Dam finally breaks for Seattle Sounders in win over FC Dallas, but what comes next?

SEATTLE - It finally happened. For months, seemingly, the Sounders have been looking for a break from the mire of losses and draws and near-misses.

And finally, blessedly, the dam broke on Wednesday. The break finally arrived.

Seattle 5. FC Dallas 0.

After so many penalty shouts against, the Sounders benefitted from a well-spotted hand ball in the box in the opening five minutes to totally flip the game in Seattle’s favor. To make matters worse for FC Dallas, Maynor Figueroa was tagged with a red card for directing Andreas Ivanschitz’s on-target shot wide with his arm, and Seattle was suddenly off to the races.

After so many difficult calls this season, and so many red cards and penalties and poor bounces and everything else that led Seattle into the basement of the Western Conference, finally something broke in Seattle’s favor. And boy did it.

Seattle has never won a match in its MLS history by more than the five-goal margin it posted on Wednesday. Goals seemingly rained from the sky, and notably Cristian Roldan, the standout second-year midfielder out of the University of Washington, got off the mark with his first career professional goal. It was indeed a night for celebration.

Here’s three things we learned from Wednesday’s enormous win.

Wide Open Spaces

The beauty - and struggle from an analytical perspective - of games that aren’t 11 vs. 11 is that it’s nearly impossible to proffer tactical conclusions. Since the typical formational setups are whittled down and broken apart, something will be lopsided. Whether that’s flank play or depth in the middle or where teams prod in the final third, whatever happens isn’t all that applicable to the next week. Games don’t end up 11 vs. 10 all that often, so using them as litmus tests is a bit shortsighted.

So it goes without saying that a match that ends 10 vs. 10 - to say nothing of 11 vs. 10 - has little bearing tactically on whatever happens in the next match. Clint Dempsey’s matching red card before halftime evened terms on the field and certainly made his absence for this weekend’s Portland Timbers match difficult, but it certainly didn’t alter the outcome.

Suffice it to say, Seattle made use of its short period of advantage. And the key was utilizing space.

Each of Seattle’s four open-play goals - a number that made up half of Seattle’s season-long total to that point - was crafted from the space generated by FC Dallas’s vacated space somewhere on the field. After Dempsey’s well-taken penalty opened the action, Ivanschitz’s lifted chip to make it 2-0 was set up by FC Dallas’s inability to cope with an over-the-top ball that fell in between where two defenders should’ve otherwise been.

The third goal, a perfectly scythed cross-post blast from Jordan Morris, was crafted by Osvaldo Alonso and Dempsey thanks to a sagging and frankly soggy defensive midfield led by a swamped Juan Ortiz. The fourth found its genesis in a well-crafted raking run by Oniel Fisher to find a jetting Joevin Jones for a deflected goal. And Roldan’s fifth was a mastercrafted piece of action that FC Dallas was, by then, frankly ill-equipped to handle.

It Wasn’t The Lineup

FC Dallas took some flack for its lineup, and at least on the surface there was some traction to the criticism. Heavily praised FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja rested a number of starters as FC Dallas hit a particularly congested part of its schedule, and hugely influential wing speedsters Michael Barrios and Fabian Castillo started the match on the bench. Further, first team attackers Mauro Diaz and Maxi Urruti, who scored a spectacular bicycle kick goal just a few days ago, never saw the field.

In place of so many starters, Pareja and his first-place FC Dallas squad started a raft of backups and non-regulars, and Seattle duly punished FC Dallas thanks in part to the early red card. For that decision, Pareja earned some public scorn.

Dam finally breaks for Seattle Sounders in win over FC Dallas, but what comes next? -

There is some merit to that, but don’t let Pareja’s lineup decisions obscure what was otherwise a steady performance from the Sounders. Pareja’s decision was born not out of disrespect - Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said it motivated the team in the pregame - but out of necessity. FC Dallas has four matches in 13 days, three of which are on the road and two of which are on the West Coast. It was simply a preventative measure. The Sounders, who have plenty of matches in the coming days, can most certainly relate.

Still, teams use the motivation they need to pump themselves up for the occasion. And with Seattle entering the evening at the bottom of the Western Conference and desperately needing points to climb back into playoff contention, it doesn’t matter how they arrived. Points are points, and these three were hugely necessary.

Turnarounds Are Made of These

It seems like we’ve been talking about the anatomy of a turnaround for months now. The Sounders have certainly needed some measure of a thunderbolt for some time, and every time it seems as though it’s arrived, the clouds emerge and we’re left back where we started.

After the Sounders lost their first three to start the year, they suffered a deflating 3-1 loss at the Colorado Rapids. After the Sounders recovered by winning two straight against Columbus Crew SC and San Jose Earthquakes, they lost three straight. After the Sounders won two straight in MLS and the U.S. Open Cup in mid-June, they lost two straight. And after building up some positive momentum into July after three straight unbeaten in three different competitions, the LA Galaxy entered Seattle last weekend and won a deflating 1-0 victory.

After all those peaks and troughs, never has a Sounders match in franchise history ended with a scoreline more lopsided than Wednesday’s 5-0 result. If that isn’t enough to permanently shift the Sounders’ course after so many near misses, nothing is.



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