Seattle Sounders vs. FC Dallas: Lessons Learned from the First Leg
The Seattle Sounders managed to escape Toyota Stadium with a 1-1 draw against FC Dallas in the Western Conference semifinals on Sunday night.
Osvaldo Alonso's header erased a Michel penalty, giving Seattle a slight advantage heading into the second leg at CenturyLink Field.
Here are five things we learned from the first leg.
The Away Goals Rule Changes the Complexion of the Matchup
MLS' implementation of the away goals rule completely changes the complexion of the playoffs. Alonso's second-half strike gives Seattle the advantage, on paper, of progressing to the next round.
The second leg will be in the Pacific Northwest, where the Sounders won 12 of their 17 games during the regular season, per ESPN FC.
Dallas Dominated Possession, but Didn't Do Enough with It
Dallas had just under 57 percent of the total possession in the game, per MLSSoccer.com, but only mustered seven shots to Seattle's 12.
One of the only moments in which the Hoops looked dangerous was when Andres Escobar darted into the box and won the penalty that gave the hosts the lead.
If Dallas has any chance of staying alive in the playoffs, it will have to take advantage of its opportunities in Seattle. It has fast players who are a threat on the counter, but the forwards have to be more clinical.
The Sounders' Conservative Approach Paid Off
Unlike the Vancouver Whitecaps, the Sounders employed a plan of sitting deep and countering that actually worked for them against Dallas.
For the most part, each player was organized and helped out the defenders. Dallas' two best attackers—Blas Perez and Fabian Castillo—weren't as influential as they had been in previous games, which is a testament to Seattle's hard work.
They clearly went into Frisco to get a goal and limit the damage. Head coach Sigi Schmid should be pleased with both the performance and the result.
Mauro Diaz Was Missed
Mauro Diaz's absence had a snowball effect on Dallas. Due to Diaz's suspension, Castillo played as the No. 10 behind Perez, while Escobar filled in on the flank.
However, Castillo didn't look as dangerous while operating in a central role. If Diaz started, that would have been an added threat for Seattle. As a result, Perez and Castillo could have had more of an influence on the match.
Thankfully for Dallas supporters, Diaz will be available for the second leg.
Dallas' Defense Was Immense
Dallas may have conceded via a set piece, but outside of that the defense had a magnificent game. Zach Loyd moved from his usual full-back role to the center beside Matt Hedges, where they both had a solid showing.
It wasn't perfect, but they nullified the danger of the likes of Obafemi Martins, Clint Dempsey and Lamar Neagle. The former had a clear-cut chance in the first half, but Raul Fernandez managed to stop the Nigerian from point-blank range.
That will give Oscar Pareja some confidence going into Seattle. He'll need his defenders to have the performances of their lives in the second leg. Given how they performed on Sunday, he might not need to worry.