sheet, but that movement was huge as it pulled Dallas apart and allowed entry in to Ruidíaz. Multiple other wonderful transition moments came as this group charged forward in the attack.
One thing I didn’t like: V-Rod-Jones is a far cry from V-Rod-Smith, with these two not on the same page. There were a couple of times I could imagine Brad bombing forward with the faith that Víctor would find him, and Joevin just doesn’t have those instincts.
Going forward: The constant jokes about his health, while somewhat deserved, are tiresome. He is one of the very best players on the field every time he manages to get out there. I hope he looks great in the next three matches and figures out a cost-effective way to stay.
Nouhou – 6 | Community – 6.2 (on 97’ for Jones)
The subs seemed rather score-dependent and reactionary. One such move was the insertion of Nouhou after Jones nearly gave up a penalty. Full of energy that many of his teammates lacked, Nouhou burst into the match and looked very good for his short stint. This was the epitome of a strong sub appearance: Six defensive actions, touched the ball 16 times, and had 100 percent completion rate, including a key pass.
One thing I liked: Nouhou’s defensive support and energy was huge, locking down his side and releasing the offense while bursting into space to take advantage of tired opponents. His direct play forced Dallas into a number of costly mistakes.
One thing I didn’t like: Nouhou still gets lost going forward and didn’t make great runs when trying to counterattack. One attempt ended with him scuffling with numerous Dallas players, and I’d like to see him play intense, but more controlled.
Going forward: Nouhou is clearly third on the left back rotation and that probably won’t change, even though this was another excellent outing.
Luis Silva – 5 | Community – 5.8 (on 111’ for Leerdam)
Another super late sub, Silva was part of an offensive push that saw Seattle score the game-winning goal minutes after he entered. He only touched the ball three times but completed his only pass and had a recovery.
One thing I liked: Luis has a nice nose for goal; he nearly scored off a beautiful back-post cross from Nico with his first touch after subbing in.
One thing I didn’t like: His job was to get out of the way of the other guys, but I’d like to see him do more than just get in great spots (and not finish).
Going forward: Silva is much better than other late game veterans we’ve had over the years, and is a nice option for a goal-direct player with a nose for the ball.
Jordy Delem – 5 | Community – 5.6 (on 114’ for Morris)
On to give Jordan a curtain call/strengthen the defense, Delem did one of those things. He had a single defensive action, completed his only pass attempt, and didn’t do much to help or hinder the win effort.
One thing I liked: Delem is sneakily good in the air, and notched a won header in his short time on the field, helping Seattle’s short midfield with Svensson dropping deep.
One thing I didn’t like: I don’t understand the subbing patterns, and Delem just added to a jumbled midfield late.
Going forward: Roldan looked very tired against Dallas, but he will start so Delem’s potential playing time likely comes in similar circumstances moving forward.
Nima Saghafi – 7 | Community – 5.1
Saghafi was good. And then he wasn’t. I disagreed with much of what he did, but I admit this was a difficult match to ref. While I thought Saghafi reffed to the score, and gave cards to the player not the play on a few occasions, he also was fairly consistent with the calls he did make.
One thing I liked: With a single-elimination format, cards accumulating are less worrisome, but it was still nice to see a referee commit to defusing volatile situations with an attempt at mediation before throwing a lot of cards around. The cards that were given all made sense, and Saghafi kept control of a match that could easily have gotten out of of hand. While he did badly miss a few advantage plays, it was clear there was a plan.
One thing I didn’t like: There should have been less talk and more cards. People on cards were allowed too much leniency due to a desire to keep the game level. Although I appreciate the control, I thought Nima went too far into the “warning” phase. In an increasingly rough second half that saw guys like Lodeiro get pummeled, there were missed opportunities to use a caution to alleviate the dangerous play. This all came to head in extra time, and when Mosquera blatantly hacked Torres from behind, it should have been an instant card. In the big dustup involving Jesse González and Nouhou, I firmly believe both should have been given yellows. It’s ridiculous that their keeper was allowed hands to the face in an altercation, but his only card was for dissent in a prior fracas. Oh, and I counted five dives from Barrios that were not given as fouls; how about a simulation card sometime?
Going forward: It looked like he was bad for a lot of a tense second half, but the re-watch confirmed what was true all year: Saghafi was a pretty good, yet flawed, ref for Sounders matches who grades out slightly better than average.
FC Dallas MOTM
Reggie Cannon had a cameo as a winger and took full advantage. His goal in the 39th gave Dallas hope heading into half, and he followed that up with great two-way play in the second half as Dallas came back to tie (twice!) and force the second seed Sounders to play an extra 30 minutes.
The only thing that matters is the W and on short rest, we get to do it again on Wednesday. RSL is good at some things but not great at much. This is in stark contrast to Seattle: we excel at some things and massively struggle at others. The match should be a fun one, and I look forward to welcoming Zlatan back to Century Link for the Western Conference Finals.