After traveling to Dallas and looking okay but not great, the Sounders returned home and stomped the visitors’ hopes of advancing with a suffocating defense and just enough offense. Seattle’s first-half goal was all that was needed, as the star of the night was a defensive effort that not only dominated Dallas, but completely removed any chance they had at making a game of it, ensuring the 1-0 shutout. The away side had one shot, and it didn’t happen until the 89th minute. This weak header from a center back was the entirety of the goal danger allowed from Dallas. Seattle paired the dominant defense with a comprehensive attacking plan that led to 16 shots, 12 from inside the area. While they only scored once, the Sounders had plenty of creation and opportunities against the MLS’s third-best defense this year.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 7.0
The entire defense collaborated on this shutout, completely reversing Dallas’ quick attacking whims in the previous match. With Frei not called on to do much (one save), it was a coordinated effort across the box to be tidy, mitigate any Dallas pushes forward, and take safe options since they were often presented.
One thing I liked: In the 89th minute, Frei took no chances, punching out a cross. Much of his play was no-nonsense, recognizing that Dallas wasn’t going to create off possession, and limiting mistakes was priority one. This led to a 59 percent completion rate for the keeper, as Stef correctly went for substance over style.
One thing I didn’t like: A minor issue in the 39th minute was one of the few times Seattle and Frei attempted a little too much in the back, and they didn’t clear the ball cleanly in possession.
Going forward: Two shutouts in three playoff matches is a good omen for a long playoff run.
Nouhou – 7 | Community – 7.2
Nouhou sandwiched his terrible outing in Dallas with two fantastic efforts, this second one being a smooth, clean match showing off his strong individual defending and excellent progression ability. Time and again, Dallas would probe a counterattack attempt and the defense would win a crucial interception to continue to keep pressure. Nouhou ended with four clearances, two interceptions, and three tackles.
One thing I liked: After Jackson Ragen had a rare miscue in the 34th, Nouhou was there to recover. In addition to his strong defensive awareness, he had 11 passes into the final third, which was second-highest on the Sounders. Bernard Kamungo, who had given him a terrible matchup in Dallas, was returned the favor, being completely neutralized by Nouhou’s defense.
One thing I didn’t like: A few minor issues, like missing attacking passes (0/4 on long balls), or being too slow to the end line in the 51st minute were improvement points, and a late header was directed out for a corner instead of wider, giving a small chance to Dallas.
Going forward: The bounce back from the rough prior match was excellent.
Jackson Ragen – 7 | Community – 6.9
Ragen had a great match, managing the flow of the ball and facilitating a dominance on the defensive end that started centrally and pushed outward. He had 72 touches and 71 percent passing, finding plenty of the ball and making incisive forward attempts when possible. Jackson was part of a lockdown defensive unit that learned from their previous match and shut down nearly everything through the middle channels. With only five clearances on the stat sheet, Ragen excelled at the tactical positioning needed to dominate the middle without many physical altercations.
One thing I liked: Ragen’s 75th minute cover for Yeimar was a tidy bit of communication and team defense, and a 94th minute slide put an exclamation point on a workmanlike, comprehensive defensive shutout.
One thing I didn’t like: A whiff in the 34th and bad clearance in the 56th minute could have been bigger issues if this team defense didn’t immediately remove the chances.
Going forward: Ragen continues to show incredible maturity, bouncing back from any adversity with solid, consistently high gameplay.
Yeimar – 7 | Community – 7.5
Yeimar has been fantastic in the playoffs, and he continued his strong performances in this one. Filling up the stat sheet to the tune of nine clearances, it was the size and positioning of Yeimar that often denied Dallas even half chances in and around the box.
One thing I liked: With Dallas pushing numbers forward late, it was the great wall of Yeimar that most players crashed fruitlessly into. A defensive intervention in the 86th, a 94th minute clearance, and in between it was a highlight reel of Yeimar dominating in the air to repel Dallas balls into the area.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 75th minute, Paul Arriola turned Yeimar, in one of the only notable moments an opponent got the better of him.
Going forward: The defensive effort and understanding between Jackson and Yeimar allows the best of each.
Alex Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.8
Alex Roldan had a quiet match that saw him earn the second most touches (75), but only a single key pass on offense. That’s not to say he was ineffective, as it was frequently Alex who started an offensive push with strong positional defensive play, some creative Roldanery, or linkup with Josh Atencio to find space on the right. He was tidy on the ball, ending with 86 percent completion.
