FC Dallas - sad look - MLS Cup Playoffs

The Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs produced some déjà vu for FC Dallas, with Luchi Gonzalez’s team exiting for the second straight year at the hands of the Seattle Sounders.

In 2019, Dallas dropped a wild 4-3 game in Round One that required extratime. This go-around, it was a 1-0 loss in the Conference Semifinals where only a corner-kick goal from Shane O’Neill, his first MLS tally since May 2014, did them in.

The end result was still an earlier-than-hoped-for offseason, but Gonzalez stressed in his postgame interview that this one stung extra.

“This one hurts, this one's harder to accept because I see us growing and taking steps in the right direction,” Gonzalez said, “but the season's over and we don't have another week to train and we're not in the final four, which is a big goal of ours.”

Highlights: Seattle Sounders 1, FC Dallas 0

It ends a 2020 season that included ups and downs for FC Dallas, who earned the Western Conference’s No. 6 seed. They upset the No. 3 Portland Timbers on penalty kicks in Round One, and were hoping for another underdog-driven result when heading into Lumen Field.

It wasn’t in the cards, though, which left Gonzalez ruing what could’ve been. The sides entered halftime deadlocked at 0-0 after Dallas established a defensive structure, and they planned to advance more in the second 45 minutes. Then, O’Neill’s goal in the 49th minute changed the game’s complexion.

“It's a weird feeling,” Gonzalez said. “We went into halftime feeling like, ‘Hey, we have this, this is going to be ours, let's up the ante a little bit more [in the] second half.’ We actually started the second half on the front foot, but then in open space they hurt you, they push us back in an open attack and then we're conceding a corner and boom they score and that's soccer. I was disappointed that we gave up the goal, but that happens. We had time, we had time to climb back in.”

Dallas didn’t land any of their 10 shots on target against Seattle, but did generate a strong look in the 63rd minute when Michael Barrios struck the post off a cross and then Andres Ricaurte’s second-look effort was blocked off the line. 

Still, hope flickered that they’d get a late equalizer to repeat Ricardo Pepi's feat in Round One against Portland. He was one of several attack-minded substitutes in the second half, yet the leveler never came.

FC Dallas: Latest defeat to Seattle Sounders stings even more than 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs loss - https://league-mp7static.mlsdigital.net/styles/image_default/s3/images/Franco%20Jara.jpg

Franco Jara and FC Dallas couldn't get their offense firing | USA Today Sports

“It didn't happen like it did against Portland, so this one, it's harder to accept,” Gonzalez said. “I don't feel – of course we have to live with it, but I don't want to accept it and I don't want the players to accept it. We have to change this. It's disappointing and as proud as I am for the season, the year, the mentality through all of it and to put a performance with a football identity that showed a bit of our potential away from home, we still fell short.”

Thus concludes a campaign where, among other things, FC Dallas saw Homegrown defender Reggie Cannon transferred to Portuguese side Boavista FC, opening the door for Bryan Reynolds. Homegrown midfielder Paxton Pomykal also had a season-ending injury, with the 20-year-old previously entering the US men's national team picture. Franco Jara, a Designated Player signing at forward, arrived in the summer when games resumed post-MLS is Back Tournament, and Brazilian midfielder Thiago Santos was another international signing who established himself. For two more, Ricaurte was signed on loan from Colombian side Independiente Medellin and forward Zdenek Ondrasek was transferred in mid-September to FC Viktoria Plzen in the Czech First League.

Gonzalez knows the roster decisions around 2021 will come quickly, so the wheels are already turning on how FC Dallas could look next year. But there’s the cloud of a second straight playoff exit against Seattle, a benchmark this club will need to surpass to reach its goals.

“I think we're going in the right direction,” Gonzalez said. “How close? Closer, closer. I think next year could be a great opportunity to actually change the outcome of this step in the playoffs for FC Dallas, but it's going to take a lot of work in preseason, it's going to take another fight and battling in the record season. This one's hard to swallow because we've worked hard to get to this point, but I'm motivated to start the process all over again and improve on this. It's not going to be easy, but I believe that we have the foundation to do it."