MLS Playoffs
FC DallasDAL

Seattle Sounders 2, FC Dallas 1 | MLS Cup Playoffs Match Recap

SEATTLE – The Seattle Sounders pulled out a dramatic 2-1 victory over FC Dallas in their Western Conference Semifinal first leg match at CenturyLink Field on Sunday night, courtesy of a game-winning free kick from Clint Dempsey in the 86th minute.

Fabian Castillo netted in the first half for Dallas, giving them a potentially vital away goal heading into the second leg in Frisco, Texas next Sunday (7:30 pm ET; Fox Sports 1, Fox Deportes). Andreas Ivanschitz scored Seattle’s other goal in the 67th minute prior to Dempsey’s heroic tally.

Dallas grabbed the lead with a lightning-quick move in the 18th minute when Castillo took full advantage of Mauro Diaz's pinpoint pass, immediately after Dempsey had a penalty appeal waved off on the other end. The Colombian got free on the left side and finished off the counterattack by slotting past Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei.

Seattle pushed hard for an equalizer, as Tyrone Mears, Erik Friberg and Dempsey all had decent looks on the Dallas goal in the minutes after the Sounders conceded. But FCD ‘keeper Jesse Gonzalez was up to the task, managing to keep the Sounders off the scoresheet through the opening frame.

But Seattle would find the equalizer in the 67th minute after Ivanschitz managed to win the ball in the Dallas half and made a charging run toward goal that the Dallas backline couldn’t manage to snuff out. The Austrian midfielder slammed the finish by a diving Gonzalez, pulling the hosts even as the game hit its home stretch.

The contest seemed to be headed for a draw that would have suited FC Dallas quite favorably heading into the second leg of the two-game series. But Dempsey made sure that didn’t happen.

After a foul drawn by rookie substitute Cristian Roldan set Seattle up with a free kick from just outside the Dallas box, the star forward stepped up and buried a perfectly taken free kick by Gonzalez, giving the Sounders a lead they would not relinquish.

The result sets up a dramatic second leg in Texas next week, where the Sounders can claim a spot in the Western Conference Championship with a win or a tie.

Armchair Analyst's Take

There was a point in mid-2009 when the USMNT started playing the most glorious soccer, and it coincided with Clint Dempsey’s move to left midfield. He got all over the ball in that role, did enough dirty work tracking, and – with Landon Donovan on the other side to balance things – drove the US into the Confederation Cup final and to the top of the Hexagonal and 2010 World Cup group.

That version of Dempsey is mostly a thing of the past, as he’s been just too reliable as a goalscorer to play anywhere but forward. Add in the ravages of Father Time, and you have the necessary ingredients to make an “ex-midfielder.”

And then you get something like the last 30 minutes of Wednesday night’s 3-2 win over the LA Galaxy, or the last 25 minutes of tonight’s win, moments in which you’re transported back in time a little bit and can remember what the guy can do with the ball on his foot:

To be fair, he was far from perfect. But his ability to receive the ball in traffic and then drive the game forward changed the momentum and rhythm of the night’s proceedings, and switched Seattle from “passive” to “active.”

And that was good enough for a home win this team desperately needed. -- By Matt Doyle, Senior Editor

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