It wasn’t exactly a stress-free affair, but the Seattle Sounders are headed to the Western Conference Championship.
Midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro scored a massive second-half road goal to help give the Sounders a 4-2 aggregate Western Conference Semifinals triumph over FC Dallas despite falling 2-1 to the Supporters’ Shield winners in the second leg of their series at Toyota Stadium on Sunday.
Following last weekend’s 3-0 victory in the first leg at CenturyLink Field, the Sounders were pressed throughout the match by an FCD squad that came into the match knowing it needed three goals just to force extra time. The hosts found their go-ahead goal in the 25th minute off a headed goal from Tesho Akindeli, but Lodeiro’s 54th minute tally rendered Maxmiliano Urruti’s goal in the 56th minute a moot point.
The semifinal victory means the Sounders will face off against the Colorado Rapids for the Western Conference title, following Colorado’s penalty kick triumph over the LA Galaxy on Sunday. Seattle will host the first leg on Tuesday, Nov. 22 before the series closes on Sunday, Nov. 27 in Commerce City, Colo.
FCD almost grabbed the lead in the 16th minute after Harris managed to break free on goal and fire off a clean look on Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei. But Frei managed to make the reaction save to keep the game scoreless.
FCD would grab the opener in the 25th after Akindele headed a cross from Harris over Frei, off the crossbar and into the net, giving the hosts the tally that cut Seattle’s aggregate lead to 3-1.
Lodeiro almost equalized in the 37th minute off a pinpoint bending free kick from distance that looked to be headed into the goal. But FCD ‘keeper Chris Seitz laid out for a highlight reel save to deflect Lodeiro’s shot off the post, allowing Dallas to keep the 1-0 lead they would take into halftime.
Seattle found its road goal soon after the second half kickoff, however, after right back Tyrone Mears pickpocketed FCD defender Walker Zimmerman and made a run into the penalty box. The Englishman then sent in a low cross into the path of an onrushing Lodeiro, who tapped home the finish to equalize the contest at 1-1, the third goal of the 2016 Audi MLS Cup playoffs for the Uruguyan star.
The Sounders’ jubilation would be tempered somewhat, however, as Urruti responded for FCD almost immediately, heading home a cross from former Sounder Mauro Rosales past Frei, giving FCD the 2-1 advantage and cut Seattle’s aggregate lead to 4-2. But the Sounders would hold that scoreline for the rest of the contest, officially avenging last year’s semifinal at the hands of the same FC Dallas squad.
There were apparent injuries for the Sounders, however, as both Valdez and Jordan Morris had to be pulled from the game. It’s unclear if either player will appear for their respective countries during the upcoming FIFA international window – Morris for the United States or Valdez for Paraguay – of if they’ll rest during the two-week break for the first leg of the conference championship.