He now has two in three days.
Valdez opened the scoring for Seattle in the 50th minute of its convincing 3-0 first leg win over FC Dallas in the Western Conference Semifinals on Sunday evening. And what followed next was something of pure alchemy.
The Sounders rattled off three goals in a devastating eight-minute span to take a commanding aggregate lead heading into the second leg in Frisco, Texas, next Sunday. It was a dazzling stretch of clinical counterattacking soccer and pinpoint finishing, the likes of which even stunned interim head coach Brian Schmetzer.
“No,” Schmetzer said when asked if he had experienced anything like that before. “I’d have to look at the stats, I’d have to Google search that. Over the years, we might have had some flurries like that, but right now I’m just thinking about tonight’s eight minutes.”
Nicolas Lodeiro recorded a brace in four minutes, first tapping in a square pass in front of the net from Jordan Morris before scoring on a breakaway and sneaking the ball between the legs of FC Dallas goalkeeper Chris Seitz.
“In the second half, in those 20 minutes Seattle outplayed us and we have to accept that,” FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja said. “We should have been more mature after the first goal.”
The Sounders did not take their foot off the pedal and very nearly could have had more. It was a refreshing pace and performance after Sporting KC dictated much of the game on Thursday.
“We weren’t able to play out of the back against Kansas City,” said midfielder Cristian Roldan, who started at his more natural defensive midfield position alongside Osvaldo Alonso after spending the previous two matches at right wing. “Our mindset today was to play out of the back and play our game because at the end of the day, that’s what got us here.
“[FC Dallas’] mindset was more conservative. They had eight minutes where they didn’t follow their runners and that cost them.”
Schmetzer mentioned how happy he was that the fans got to enjoy an exciting playoff win and barrage of goals. He’s well aware of the team’s struggles for the first half of the season and was excited to share that moment with all 37,000 in attendance. And they certainly got a treat from defender Joevin Jones.
The Trinidadian international had two assists on Sunday, good for three in his last two matches and four in his last six. He’s been incredibly effect operating from the back line and has been as dangerous an offensive weapon as the Sounders have had in recent games.
“All season, [Jones] has been putting in balls like that,” Morris said. “When he gets into the attack, it changes the whole dimension of the game.”
The game plan on Sunday was one with many new wrinkles. Roman Torres and Alvaro Fernandez were each late scratches with hamstring injuries, so Schmetzer was forced to shuffle his lineup and finagle a Starting XI that could produce.
Valdez started up top, Erik Friberg started at attacking center mid and Morris and Lodeiro each patrolled the wings. It was unorthodox positioning and one that took an entire half to figure out, but once Seattle did, it broke down Dallas' back line and countered effectively.
Schmetzer was proud of the way his team executed, but the mood in the locker room postgame was more business-like than celebratory. The team is 7-1-2 in its last 10 matches, including three wins in the last eight days, but the coaching staff is ensuring everyone knows there’s still a lot of work to do.
“The talk after the game was, ‘We’re not done. We’re not finished,’’’ Schmetzer said. “That message will be repeated throughout the week because Dallas is a very dangerous team. We’re not taking anything for granted.
“If we come down there saying we’ve already won, then that will be a big mistake. We won’t allow that to happen.”