One thing I liked: Defensive adjustments across the backline were subtle, but enough, as Alex and Yeimar completely shut down any wide play that had success in the previous match, especially Arriola, who was erased. Roldan balanced this out with excellent 48/56 passing and seven balls into the final third.
One thing I didn’t like: Only 1/3 on crosses and 5/10 on long balls meant Alex attempted a fair number of dangerous balls but wasn’t able to connect the essential final pass.
Going forward: There's a bit more room for Roldan to impact the offense.
João Paulo – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 8.4 (MOTM) (off 87’ for Vargas)
João Paulo put on a master class of how to dominate a soccer game from deep-lying positions. At least, that's where he started, defending across in front of the backline and dominating everything centrally, limiting the vertical runs Dallas had enjoyed in the previous match. That led to two tackles, two interceptions, and 12 duels, of which he won 80 percent. Not just a defensive monster, JP also transitioned forward, becoming an essential offensive piece, turning the offensive part of his 86 touches into three shots, two key passes, and a game-winning assist.
One thing I liked: After cleverly baiting a yellow card out of Jáder Obrian in the 35th minute, JP charged into the middle, stole an errant pass from Dallas as they were attempting to play out of the back, and without hesitation slipped Albert Rusnák through on goal for the game-winner. João made it seem easy, but he had to control an errant ball, understand the vertical run, find the right pass, and hit it without hesitation, with any errors erasing this chance. You can take my word for it, since AppleTV missed it live.
One thing I didn’t like: An ugly 31st minute shot and a 42nd minute bad pass were two small errors that were noticeable. I hope subbing him out was precautionary.
Going forward: Seattle locked down the space in behind the midfield and simultaneously attacked that very space due to the great central combination.
Josh Atencio – 7 | Community – 7.0
Atencio has been one of the standout performers in this Sounders run, and he had another excellent outing. The fluidity of the center of the park has been a revelation, and Josh had great defensive presence against Dallas in this third match, leading the game with four tackles and 17 duels. His movement and range supported the offense but also released JP to be ever-present as well.
One thing I liked: A beautiful won tackle in the 44th minute was immediately pushed to the middle in the attack as a quick transition was in order. He almost released Jordan Morris on this play, and understood exactly where to attack after his defense created opportunity.
One thing I didn’t like: With only 57 percent passing, Atencio had a tough time connecting difficult passes attempting to break down a resilient defensive shell. Josh had a lot of great ideas, but wasn’t able to connect that killer chance against Dallas.
Going forward: Atencio has proven to be a great option who controls both ends of the field. He adds needed size and physicality centrally as well as a willingness to overload forward areas.
Léo Chú – 6 | Community – 5.9 (off 70’ for Lodeiro)
Chú had an active match, which was up and down. Learning from some of the defensive lapses in the previous match, Léo tracked back more than he had been doing, but still remained a creative offensive force eager to push the ball into the corner and look for crossing opportunities. His 37 touches returned a 61 percent completion rate that was hampered by his inability to find that crucial final pass after strong buildup and dribbling.
One thing I liked: A 47th minute give-and-go with Morris was beautiful, but just wide. A great 52nd minute run highlighted his game-changing dribbling ability, and five minutes later he showcased his incredible pace to stretch the field.
One thing I didn’t like: Chú couldn’t seem to get out of his own way at times. He charged forward and tried stuff but wasn’t completely on the same page as teammates, or was unable to find the right execution in big moments. A 61st minute give-and-go with Cristian was a big chance wasted as his touch let him down deep in the box.
Going forward: Léo pushed hard and continues to be a good combination with Jordan to help create space forward, but he will need to find more than just Morris.
Albert Rusnák – 7 | Community – 7.8
This match was the epitome of what Albert has been doing for the team, no matter where on the field he lines up. He connected passes, covered defensive spaces, and, understanding where the weak points in the opponent’s defense were, he attacked them. He did this with and without the ball, finding and combining with others as Seattle racked up 16 shots. Albert co-led the team with four and added a fantastic five key passes in a great example of how effective he can be at the ten position.
One thing I liked: Understanding the vertical space created by Morris pressing wide, Rusnák dove into the box and found JP’s neatly packaged through ball in the 36th minute. Without hesitation, he struck on frame and earned Seattle a game-winning goal.
One thing I didn’t like: Twice, Albert had volley chances on goal and missed both, in the 28th and 67th minutes. Bad communication killed a chance with Morris in the 53rd.
Going forward: Seattle is letting the midfield trio mix and match vertical runs and it's creating chances every match.
