In the Major League Soccer semifinals, you don’t want to lose a game, and especially not on an away goal.
The Sounders were staring at those double daggers in the second half Sunday, before Andreas Ivanschitz and then Clint Dempsey rode to the rescue with goals that gave Seattle a 2-1 win over FC Dallas at CenturyLink Field in the opening leg of a home-and-road, aggregate-score series.
The Western Conference semifinal will resolve next Sunday in Frisco Texas.
The game began cautiously from both sides. But that ended with a series of lightning strikes around the 18th minute. The flurry started with a Dallas charge into the attacking end. The Sounders countered that, with Obafemi Martins sending a pass to Dempsey in the penalty area, where he went down without drawing a whistle. Instead, Dallas countered yet again, this time down the left side with Mauro Dias finding Fabian Castillo behind the Sounders’ defense. With the Hoops’ goals leader running at him, Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei came off his line, but Castillo fired past him.
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In a series where road goals serve as the tie-breaker, the early goal was a double dagger to Seattle. The Sounders began pushing forward more aggressively, and had several chances before the half was out: Andreas Ivanschitz with a sizzler from distance, but right at Dallas keeper Jesse Gonzalez. Erik Friberg just wide of goal. Dempsey beating everyone to the rebound of a Marco Pappa free kick, but Gonzalez once again stopping the threat. In the first minute of the second half, Pappa sent a roller to the near post that Martins couldn’t quite reach.
The breakthrough finally came with Ivanschitz’s solo run and solid finish in the 67th minute.
In the 86th minute, Dempsey nailed the game-winner on a sizzling free kick from 23 yards.
The Sounders opened the series with would-be starters Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans and Leo Gonzalez unavailable due to injury and designated player Nelson Valdez on the bench.