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Sounders vs FC Dallas, recap: One step away

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Shane O’Neill sends Seattle through to the next round.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

The Seattle Sounders sent FC Dallas home for the winter with a 1-0 win, courtesy of a Shane O’Neill header on Tuesday night. Dallas kept the game tight, with a couple of close calls — most notably on a sequence in which Michael Barrios hit the post, and Yeimar Gómez Andrade blocked the follow up shot — but Seattle were in control of the game regardless of what the scoreboard showed. Seattle created plenty of chances, even as the final ball was often just a touch off, but entered halftime tied 0-0.

Brian Schmetzer’s side got the one goal they needed within the first five minutes of the second half from an unlikely source. In the 49th minute Nico Lodeiro served an out-swinging corner and Shane O’Neill met it and sent it across goal to beat Jimmy Maurer. O’Neill rarely put a foot wrong in this game, and the winning goal is a fair feather in his cap after a second solid playoff performance in his short Sounders tenure.

The Sounders will be back in action on Monday, facing the winner of Sporting Kansas City and Minnesota United in the Western Conference Championship. The Sounders would host Minnesota and travel to Kansas City.

Key moments

4’ — The first look at goal of the game falls to Nouhou when Cristian Roldan’s cutback from the endline reaches the left back near the top of the box, but he skyrockets the shot.

34’ — Nouhou picks his man’s pocket and runs with it, carrying the ball from his own third into the attacking third and dropping the ball back to Morris. Morris’ ball into the area gets taken care of by the Dallas defense and nothing comes of it.

40’ — The Brothers Roldan play a give-and-go down the right side, and Cristian hits a ball into the area but Jones’ shot is skied. Ruidíaz gets a look off of a wonderful play moments later, but his shot is blocked out for a corner.

43’ — Morris gets what looks like a golden opportunity with the ball inside the area and Maurer’s goal in front of him, but he opts for the unselfish play and his cutback is picked off.

49’ — Lodeiro serves in a corner and O’Neill, freed up by a pick placed by Gómez Andrade, meets it and heads the ball across goal and into the back of the net. It is O’Neill’s first goal since 2016 and his first MLS goal since 2014. 1-0

63’ — FC Dallas nearly even things up when Barrios gets on the end of a cross, but the goal post and Gómez Andrade do enough to stop the shot and the follow-up.

87’ — The Sounders appear to get a golden opportunity to put a bow on the game when Lodeiro hits a ball across the goal from the end line and finds Leerdam lurking, but his shot is well over the bar.

Quick thoughts

Record setting: The Sounders have set plenty of records as a team, whether it’s consecutive home playoff wins or a playoff shutout streak, but on Tuesday night Nico Lodeiro set an individual record when his corner connected with Shane O’Neill’s noggin to open the scoring. That assist marked the sixth straight playoff game in which Lodeiro notched an assist, moving him into sole possession of the record. It’s a well-deserved record for arguably the best player in the league, who consistently has been able to take his game to another level when it matters the most.

Nouhou’s spot: Once again, Nouhou was nearly unbeatable on the left side of Seattle’s back line. Without the glaring error from the last game, Nouhou’s performance was effectively without blemish. He was where FC Dallas’ offense went to die, often turning that death into something beautiful as he dispossessed wingers time and again and immediately moved into the attack within the same motion. He created chances with the same frequency, glee and skill as he ended them. It is, at this point, undeniably his left back spot in the Sounders ideal XI, and should be for as long as this playoff run lasts.

O’Neill’s vindication: O’Neill was an unheralded signing at the start of preseason about 10 months ago. The once highly-touted prospect had bounced around since he first hit the scene with Colorado, and joined Seattle as a depth option. Few expected, and even fewer hoped, that he’d play the second most minutes among Seattle’s center backs. It was at times a bumpy ride, but over the course of Seattle’s first two playoff games in their pursuit of back-to-back MLS Cup victories O’Neill has shown that he’s good enough to be on the field. He may not offer as much as Xavier Arreaga with the ball at his feet, but he’s earned his spot and his goal against Dallas is the reason the Sounders are moving on to the Western Conference Championship.

Did you see that?!?

That’s a pretty good time to get your first goal for a new club.

He said what?!?

One stat to tell the tale

7 — This was the Sounders’ seventh consecutive playoff win, a record in the post-shootout era of MLS. They’ve also now won 14 straight playoff games at home, which is also a record.