The Sounders played to a 0-0 draw with FC Dallas on Monday night at CenturyLink Field in the second leg of their Western Conference semifinal, a result that sends Seattle through on the away-goals rule to meet the L.A. Galaxy in the conference final.
Here are my first impressions:
– There were plenty of nervous moments …
The Sounders have 12 days off before they take on the Galaxy in the first round of the Western Conference final on Nov. 23.
It may take that long for their supporters’ hearts to stop pounding.
Any thoughts that Seattle would roll over their fourth-seeded rivals like the Galaxy did Real Salt Lake on Sunday night vanished as the clock ticked further upwards with the teams still locked at zero.
A scoreless draw would send Seattle through courtesy of the away-goals tiebreaker, but a single Dallas goal could knock them out – a possibility that hung over the 38,912 spectators crammed into the lower bowl of CenturyLink Field.
Few of those fans sat through the final 15 minutes, but the ones that did scooted closer and closer toward its edge.
– And there were legitimate causes for concern
There were plenty of omens pointing in Dallas’ favor, too. First and foremost among them: Fabian Castillo.
Twice in the opening 10 minutes alone, the FC Dallas winger squirted between Seattle defenders Leo Gonzalez and Zach Scott into the Seattle box. Throughout the first half, Castillo has the focal point of the Dallas attack: swing the ball around the field to him on the edge and let him go to work. Speedy right back Je-Vaughn Watson overlapped over the top, surging forward at every opportunity.
Then Seattle’s always-dependable midfield Osvaldo Alonso went down clutching his hamstring, the club’s all-time leader playoff appearances (14), starts (14) and minutes (1,284) substituted out before the hour was gone.
But the moments that looked most likely to haunt the Sounders began with the ball at Clint Dempsey’s feet.
41 minutes in – stop me if you’ve heard this one before — Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins combined on the edge of the box, a pair of give-and-go passes freeing up the former with a clean look on goal.
Dempsey even had time to line up his shot – only this time, Dallas ‘keeper Chris Seitz got a strong hand onto the striker’s shot, pushing it over the bar.
Seitz came up big again with less than 10 minutes to go, thwarting Dempsey with a kick save.
The clock ticked on.
– But Seattle survived
No Alonso, early subs blown, tricky Dallas forwards looking to pounce on every mistake – the Sounders weathered the storm.
FC Dallas wasn’t a fluke playoff team, not in this Western Conference, and it more than held its own over both legs of this series.
Goals or no goals, Seattle very much fought for the right to advance.
It’ll have to lean on this fighting spirit again in Los Angeles in two weeks’ time, against an old nemesis that looks to have a gotten its groove back. But there will be plenty of time to look ahead to that.
Take some time to ice those bruises, to allow your blood pressure to return to normal.
Seattle’s postseason run lives on.