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November 2, 2014 at 8:02 PM

First impressions: Sounders 1, F.C. Dallas 1

FRISCO, Texas – Osvaldo Alonso’s second-half header answered a first-half penalty kick from Michel as the Sounders rallied from behind to earn a 1-1 draw against F.C. Dallas in the first leg of the Western Conference semifinals on Sunday night in Frisco, Texas.

Here are my first impressions:

– Everything can change in an instant

For a half hour, the Sounders’ game plan was working. Dallas had 55 percent of the possession, but Seattle had taken all four shots, picking its spots to break forward.

DeAndre Yedlin neutralized Dallas forward Fabian Castillo on one wing, while Leo Gonzalez and a tracking-back Marco Pappa sandwiched Andres Escobar every time he got a touch.

Then, on 33 minutes, a cross-field pass trickled through to Escobar on the top of the box. He split his usual double team, dribbled around Pappa then absorbed the full force of his sliding tackle to earn Dallas a penalty kick.

Michel stepped to the spot and converted. Just like that, Seattle fell behind, on the night and on the series.

After the break, the Sounders looked more potent going forward – but also more open at the back. Castillo could have doubled the Dallas lead, only for his shot to get blocked wide.

Alonso’s 53rd-minute header on a free-kick assist from Marco Pappa shifted the dynamic again just when FCD looked prime for a killer second – and put the odds back in Seattle’s favor ahead of the second leg.

– Get the ball forward

Seattle set its single-season scoring record this year, netting 65 on its way to the Supporters’ Shield title. Dallas tied its own mark, scoring 55.

So it was perhaps unsurprising that both teams looked to get their forward lines involved early and often.

Obafemi Martins had the first clear-cut chance of the game 17 minutes in, breaking in alone before firing his angled shot too close to Dallas ‘keeper Raul Fernandez. Fernandez got the better of him again just before the halftime break, getting a big hand on a shot that looked destined for the top corner.

The game wasn’t always pretty – and midfield play often non-existent – but the awareness that both teams could strike at any time kept proceedings on edge.

– Chad Marshall was immense

…. and not just in the literal, 6-foot-4, 190-pound sense.

Just 20 seconds into Sunday night’s match, he slid in to boot a long clearance over the top when Dallas pushed forward from the opening kickoff.

Later, during a single, three-minute stretch of the second half, Marshall blocked away two straight Castillo crosses, was the last line of defense against a dangerous free kick and won a foot race to a long ball over the top.

Besides Escobar’s dribbling run into the box midway through the first half, the Sounder defense stood firm.

Its big man in the middle was a major reason why.

– Pappa picked his head up

Pappa could have allowed his defensive miscue to bleed into his offensive game, allowed his shoulders to slump when Seattle fell behind.

Instead, he tore forward immediately following the restart, as if to make immediate amends for his mistake.

His perseverance paid off, when his pinpoint feed from the right flank found Alonso’s head and pulled the Sounders back even. Likewise, Frei got beat on the penalty kick but acrobatically tipped a running drive from Castillo over the bar in stoppage time.

Instead of allowing old postseason doubt to creep in, the Sounders pushed through to get a result that, while not perhaps ideal, keeps the series very much in their favor ahead of next Monday’s return leg at CenturyLink.

| More in First impressions, MLS, Sounders FC


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