The Seattle Sounders are closing in on an opportunity to defend their MLS Cup title, but they’ll first have to deal with a confident FC Dallas side in the first Western Conference semifinal matchup on Tuesday.
Dallas came from behind late to defeat the Portland Timbers in a lengthy penalty shootout in the first round of the MLS Cup Playoffs, while the Sounders dominated Los Angeles FC 3-1 to advance.
FC Dallas Riding High After Shootout Win
Portland and Dallas played a scoreless tie for more than 80 minutes last week until Jorge Villafana opened the scoring for the Timbers. Ricardo Pepi answered three minutes into added time to force extra time for Dallas, which ended up winning a penalty shootout 8-7 after Dallas goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer saved Villafana’s effort and ended the match.
Dallas gained confidence from the dramatic victory, and the team will look to carry that into Seattle on Tuesday.
“We’re not ready for vacation,” midfielder Fafa Picault told reporters. “Obviously, it gives us a little bit of rhythm and momentum going into another away game, and the confidence that even if we’re down, we can still pick it back up. We’re going with the mentality to win again, and it’s either win or go home, so we want to win.”
Seattle comes in as a strong -155 favorite over Dallas (+400), according to PointsBet. The Sounders also carry the burden of being a defending champion looking to win a second straight title, something only three teams have accomplished in Major League Soccer history. That would allow Seattle to solidify itself as a dynasty, though many analysts believe they’ve already earned that honor.
“I think regardless if they go on and win it or not, they are deserved members of that elite,” former US international Alexi Lalas told MLSSoccer.com. “It’s a league built on manufactured parity, and that’s one of the things I love about the league, but it makes it that much more difficult to be a superclub. And they have held on that upper echelon [status] for a number of years.”
Rematch Offers Opportunity for Redemption
Seattle’s journey to its title last year included a memorable first-round battle with Dallas. The Sounders opened up a 2-0 lead, but Dallas fought back to tie the match 3-3 at the end of regulation. Jordan Morris scored a third goal in extra time to complete a hat trick and lead Seattle to a 4-3 win.
That loss still stings for some of the Dallas players.
“We’re excited to redeem ourselves from last year,” Dallas defender Ryan Hollingshead told reporters. “We thought we put in an amazing shift last year and thought the game was in our hands, so to be able to go up there and try to redeem ourselves is great.”
The winner will advance to take on either Sporting Kansas City or Minnesota United. MLS officials moved that match to Thursday to ensure all teams would have a minimum of three days rest before each playoff game.