FRISCO, Texas – There’s a sense of ‘what could’ve been’ for FC Dallas after its opening game in the MLS Cup Playoffs, a 2-0 loss at the Seattle Sounders in Game 1 of a best-of-three series.
On the face of it, the scoreline is representative of how the game played out. Seattle outshot Dallas 19 to 10, including six on target to FCD’s four. Still, the game could’ve played out very differently if a few early dice-rolls had gone the other way.
The first is the untimely injury to Alan Velasco. Dallas’ record signing and primary playmaker had to be withdrawn just 18 minutes in due to a knee injury—which will require an MRI to learn its extent. Velasco, more than anyone else on the FCD roster, is capable of conjuring special moments from nothing; an invaluable trait on the road in Seattle where clear chances are hard to come by.
Dallas did find chances without him, though. Four minutes after Velasco’s departure, Paxton Pomykal sprung from his midfield position to rob Seattle of possession before splitting the center backs with a first-time pass to put Jesús Ferreira through on goal. To FCD’s dismay, Ferreira saw his shot blocked by the on-rushing Stefan Frei. It’s the kind of chance that comes all too rarely in a road playoff game, especially one at Lumen Field.
But another one did come, just four minutes later. Pomykal was involved again when his pressing efforts forced another turnover. It was Obrian, this time, who put Ferreira behind Seattle’s backline but his bouncing shot attempt looped over Frei’s crossbar.
“At the end of the day, these kinds of games are about details…When you have chances, you have to score it,” head coach Nico Estévez said after the game.
Seattle punished FCD four minutes before halftime when Marco Farfan was judged to have tripped Cristian Roldan just inside the 18-yard box. Albert Rusnák converted the penalty despite a finger-tip touch from Maarten Paes. Coach Estévez, after the game, suggested that it was Roldan who initiated contact with Farfan by extending his left leg into the space he knew Farfan would lunge into. There’s a hint of truth to that, but the prevailing opinion of the refereeing crew was that it was a foul. On another day, it may not have been called. Another roll of the dice gone wrong.
“We created two key chances before that penalty against us, which we should have put away,” said defender Sebastien Ibeagha. “Those two chances could have changed the outcome of the game.”
The Sounders doubled their lead in the second half but the damage was really done in the first. An injury to a key player, two golden opportunities missed, and a penalty decision that went against you. Combined, that’s difficult to come back from – especially in that environment.
Dallas has another chance in the form of a must-win game at home this Saturday. A victory forces a third game, which would be hosted by Seattle. If Dallas is going to win one or both, it will need to be on the right side of those dice-throw moments. First and foremost, that means finishing their chances.