Seattle 4 Dallas 2: Dallas gets thrashed in the Emerald City
Seattle was home to quite an entertaining match Saturday evening as the Sounders hosted the Western Division’s first place team, FC Dallas. The game appeared to be heading towards a draw, but Seattle’s attack led by Eddie Johnson extended the lead towards victory 4 goals to 2.
So what did I see besides an over-rated team getting thrashed by a team that used to be in last place?
First off, when the line ups were released, I was a bit bummed. Dallas was weaker than normal. No David Ferreria or George John in the lineup seemed like someone with a fractured spine. There was no there there. No strength. Yes, Dallas’ back line has been playing well, and yes, Dallas was able to salvage a draw after losing Ferreira against Portland. But my gut instinct was that Alonso was going to have a hay day against this line up.
As for Seattle, they have been on form as of late. I have a buddy in Lacey, Washington that will hate reading this, but it’s because they got knocked out of the CONCACAF Champions League. Having to juggle the two competitions at the beginning of the season just messed everything up for the Sounders. Players got injured or had to log more minutes on the pitch than Coach Sigi Schmidt planned. Disciplinary issues started to mount as well. Like I said, for many, it seemed like Seattle was in total chaos. But not anymore, that is -- if they were at all.
Seattle got off to an early start against Dallas. Local hero Lamar Naegle, who is on his second stint with the club, and national team veteran Eddie Johnson had their team up 2 to 0 early and it looked like smooth sailing.
Both teams seemed to like the open play. Whether it was Jackson for Dallas or Yedlin for Seattle, someone was tearing up the sidelines with the ball. Shots were fired from all distances. As you can expect, two of the best goalkeepers were kept busy, especially Dallas’ Fernandez. Gspurning on the other hand, had a solid defense in front of him that was able to expel the ball quite often, but he mostly made the saves when he needed to … except on a couple of occasions.
Kenny Cooper knocked a goal in from a set play with his head. Assisted by Brazilian Michel, Cooper sent one into the net that appeared to be un-savable regardless of the keeper. What was interesting was that Dallas had yet again scored on a set play. It almost seemed like they wanted Seattle to foul them. They've got one heck of a set play strategy.
Before I go into the details of Michel's goal, I need to say that I've almost never seen a goal such as the one I and the 38,000 plus in the stadium witnessed. Not only that, I've rarely heard so many fans say later on, “I am pretty happy I got to see that goal.”
Called the Olimpico, a goal scored by the kicker on a corner kick are rare. Normally they are due to botched kicks, and the kicker acts like they meant it all the time. But sometimes they are scored on purpose. And for some reason, Michel tried to do that very thing. This was a bit shocking to me, but when watched the HD replay in the luxury Skybox I was sitting in (long story there, but I won’t get into it) I noticed Michel saw something. Or maybe he heard about Marco Pappa last season?
It had to have been a formation or the place where Gspurning was standing. It took guts to try, and it worked. Some may say Cooper blocked the keeper's view, but the pace on that ball was enough for me. I cannot recall a time since Thierry Henry or David Beckham did that in an MLS game. It was a sight to see.
The game was tied and let me tell you, it did not let up at all. The sides battled in the mid with rough challenge after rough challenge. Forwards were hungry for a goal on both sides of the pitch and offsides were called frequently. Then Seattle got a fast break and the ball landed at Eddie Johnson’s feet. He challenged towards goal, and just like he'd been taught to do, made a move that forced the net minder to ground. He side stepped and smashed it in from a hard angle. Now the game was in Seattle’s hands.
The red card issued to Dallas's Jair Benitez was a comedy of errors. It was obvious he was not the guilty party, but his reaction was one many of us soccer lovers have seen before. Luckily, the assistant referee got the story straight and the guilty Blas Perez was sent off the pitch to take an early shower. He showed little remorse as he walked off the playing surface. This is when the game was truly over. No way a 10 man team was going to do what Portland Timbers did earlier in the day. Not against this Seattle team.
Obafemi Martins has been in a very odd situation for Seattle. It was almost an embarrassment (the public exchange with Levante’s Chairmen and information being released that he played on a sore knee, which made it worse) for a team that has been extremely cool and collected when signing players from abroad. Players like Mario Martinez come to mind to show how well they have been able to get talent. The whole chain of events eventually fell in their favor since his inclusion on the team. His appearances, such as this game, have been reduced due to a knee ligament injury. What is quite phenomenal is he has found the back of the net despite the bum knee. This was the case against Dallas as well.
Coming on late, he added even more luster to the already high pressure attack. Dallas seemed ready to meet the challenge but there was little they could do. His goal to finish the night was more or less a gift to the fans and his teammates who tried to do what they could to support him and get him on the score sheet. Running the score? No. It was more like sending a message. He and Seattle are for real.
So besides the absence of Ferreria and John, how could have this happened to FC Dallas? They had been steamrolling the opposition all season before they met Portland and then Seattle. Unlike their draw with the Timbers, though, the defeat to Seattle wasn’t even close.
Let's look at the line-up. What made no sense to me was the front line of attack. Starting Cooper and Perez has been standard. To see Eric Hassli starting as well made me scratch my head. Yes, he had success against Seattle when he was at Vancouver. To me, a guy with that much size lacked the charisma or the creativity to beat Seattle’s back line. There was an advantage on set plays but no speed for open play. I think a 4th midfielder would have been the best call. But what were the options since Ferreria was not ready?
Another major problem was Dallas's failure to take advantage of Alonso having to leave the pitch due to injury. His replacement Shalrie Joseph did fine but it was someone else’s night. Servando Carrasco, had a stellar performance, perhaps a breakthrough. When play opened up, his contribution to his team mates looked like they were having a fun time while Dallas looked like they were basically giving it their all to stop them.
Seattle set the tone early and despite a couple of defensive lapses on set plays, Dallas was not as threatening as they have been earlier in the season. They were forced to play catch up, and Seattle was in cruise control. Tactically, Sigi had his squad ready and they did not miss a beat. Perhaps this was just another case of an MLS team failing to meet expectations while playing on the road? Who really knows?
What was evident is Seattle is on form. Their match against LA next week will be one not to miss. And keep this in mind; the team that beat Dallas was not their top team. Steve Zakuani was out, Rosales has been out with injury as well, though DeAndre Yedlin has stepped up in their absence. His skill level is far beyond what his experience would normally indicate for a rookie. And of course Fredy Montero is nowhere to be seen due to his loan back to Colombia.
The question that remains to be answered, is how will they do when their depth is challenged after entering US Open Cup play again? For now I would not worry if I was a Portland or Vancouver supporter reading this. The division is tight. I would expect all three of the Cascadian teama to be ready for the challenge. But this weekend, all eyes will be on the Home Depot Center. That certainly will be a defining match for both teams at this early stage of the season.