The Seattle Sounders have never won an MLS Cup, which means every season has ended with some level of disappointment.
That was the case again Sunday, when Seattle was ousted from the Western Conference semifinals.
The Sounders and FC Dallas couldn’t resolve their home-and-home series through 120 minutes of soccer Sunday night at Toyota Field. However, when the game — and series — went to penalty kicks, Dallas converted all four, while 20-year-old goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez stopped two by the Sounders.
That sends Dallas through to the Western finals, while the Sounders fly home to begin their offseason about a month earlier than they had hoped.
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“The Cup is what we haven’t given (our fans) yet,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “We’ve given them four Open Cups, we’ve given them a Supporters’ Shield. Our trophy case has a lot more in it than Dallas’ trophy case, as an example. … There’s nothing I want to do more — and there’s nothing the guys in the room want to do more — than to bring an MLS Cup back to Seattle. Hopefully, one day that will happen.”
That day will have to wait, because of the result of a wild game that Dallas and Seattle both seemed minutes away from clinching in regulation.
Things played out for 83 scoreless minutes before going crazy. Then, over the final seven minutes of regulation plus stoppage time, Dallas scored what seemed to be the series-clinching goal, Seattle answered with what seemed to be its own series-clinching goal — until about a minute later when Dallas jumped ahead again.
That 2-1 score paired with Seattle’s identical margin in the first leg evened the series at 3-3 on aggregate. That sent the game on to extra time, and finally PKs.
The Sounders went first, with Clint Dempsey nailing his kick. But the next two Sounders — Andreas Ivanschitz and Chad Barrett — each went low and right, and Gonzalez got to both. Andy Rose converted the next Seattle chance, but when Walker Zimmerman made Dallas a perfect four-for-four, that was that.
“PKs, you can’t really put your finger on it,” Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei said. “One keeper guesses right, the other guesses wrong. One player makes it, they other one doesn’t. It’s brutal, PKs. I’m almost happy that multiple guys on our team (missed) because we’ve been a team together and we stuck together the whole year.”
Although the first 83 minutes were scoreless, they did not lack action or ambition. Dallas took the pitch knowing it needed to make up a goal to advance, while the Sounders lived up to their pregame assessment that the best way to slow the Dallas attack would be to occupy them on the other end.
However, both teams shifted between attack and defense effectively, while goalkeepers Frei and Gonzalez came up with the saves when needed — until the 84th minute.
That’s when Dallas’ Tesho Akindele got his head to a Je-Vaughn Watson cross from close range. The home crowd of 17,287 roared as that 1-0 result would have sent the home team through.
However, in the 90th minute, Seattle central defender Chad Marshall answered with a header. That silenced the crowd, as a 1-1 result would have sent Seattle through.
About a minute into stoppage time, Zimmerman scored for Dallas. His goal put FC Dallas up, 2-1. That score line was the only one that would send the series on to extra time. Thirty scoreless minutes later, it went to penalty kicks.
“Anytime you’re knocked out of the playoffs, it’s a huge disappointment,” veteran Sounder Zach Scott said. “We talked about it earlier that our goal coming into every season is an MLS Cup. The other trophies are fantastic, but the MLS Cup is the one that’s kind of evaded us so far.”