SEATTLE — The Sounders are set to face an old nemesis after hanging on for a 0-0 draw against FC Dallas in the second leg of the Western Conference semifinals Monday night at CenturyLink Field.
The tie advanced the Sounders to the Western Conference finals, where they’ll face the No. 2 seeded Los Angeles Galaxy, Nov. 23 at the Stubhub Center before returning home to Seattle for the second leg of the aggregate series Nov. 30. The clubs finished 1-2 in the Western Conference table during the regular season, as Seattle edged LA for the Supporters Shield.
“I guess that’s the way the script writers put it out,” said Sounders coach Sigi Schmid. “We knew the road would eventually go through there as they knew the road would go through us. It’s probably appropriate that the two of us meet.”
The Sounders’ first playoff test was never easy, as they finished the two-match aggregate goal series against Dallas tied at 1.
Since the first tiebreaker is road goals accumulated, the Sounders advanced because they played Dallas to a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the series in Frisco, Texas, on Nov. 2.
Dallas keeper Chris Seitz doesn’t mind the aggregate-goal format, but he admitted the latest setback hurts.
“Obviously it stings today, but I think it creates more attacking-minded soccer, and
that plays to our advantages,” Seitz said after finishing with a game-high five saves.
The excitement began early in Monday’s first half, when Sounders forward Clint Dempsey controlled a pass from midfielder Brad Evans and dribbled into the box, using a step-over move to clear space before firing a right-footed shot that Seitz swatted away.
The sequence set the tone for a night of missed scoring opportunities for Dempsey. The Nacogdoches, Texas, native had a game-high six shots, (three on goal) but couldn’t convert.
“We created good chances,” Dempsey said. “We had some good looks in front of goal. I should have scored tonight. At least one. But at the end of the day, we’re happy with going to the next round.”
The rest of the half was back and forth and contentious, as Dallas defender Moises Hernandez earned a yellow card in the 14th minute after tripping Seattle forward Obafemi Martins during a run up the right sideline.
The Sounders had multiples chances in the first half to take a 2-0 aggregate lead in the series. At one point, defender Chad Marshall headed a corner that was cleared at the last moment by Dallas’ back line. In the 42nd minute, Dempsey fielded a pass from Martins inside the box, but his shot was again deflected away by Seitz, who finished the first half with two key saves.
The Sounders controlled possession for 54 percent of the first half and held an 8-5 advantage in shots on goal, but that momentum changed when Dallas switched late in the game to an attacking front. They simply couldn’t provide the clincher despite nine attempts on goal.
“I’m very proud of my players, I thought they did a very good job,” coach Oscar Parejas said. “The plan was to be aggressive and put pressure on them the whole game, and it was much part of the game where we feel we get what we wanted.”
Seattle suffered a major blow early in the second half when midfielder Osvaldo Alonso went down with a hamstring injury and was replaced with midfielder Michael Azira in the 56th minute.
“I thought Azira came in and played well,” Schmid said. “That’s why he’s on the team. By the time we play in two weeks, we hope (Alonso) will be back. He certainly represents our desire. There’s nobody that wants to win this thing more than he does.”
Alonso entered Monday tied for first in franchise history for postseason goals, with forward Eddie Johnson, now of D.C. United, after he netted a second-half equalizer in the first leg of the Western Conference semifinal series.
It proved the difference.