Cristian Roldan – 7 | Community – 7.2
Roldan was very active in this deciding match, popping up all over the field to support on both ends of the pitch. His positioning inside prevented Dallas from springing many counter-attacking passes through the middle, and on offense Cristian was ever-present on the right as Seattle sent waves down the wing to create gaps all over the field. He ended with 58 touches and created three key passes, had two shots of his own, and completed 81 percent of his attempts.
One thing I liked: Cristian found Rusnák in the 42nd with a neat combination as Seattle showed that they can tuck Roldan inside and combine with multiple playmakers centrally. He got to the endline and crossed a beautiful ball seven minutes later. A 61st minute give-and-go with Chú nearly doubled the lead as Cristian put his winger counterpart into the box free.
One thing I didn’t like: With Morris dropping him a perfect opportunity in the 40th minute, Cristian sent his open shot wide, a disappointing effort he should have put on frame.
Going forward: Roldan does so much to bind the movements of others into a cohesive product.
Jordan Morris – 7 | Community – 7.4
Morris continued to be an absolute handful for Dallas, so much so that their plan to defend him seemed to be to sit back and condense the space, to try and limit his ability to get in behind or stretch the field. This may have worked on a lesser version of Jordan, but the player they matched up against was a veritable force — in behind, back to the goal, holding up, creating for others, moving off the ball, and pressing defensively. Jordan was active, impactful, and explosive.
One thing I liked: Jordan made his 33 touches count, including winning four headers, creating two key passes, and earning four shots of his own. Morris was the complete attacking package, creating a 31st minute chance, pressing Dallas into the game-deciding turnover five minutes later, or showcasing a slick spin move in the box before laying the ball off on a platter for Cristian in the 40th minute. He had multiple near-post runs and attempts, the best of which was a 58th minute blast that forced an excellent save.
One thing I didn’t like: Morris’s first touch let him down on a few occasions, and his 57th minute shot went towards the train station.
Going forward: Jordan is showing an all around completeness to his striker play that needs a tiny bit more support from others to be title-winning.
Nico Lodeiro – 5 | Community – 6.4 (on 70’ for Chú)
Super-Sub Nico Lodeiro joined the match in the 70th minute and was less effective than previous matches, only getting 11 touches in his 20 minutes on the field. His leadership and control was important as Dallas made a number of offensive subs and adjustments, forcing Nico to be a defensive supporter late.
One thing I liked: Soon after entering the match, Nico shielded the ball and won a free kick as he reminded everyone of his veteran wiles.
One thing I didn’t like: Lodeiro was only 3/6 in passing, and he missed his only cross attempt.
Going forward: Nico didn’t have the same impact as in prior matches, but he again showed a willingness to play as a wide possession option for this long playoff run.
Obed Vargas – 5 | Community – 5.5 (on 87’ for JP)
Again it was Vargas trusted with taking over defensive midfield duties for a departing João Paulo late, and again he struggled some. Ultimately, Seattle held on for the win, but Obed didn’t have much positive impact in his short time on the field.
One thing I liked: Seattle held on for the last few minutes plus stoppage time to move on.
One thing I didn’t like: Vargas’ zero percent passing on three attempts didn’t wow anyone.
Going forward: The coaching staff has a lot of confidence in this young player, and he continues to get vital minutes with the game on the line.
Fotis Bazakos – 5 | Community – 5.2
This was another match where the referee seemed to be having a solid game but then inexplicably started to miss things and compounded that by some curious decisions. The defending Dallas team rightfully earned all three yellow cards and the 15-14 foul split was not overly egregious. The second half seemed to be much worse as the pressure of the match ratcheted up.
One thing I liked: A 24th minute advantage call was a highlight of a well-refereed first half. Other than a potential Roldan penalty shout that was ignored, it looked to be a solid half.
One thing I didn’t like: As the match wore on, it increasingly felt like the referee was reffing the scoreboard, and not the match in front of him. Calls regarding Cristian Roldan were missed, as he was fouled in the 62nd (no call), not given advantage two minutes later, and then whistled for a phantom call moments after. Anything consequential seemed to go against the home team late, which contributed to Dallas’s ability to mount a comeback attempt.
Going forward: Another good half ruined by missteps after halftime.
FC Dallas MOTM
Maarten Paes did well in this one, all things considered, making three saves throughout. The Sounders applied significant pressure in the early stages, but it wasn’t until João Paulo’s (tame) effort at minute 31 that Paes saved his first shot on target. Unfortunately for the Dutchman, things quickly escalated from there. Morris put a header on frame in the 35th, and it was Dallas’ iffy buildup from that save that JP and Co. opted to shove back down their throats.
Next up: Two more home games before going east to play for another cup.