The Seattle Sounders gutted out a 1-0 win over FC Dallas on Tuesday in the Western Conference Semifinals. Here are five things you may have missed.
Home sweet home
The Sounders have now won an eye-popping 14 consecutive home matches in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs dating back to 2014, outscoring their opponents 34-12. Head Coach Brian Schmetzer is a perfect 11-0-0 since taking the helm in 2016.
Captain Nicolás Lodeiro added to his illustrious Sounders and MLS career when his corner kick found the head of Shane O’Neill for the match-winner in the second half. Tuesday was the sixth consecutive postseason match with an assist for Lodeiro, who passed the legendary David Beckham for the MLS record. Lodeiro now has eight goals and nine assists in 19 career Audi MLS Cup Playoffs matches.
João Paulo the punisher
João Paulo was an absolute bulldog against FC Dallas, thoroughly bossing the center of the park and disrupting anything and everything that came his way. He finished the match a game-high 13 recoveries, three interceptions, two clearances and two tackles. The Brazilian also led the Sounders in successful passes with 61, was second in touches with 93, tied for first in total aerial duels won with six and even chipped in a key pass.
While his center back partner O’Neill earned the plaudits for his match-winner, Yeimar was just as impressive on the defensive end. The hulking Colombian’s instincts are superb, and he finished second in MLS this season in interceptions. That ability to read the game was on full display on Tuesday, as he snuffed out several potentially dangerous attacks from FC Dallas, not to mention his goal-saving block on Andrés Ricaurte.
Take a look at the clip below. Down 1-0 in the 54th minute, Dallas was poised for a counterattack after a Seattle turnover. FCD would have been in 2-on-2 with the speedy Fafa Picault running onto the ball before Yeimar timed his intervention perfectly to step in, break up the play and give possession back to the Sounders in Dallas’ half.
Schmetzer was spoiled for choice heading into Tuesday’s match, sporting one of the deepest benches the Sounders have had all season. The only notable absence was Gustav Svensson, who was not medically cleared to play. Schmetzer fielded the same starting lineup he did in the opening round win over LAFC and had myriad options with exceptional talent and experience with which to tinker. Three 2019 MLS Cup defensive starters in Brad Smith, Kelvin Leerdam and Román Torres were available, as was Xavier Arreaga, who returned following his mandated quarantine period. In attack, Schmetzer also had the services of Will Bruin, who has eight career playoff goals to his name.