The Seattle Sounders earned a 1-0 win over FC Dallas and a spot in the Western Conference Semifinals. They’ll host LAFC in a single-elimination match.
Houston host Real Salt Lake in Match 3
The Dynamo welcome RSL to Shell Energy Stadium tonight at 6 pm ET. Loser goes home. Winner moves on to host Sporting KC in a Western Conference Semifinal. You can watch on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.
LA Galaxy, Vancouver Whitecaps make end-of-year moves
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The Sounders have set up a blockbuster matchup in the Conference Semifinals. Let’s talk it out.
What happened?: Albert Rusnák and Seattle capitalized on an errant pass out of the back to take a 1-0 lead in the first half and they didn’t need to do much more than that from there. Seattle allowed one (1) shot on the night and looked in total control from start to finish. Dallas did have a few half chances along the way, but only one actually resulted in a shot: An 89th-minute header from center back Nkosi Tafari.
So, did we learn anything?: Seattle showed up and put in the kind of overwhelmingly professional performance we tend to expect from them. Jordan Morris dragged defenders all over the place, Seattle routinely found opportunities to create from wide areas and they played lockdown defense for 90 minutes. The only gripe you could have is they were only able to score once despite creating so many chances. They were pretty close to perfect and now they’ll have home-field advantage against the rest of the West from here on out.
That gives them a slight edge against LAFC. But only slight. It’s going to be an all-out war of a match between the two most successful Western Conference teams of the last few years. If we’re being open and honest here, there is an element with this one of “the semifinal is the actual final” trope we get in sports from time to time. Whoever comes out on top will be at home and favored in the Western Conference Final. All considered, last night’s Sounders win set up the marquee match of the Semifinals in both conferences.
I’ll be honest. It feels like we already know everything we need to know for this matchup. It’s apparent after a 2-1 Houston win in Match 1 and an RSL win on penalties in Match 2 that Houston are the better team and the favorite tonight as the series heads back to Texas. In Match 1 in Houston, the Dynamo controlled possession 71% to 29% and out-created RSL 1.8 xG to 0.4. RSL were never even close to it in Match 1 and were lucky to escape Match 2 with a win.
So, what’s going to make tonight different? Likely nothing. Odds are Houston come out and take care of business. But, just like in Match 2, all RSL have to do is keep this close and take it to penalties. Houston’s lack of a match-winner in attack is well documented at this point, and that means RSL can potentially get by with one moment of brilliance or, ya know, one moment of extreme luck.
With Chicho Arango working his way back to full fitness still, I think the most likely candidate here is Diego Luna. He scored in Match 1 and has generally been one of the most underappreciated rising stars of the 2023 season. The 20-year-old scored five times and delivered three assists in 14 starts this year and has a willingness to try something outlandish just to see if he can make it work. That’s the kind of attitude that results in a goal against the run of play that flips the series on its head.
If that moment doesn’t come from Luna, it’s going to have to come from someone else. Anyone else. We know RSL will be up for the fight and ready to put in a shift defensively. If they can just change the game state and avoid chasing the Dynamo, then they have a chance to pull off a surprising win. If not… well, it’s just hard to see them going blow for blow with Houston right now.
San Diego FC break ground on performance center, Right To Dream Academy: San Diego FC checked off a significant milestone Thursday, breaking ground on their training facility that will also house their Right to Dream Youth Development Academy. The 30th MLS club, marching towards a 2025 kickoff, held the ceremony at the site of the future facility in El Cajon on the Sycuan Reservation.
- Houston are embracing the pressure against RSL.
- Edgar Acero dove into how the Messi Effect guides Inter Miami's next generation.
- Jonathan Sigal previewed the remaining Match 3s.
- Ballon d'Or celebrations wrapped Lionel Messi’s first Inter Miami chapter.
- Messi vowed Inter Miami will "keep on winning titles."
Good luck out there. Give a gift when you can.