SEATTLE – Albert Rusnák and Jordan Morris scored goals to lead the Seattle Sounders to a professional 2-0 win over FC Dallas in Game 1 of their best-of-3 MLS Playoffs series on Monday.
Rusnák's goal came on a first-half penalty that Cristian Roldan drew on former Timbers defender Marco Farfan. But the match remained relatively nervy until Morris scored a thundering header in the 74th minute, slamming home a Nouhou cross.
Stefan Frei made four saves to earn his 12th career playoff shutout, one behind Nick Rimando and Zach Thornton, who are tied for second-most in MLS history.
The series now heads to FC Dallas on Saturday. If the Sounders win, they'll advance to the Western Conference semifinals. If Dallas wins, the series will return to Seattle on Nov. 10.
7’: Alex Roldan plays in Cristian Roldan, who picks out Josh Atencio with a cutback pass but the shot is blocked.
16’: Alan Velasco is forced out of the game a few minutes after a collision with Alex Roldan.
18': Atencio finds Albert Rusnák with a cutback pass but the shot is blocked. João Paulo then picks up a loose ball and finds Atencio, but his volley is saved.
23’: Jesus Ferreira gets Dallas’ first good look of the game after Jackson Ragen's pass is intercepted, but Stefan Frei comes off his line aggressively to make the save.
27’: Jáder Obrian collects a stray João Paulo pass and finds Ferreira in the box, but the shot goes high under pressure from Nouhou.
40’: Alex Roldan gets off a shot from inside the box that forces Maarten Paes into a diving save.
43’: GOAL! Marco Farfan takes down Cristian Roldan in the box. Rusnák converts the penalty despite Paes getting a hand onto it.
61': Cristian Roldan finds Rusnák near the penalty spot but the shot is skied.
74': GOAL!! Nicolás Lodeiro plays Nouhou toward the endline and Nouhou finds Morris for a thundering header.
Nouhou played a nearly flawless match: Nouhou has established himself as a sort of cult hero, not always for the best reasons. Yes he's exciting, but that also comes with a level of unpredictability that isn't always ideal for a defender. But on Monday, he was unpredictable only in the best ways. After spending most of the evening playing lockdown defense, he picked the perfect time to combine with Lodeiro and sent in a perfect cross for the result-clinching goal. I can't help but wonder if he heard the whispers that Reed Baker-Whiting was coming for his job and responded in the best possible way.
It was a very professional win: Truth be told, this game felt an awful lot like many of the results this team has picked up during what is now a 10-game unbeaten streak. Aside from a 10-minute stretch in the middle of the first half, the Sounders rarely looked troubled and dictated the terms of the match. From the 32nd minute until the 89th minute, Dallas managed just three low-probability shots. It's the kind of thing you expect from a defense that was the class of the league.
Settling on a lineup: After seemingly endless tinkering due to injuries, international duty and form, the Sounders seem to have dialed in a preferred lineup. Josh Atencio, in particular, has grabbed this opportunity with both hands. He earned plaudits from just about everyone for his ability to effectively cover ground, provide a calming presence in possession and for how he constantly looked to attack around the penalty area. That Brian Schmetzer can afford to bring Lodeiro and Raúl Ruidíaz off the bench is quite a luxury, as well.
Did you see that?!?
He said what?!?
One stat to tell the tale
18 – The Sounders ran their home unbeaten streak against FC Dallas to 18 games, a string that dates back to 2012.