The Sounders’ lead overtook FC Dallas with a 1-0 home win

SEATTLE — The Seattle Sounders host FC Dallas with a playoff game on the line. Thanks to a 33rd minute goal from Albert Rusnak, Seattle earned a 1-0 win to take the series 2-1 and advance to the Western Conference Semifinals against Los Angeles.

The Sounders completely dominated the first half. They had 64% possession over the first 45 minutes, outscoring Dallas 8-0, scoring the only goal of the first half. The breakthrough came after a good chance from a routine free-kick as Cristian Roldan raced across the backline into space on the right flank to receive a short kick and play in a cross that was headed home by Jordan Morris, but the effort was easily caught by FCD goalkeeper Martin Paes. Almost immediately after the start of the second half, Joao Paulo took a pass from Dallas in midfield and spotted a run from Albert Rusnak. He passed the ball perfectly through the closed window and Rusnak produced a wonderful shot which was handled by Paes, but it was not enough to keep it wide.

After halftime, Seattle wasn’t completely in control, although they still controlled a good portion of the play. Dallas really began to assert themselves over the final 10 minutes, as they had their first shot of the game in the 89th minute. Dallas made a number of good looks as the Sounders struggled to regain control and close out the game, but each time Stefan Frei and his backline were able to cope. Any potential danger before Dallas can capitalize.

In the end, it’s another win, another shutout, and the Sounders are headed to the conference semifinals for the first time since 2020. They’ll host LAFC after the international break.

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Key moments

1′- Some great build-up from the Sounders eventually creates a corner after Rusnak gets to the finish line.

12′- After a series of mistakes and dangerous decisions in the Sounders’ defensive zone, Nuhu sent the ball over the goal line for a goal kick.

20Jackson Ragin’s header from a free kick was easily saved by Martin Paes, but it was disallowed for a foul.

30Cristian Roldan got a cut from Jordan Morris and set up JP to shoot, but his effort was easily dealt with by Paes.

35The Sounders take a creative approach to the free-kick which sees Christian in space down the right flank and crosses to Morris, but his header is blocked.

36 – Goal! Albert Rusnak scores! He runs on a through ball from GB that splits the defense and although Paes gets a touch he can’t stop the goal! 1-0 Sounders

40Morris plays through a potential foul in the box to set Christian up for a great shot from the top of the box, but the shot goes wide to the left.

55Morris almost added a second for the Sounders to round off a brilliant move by Roldans and Josh Atencio, but his effort was blocked for a corner kick.

58Morris made a great save from Paes, trying to press the ball high at the near post after a good ball from Rusnak.

61After some excellent touches and a 1-2 score at the top of the box, Liu Zhou’s touch failed to prevent him from getting a clear look at goal.

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72Jackson Ragin glanced at the far post from a free kick after Nuhu fell off the ball, but his shot did not trouble the keeper.

76Nico Lodeiro sent a wonderful ball to Morris, but it deflected out of his reach and went into a corner kick.

87FC Dallas received a dangerous look when Jesus Jimenez headed in at the back post after a brilliant cross, but Yeymar cleared it before the shot could come.

89Dallas have their first shot of the night as Nkosi Tafari gets a header into the area easily cleared by Stefan Fry. It’s Dallas’ only shot of the game.

Quick thoughts

Midfield Mastery: This win, like so many others, simply does not happen without Joao Paulo running things in midfield. His assist for the only goal of the match was a thing of beauty, and was the cherry on top of a worthy Man of the Match performance. He led Seattle with 86 touches, completed three of four dribbles, recovered 12 rebounds, and won eight of 10 duels. When he’s playing at the top of his game, there aren’t many better players in the Sounders’ quartet, and tonight he was at his best.

Choice of striker: Jordan Morris continues to stake his claim to a starting spot at striker for the Sounders. He may not have scored a goal when Seattle secured its spot in the next round, but he did everything Brian Schmetzer and his staff wanted. He almost created several goals with excellent play, most notably in the chance he created for Cristian Roldan when he blocked and turned two defenders inside the box before shooting the ball. He fit into the backline wherever he appeared, and worked hard to win the ball back when the Sounders were out of possession. Raul Ruidiaz remains a great option off the bench, but it’s no coincidence that he stayed there tonight.

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The clean sheets keep piling up: Stefan Fry and the Sounders recorded their 16th clean sheet of the season with a 1-0 win tonight. Fry and others will point to the team’s collective effort as the reason behind this record, but clean sheets tend to stand out as a goalkeeper statistic for a reason. Frei’s ability to organize the team in front of him and control his zone is usually a key part of the team’s best closing record in the MLS era. Stefan Fry may not get the respect he deserves in the league, but his consistency and tenacity will be remembered long after he is gone. Hopefully this won’t be the case for years to come.

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One statistic tells the story

7 – All seven of Albert Rusnak’s goals this season have been match-winners and he now has five goals in his past ten matches.

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