Seattle Sounders say they proved defensive doubters wrong with clean sheet in clincher vs. FC Dallas

SEATTLE – For much of the 2014 season, the high-scoring Seattle Sounders have faced questions surrounding their occasionally lackadaisical defense.

In Monday night’s Western Conference semifinal matchup of the MLS Cup Playoffs, presented by AT&T, against FC Dallas, they took a step toward finally putting those doubts to rest.

Seattle never did manage to crack the scoresheet despite several good-looking attempts. But in the end, it didn’t matter. The Sounders’ backline managed to suffocate a fast and dangerous Dallas attack, preserving a tension-riddled 0-0 draw at CenturyLink Field. With the tie, the Sounders now advance to the Western Conference Championship by virtue of the newly instituted away-goal tiebreaker after their 1-1 draw at Dallas last weekend.

After the game, Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid said there was a degree of validation to be found in the big-game shutout, especially considering the criticism his team has dealt with on the defensive side of the ball throughout the year.

“Being able to defend well is an important part of winning a championship,” Schmid said. “I know during the season the pundits were saying, ‘Do they have a good enough defense to win it?’ I think we’ve proven over the last three or four weeks that we can play good enough defense for sure.”

Seattle benefited from yet another standout defensive performance from All-Star center back and Defender of the Year candidate Chad Marshall, who was dominant throughout the night, launching headers away from Seattle’s penalty box with ease and cutting out a variety of potentially dangerous passes.

“Chad Marshall was outstanding again back there today,” Schmid said. “[That game shows] why he’s the Defender of the Year for me.”

Although the Sounders never managed to score, forward Clint Dempsey said that he didn’t necessarily think his team was complacent on the offensive end. The Sounders created enough chances to net, Dempsey said, but were unable to overcome some unfortunate luck and a couple of big-time saves by Dallas goalkeeper Chris Seitz.

“I had two really good looks at goal,” Dempsey said. “I should have scored at least one of those, so I’m frustrated by that. But I thought we looked good. We didn’t just sit back and try to not concede. We tried to go out and score one or two goals and try to take the game to them.”

Seattle’s focus now returns to a familiar foe. The Sounders will take on the LA Galaxy, the same team Seattle faced in a two-game set to end the regular season and decide the Supporters’ Shield.

The Galaxy are coming off a resounding, 5-0 romp over Real Salt Lake in the second leg of their semifinal matchup, but Schmid said he has plenty of confidence that his team will be able to return to its goal-scoring ways.

“We know that we can play them, and if we’re down we can come back,” Schmid said. “With LA, there’s going to be more opportunities for Clint and [Obafemi Martins] just because of the way they play. It’s going to be a great series.”