There’s an old saying in soccer that a team can’t win a playoff, tie in the first leg, but they can lose it. FC Dallas might have found that out the hard way on Sunday night.
In a matter of seven minutes, the Seattle Sounders broke open their Western Conference quarterfinal against top-seeded FC Dallas, as a Nelson Valdez header and a double strike from Nicolas Lodeiro turned a scoreless draw into a three-goal cushion for Seattle. The Sounders held Dallas at bay for the rest of the night, taking a 3-0 decision in Seattle and taking a big edge into the second leg of the matchup.
The hosts had looked shaky in escaping from Sporting Kansas City on Thursday night in the knockout round, but the Seattle Sounders were a different team against FC Dallas, looking much more like the side that had closed with 28 points in its final 14 matches to reach the playoffs after being in ninth place and firing its coach on July 24.
By contrast, FC Dallas chose to play a defensive game and hope for either a draw or a goal on the counterattack that would give FCD an advantage to take home to the second leg in Texas. The strategy worked for a half for the Supporters’ Shield champions, but it fell apart in the 50th minute when Joevin Jones found Valdez on a cross for a 1-0 Seattle Sounders lead and the Paraguayan’s second goal in as many playoff games.
With its initial strategy thwarted, things quickly fell apart for Dallas as Seattle’s Jordan Morris raced down the left side of the pitch five minutes later, taking three Dallas defenders with him before slotting a pass to Lodeiro, who finished an easy tap-in for the second goal. Lodeiro then finished the scoring at the start of the 58th minute by taking Morris’ route and finishing the goal himself with a shot through the legs of FCD keeper Chris Seitz, giving the Sounders a huge cushion.
With three goals to their name and no away goal conceded, the Sounders appear poised to complete the upset of the league’s best team. Further complicating matters for FC Dallas is the loss of talisman Mauro Diaz, who went down with a torn Achilles’ tendon in Dallas’ penultimate regular season game against Seattle. Without Diaz, FCD often looked lost on the attack against the Sounders, requiring them to now pull off a historic comeback.
No MLS side has ever come back from a three-goal deficit after the first leg to advance, and only the 2003 San Jose Earthquakes have ever come back from facing a three-goal deficit at any point in the tie. The Earthquakes were famously down 4-0 on aggregate to Los Angeles after 15 minutes of their second leg, before coming back to win 5-4 in extra time.
However, that comeback was before MLS instituted the away goals rule, which would have eliminated San Jose in 2003 and now gives the Seattle Sounders a big edge. With Dallas failing to score an away goal, all the Sounders would have to do is score once in Texas and they would own the away goals tiebreaker, which would require Dallas to score at least five goals to have any hope of saving its season and completing the first treble in MLS history.
Readers, is there any way FC Dallas recovers? Have the Sounders secured their spot in the Western finals? What do you think of Seattle’s turnaround? Sound off in the comments below.
Commentary by Dan Angell