SEATTLE – The Seattle Sounders hosted FC Dallas with their playoff lives on the line. Thanks to a 33rd minute goal from Albert Rusnák, Seattle claimed a 1-0 win to take the series 2-1 and advance to the Western Conference Semifinals against LAFC.
The first half was absolutely dominated by the Sounders. They held 64% of possession through the opening 45, outshot Dallas 8-0, and had the half’s lone goal. The breakthrough came just after a good chance off of a free kick routine in which Cristian Roldan made a run across the defensive line into space on the right to receive a short kick and play in a cross that Jordan Morris got his head to, but the effort was easily caught by FCD goalkeeper Maarten Paes. Almost immediately after the restart João Paulo picked off a Dallas pass at midfield and spotted a run from Albert Rusnák. He perfectly slid the ball through a closing window and Rusnák got off a great shot that Paes got a touch to, but not enough to keep it out of the goal.
After halftime Seattle wasn’t quite as dominant, although they still controlled a good chunk of the play. Dallas really started to assert themselves over the final 10 minutes, taking their first shot of the game in the 89th minute. Dallas generated a handful of good looks as the Sounders struggled to regain control and see the match out, but in every instance Stefan Frei and his backline were able to handle any potential jeopardy before Dallas could capitalize.
In the end it’s another win, another shutout, and the Sounders are headed to the Conference semis for the first time since 2020. They’ll host LAFC following the International break.
1’ – Some nice build-up from the Sounders eventually creates a corner after Rusnak gets to the end line.
12’ – After a series of misplays and dangerous decisions in the Sounders’ defensive area, Nouhou ushers the ball over the line for a goal kick.
20’ – Jackson Ragen wins a header on a free kick that’s easily caught by Maarten Paes, but it’s called back for a foul.
30’ – Cristian Roldan gets onto a Jordan Morris cut back and sets up JP for a shot, but his effort is easily dealt with by Paes.
35’ – The Sounders take a creative approach on a free kick that sees Cristian in space down the right sending a cross for Morris, but his header is caught.
36’ – GOAL! Albert Rusnák scores! He runs onto a throughball from JP that splits the defense and although Paes gets a touch he can’t stop the goal! 1-0 Sounders
40’ – Morris plays through a potential foul in the box to set Cristian up for a great shot from the top of the box, but the shot goes wide left.
55’ – Morris nearly adds a second for the Sounders to cap off a great move by the Roldans and Josh Atencio, but his attempt is blocked out for a corner.
58’ – Morris draws a big save from Paes, attempting to squeeze the ball in high at the near post after a good ball from Rusnák.
61’ – After some excellent touches and a nice 1-2 at the top of the box, Léo Chú’s touch fails him denying a clear look on goal.
72’ – Jackson Ragen has a look at the far post off of a free kick after Nouhou is brought down off the ball, but his shot doesn’t trouble the ‘keeper.
76’ – Nico Lodeiro sends in a fantastic ball for Morris, but it takes a deflection and goes well beyond his reach and out for a corner.
87’ – FC Dallas get a dangerous look as Jesus Jimenez cushions a header at the back post from a great cross, but Yeimar clears it before the shot comes.
89’ – Dallas take their first shot of the night as Nkosi Tafari gets a header inside the area that Stefan Frei easily cleans up. It is Dallas' only shot of the game.
Midfield mastery: This win, like so many others, simply doesn’t happen without João Paulo running things in the middle of the field. His assist on the game’s lone goal was a thing of beauty, and was just the cherry on top of a deserved Man of the Match performance. He led Seattle with 86 touches, completed three of four dribbles, had a tidy 12 recoveries and won eight of 10 ground duels. When he’s playing at his peak there aren’t many guys in this Sounders quad who are better, and tonight he was at his best.
Striker selection: Jordan Morris continues to solidify his claim on the starting spot at center forward for the Sounders. He may not have scored as Seattle secured their place in the next round, but he did just about everything else Brian Schmetzer and his staff could have wanted. He nearly created multiple goals with excellent holdup play, most notably on the chance he created for Cristian Roldan when he held off and turned two defenders inside the box before laying the ball off. He gave the back line fits wherever he popped up, and worked hard to win the ball back when the Sounders were out of possession. Raúl Ruidíaz is still a great option sitting on the bench, but it’s not for nothing that he stayed there tonight.
Clean sheets keep piling up: Stefan Frei and the Sounders squad claimed their 16th clean sheet of the season with the 1-0 win tonight. Frei and others will point to the team’s collective effort as the reason for that record, but clean sheets tend to show up as a goalkeeper stat for a reason. Frei’s ability to organize the team in front of him and control his area is typically a key part of the best shutout record in the team’s MLS era. Stefan Frei might not get the respect he deserves around the league, but his steadiness and consistency will long be remembered after he’s gone. Hopefully that’s not for years to come.
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One stat to tell the tale
7 – All 7 of Albert Rusnák’s goals this season have been game-winners and he now has five goals in his past 10 games.