The roller coaster ride that is the Seattle Sounders 2014 season continues. The Cattle known as FC Dallas returned to CenturyLink Field for the second time in as many months hoping to avenge their previous outing. Sitting at #2 in the West behind Seattle, Dallas came in to the Emerald City needing to make a statement and start the road to regaining the top of the MLS table. The Comeback Kids had a different plan.
The biggest question heading in to the match was how well the Sounders back four looked as Dylan Remick went down last week with a sprained ankle (out 2-3 weeks) and Leo González is still out with nagging injuries. The answer? Brad Evans. The Captain was moved to left back along with longtime Seattle veteran Zach Scott, who was filling in for Djimi Traoré as Coach Schmid didn’t want Djimi playing on Turf so soon after the previous two matches. Fun fact of the night: The three remaining original MLS Sounders, from the very start of the inaugural 2009 season, all started (Evans, Alonso, Scott).
The match kicked off well and very much in Seattle’s favour, managing 6 shots by the end of the 10th minute. That stellar Sounders offence was clicking and it didn’t appear as if they could be stopped. At 15 minutes FC Dallas had still not gotten a shot off, the outstanding defence & midfield play was causing frustration as they were stripped of the ball again and again. A minute later a familiar situation reared its ugly head as Dallas’ Brazilian forward Michel gave The Cattle the early lead when he converted a penalty kick. The PK was awarded when Dallas’ Blas Perez charged into the box (Insert “Bull In China Shop” joke here) chasing the ball. Evans & Scott closed in on Perez and shut down the opportunity before it could be fully taken advantage of. After a mish-mash of feet getting tangled up, Perez went down as if there were a gunman in the stands and the ref looked to Evans as the guilty party. PK Dallas. Stefen Frei didn’t have a chance. 1-0 FC Dallas and the Sounders are down a goal in the first half. Again.
“I think once he felt foot-on-foot – if he’s kicking back, I don’t know—he just falls like a sack of [poo] on the ground. That’s pretty typical of him. That’s how he plays. I don’t expect anything else.” – Sounders Brad Evans on the PK call
The clean, crisp passing that we had been watching the previous matches returned as the midfield were doing an astounding job of controlling play up the middle and moving the ball forward. Osvaldo Alonso looked to be a man possessed at times and was having none of Dallas’ time-wasting antics, punching through holes a lesser player wouldn’t attempt. For the rest of the half the Sounders continued their assault, looking desperately for the equalizer before the half time whistle but it never came. At HT whistle Seattle held the possession advantage at %55 and a passing accuracy of 81%. The jery-rigged back four held Dallas to only 4 shots (1 on goal) while the deadly Sounders offence managed 7 shots (4 on goal).
The second half saw much the same style of action as the first: The Sounders pressing the attack while the FC Dallas players spent as much time on the ground as they did on their feet. Still, it would take Seattle until the 62nd minute to score the equalizer when Clint Dempsey fed the ball out wide to Obafemi Martins. Martins wasted little time as he placed a perfect ball to the near post where Lamar Neagle merely tapped it in from 6 yards out to level the match, 1-1. Whole new game. If it was not for the skillful Fernandez between the pipes for Dallas, the Sounders would have taken a much larger victory margin as his 68th minute acrobatic dive to deflect an Alonso shot off the post was nothing short of incredible, then followed up on Dempsey’s rebound. So it would continue, shot after shot for the Sounders and man down after man down for Dallas, until the 86th minute when “The Weatherman” Kenny Cooper came on for the Birthday Boy, Neagle. The impact was immediate. Two minutes from time Martins busted through a sloppy tackle up the left wing and sent in a low cross to an unmarked Cooper who netted his third of the campaign and the game winner.
“We did really well. We limited the team to very, very few opportunities. A PK unfortunately again. But … very good even though we had some new guys in. We’re all a big unit, we all trust each other. It doesn’t matter who’s on the pitch.” – GK Stefan Frei on the victory
With the win the Sounders are now sitting with 22 points (7-2-1 record) and are 5 points clear of Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference. Their current 5 match winning streak is a franchise best and is great feeling, to say the least. However, you have to wonder how much longer the “Comeback Kids” magic will last out. Even Sigi lamented in the post match presser that it was becoming an issue: “It goes without saying: We’d obviously like to not go down 1-0. That would be nice.” For now the Sounders are managing the late goals, keeping everyone’s emotions in hyper drive, and creating some of the best entertainment you could ask for. That being said, a few goals in the first half would be nice. 8 of the 14 goals allowed by the Sounders this season have come in the first 24 minutes of matches, whereas the times for some of the Sounders’ goals over the past six matches: 75′, 75′, 81′, 84′, 85′, 85′, 87′, 88′. Those numbers are a bit shocking and slightly worrisome considering over those 6 matches, 4 of them were come-from-behind. Not to mention the PK by FC Dallas, questionable as it may have been, was the 4th PK given up by the Sounders in 10 matches (the high for the club is 6, set in 2010). Other than that one unfortunate call the Sounders defence held The Cattle to only 7 shots on the night (only two of those on target), an impressive performance by any standard. I am nit-picking here, but it is still something the Sounders need to figure out. All-in-all, a phenomenal match for the Sounders and I’m sure the US Diving Team is proud of FC Dallas’ performance.
We now pack up the Rave Green Bus and head out to have a tea party with the New England Revolution, who are #2 in the Eastern Conference, on Sunday, May 11th. It’s Mother’s Day so plan accordingly.