FRISCO, Texas – FC Dallas’ opponent in the first round of the playoffs is all too familiar.
Dallas has faced the Seattle Sounders in five different postseason campaigns over the last nine years. Only once has Dallas advanced. Now in this sixth playoff meeting, a best-of-three series, Dallas is eying redemption yet again.
“It’s like destiny, it was bound to happen,” said midfielder Paxton Pomykal, who’s had his season ended by Seattle three times. “I feel like every year it’s them or Portland. It was just bound to happen so I’m looking forward to it. Last time we had a playoff game there it was entertaining on both sides. Unfortunately, they got the win in that one, so hopefully we can bounce back and redeem ourselves a little bit.”
The playoff rivalry began when the clubs met three postseasons in a row: 2014-16. Seattle advanced twice, ’14 and ’16, with FCD’s only success coming in the 2015 Western Conference semifinals; a dramatic two-game series that was decided by a penalty shootout after each team scored stoppage-time goals.
Dallas came painfully close to evening the playoff series at two apiece in 2019. Much like this season, seventh-seeded FCD traveled to Lumen Field to take on second-seeded Seattle hoping for an upset. Luchi Gonzalez’s team nearly got it, eventually falling 4-3 in extra time. The following season ended similarly as Dallas, who was coming off a penalty-shootout victory over the Portland Timbers, was outlasted by Brian Schmetzer’s men 1-0 thanks to Shane O’Neil’s second-half set-piece goal.
“I have a picture of me on my knees with my head in my hands,” Pomykal said. “It just hits you fast and hard. All the emotion just hit me after the game and I wish we would’ve won that one for sure. Let’s just redeem ourselves this time. We have a home game after that but it’s just as important going there and starting off strong.”
Of the five postseason meetings between the clubs, three have been decided by a one-goal margin, one by a penalty shootout, and one by two goals. Close, but just one cigar. That’s been the unfortunate case for Dallas against Seattle.
Will it be different this time around? If it is, Dallas’ stingy away form could be the catalyst. Only six of the league’s 18 playoff teams bettered FCD’s four road wins this year. Seattle’s home form, typically a strength, has faded somewhat as the club lost or tied 10 of its 17 outings. To advance in the best-of-three series, Dallas will have to win at least once in Seattle—something it has never done in the postseason. Considering its away form and the potential for shootouts in games tied after 90 minutes, FCD has never had a better chance to do it.
Pomykal: “We’ve been a good team on the road this year, we’ve competed in pretty much every game. We just have to do more of the same, keep doing what we’ve been doing well. We’ve just got to focus on us and play our game.”