FRISCO, Texas — Penalty kicks were the decider between FC Dallas and the Seattle Sounders on Sunday night at Toyota Stadium, with defender Walker Zimmerman booting Dallas into Major League Soccer’s Western Conference finals.
Zimmerman gave Dallas a 4-2 win on penalty kicks after his team’s 2-1 victory through regulation and extra time. The teams wound up tied 3-3 at the end of the two-legged semifinal series.
FC Dallas will face the Portland Timbers for the Western Conference title. The Timbers will host the first leg on Nov. 22, and FC Dallas will be at home for the return leg on Nov. 29.
In second-half stoppage time, Zimmerman scored on a header to force an additional 30 minutes. Neither team managed a score in the extra time — despite many shots on goal — so the series came down to penalty kicks.
Dallas made its first three attempts from the spot, while two of Seattle’s were stopped by Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez. The Sounders made their fourth, and Zimmerman converted to end Seattle’s season.
“It was one of the most emotional games for sure,” FC Dallas coach Oscar Pareja said. “Now we can say we accomplished beating one of the best teams in the league.”
A year ago, the teams met in the same round of the postseason — Western Conference semifinals — and after a pair of draws (1-1 and 0-0), Seattle advanced due to the away-goals tiebreaker. FC Dallas became the
first team in MLS history to be eliminated by that tiebreaker, but Seattle was able to commiserate shortly after, as the Sounders were eliminated by Los Angeles in the next round by the same stipulation.
“Thinking back to last year, sitting in Seattle’s locker room, it was tough because they didn’t beat us, it was away goals,” Zimmerman said. “Coming here, we talked about home-field advantage and that our record at home is extremely good, so why not play with confidence?”
Dallas would need that confidence as the waning moments of regulation brought on the full spectrum of emotion.
Three goals in the final minutes of regulation made for scintillating drama.
The teams battled to a 0-0 score until Dallas forward Tesho Akindele was subbed on in the 83rd minute. One minute later, he scored on a header. If the score had held at 1-0 until 90 minutes were up, Dallas would have advanced to the conference semifinals. Seattle won last week 2-1 at home, but with the aggregate score 2-2, Dallas’ road goal would have been the decisive tiebreaker.
The Sounders scored to save their season in the 90th minute when defender Chad Marshall headed in a corner kick from midfielder Marco Pappa. A 1-1 result on the night would have pushed Seattle to the next round.
“It was a roller coaster,” Akindele said. “We knew we would get another chance or two because (Seattle) looked dead. We made it count.”
Shockingly, Dallas managed to score again in the 91st minute via a Zimmerman header.
“We never give up and fight until the final whistle,” Zimmerman said. “Even though they got that late goal, no one on the team was thinking, ‘Oh, we’re going to lose to Seattle again.’ It was more like, ‘Let’s score, win this game and move on.'”
For Seattle, there will be no moving on.
“Any time you get knocked out of the playoffs, it’s a huge disappointment,” Sounders defender Zach Scott said. “Our goal every season is an MLS cup and it has evaded us.”
Scoring was equally evasive in the first half of Sunday’s match, which made the frantic finish to the match even more surprising.
“I don’t know if I’ve been a part of anything quite like that,” Seattle midfielder Andy Rose said.
Sounders midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz had a shot on goal in the third minute, but there wasn’t nearly enough power on it to beat Gonzalez.
Corner kicks in the 13th, 14th and 15th minutes were all empty opportunities for FC Dallas, as was midfielder Fabian Castillo’s shot from outside the box in the 21st minute, which sailed too high.
Dallas midfielder Michael Barrios slipped behind the defense in the 43rd minute, but his kick was directly at Frei, who made the easy save.
Seattle nearly had a first-half score when midfielder Nelson Valdez lofted the ball at the top center of the goal, but Gonzalez tipped it away.