First, FC Dallas were staring at a golden opportunity to come home to Toyota Stadium for next weekend's Western Conference semifinal second leg with a 1-0 win over the Seattle Sounders. Then after Andreas Ivanschitz manufactured a fine equalizer for the Sounders in the 67th minute, they were hoping to at least leave Seattle with a draw and a precious road goal in hand.
But a Clint Dempsey free kick goal in the 86th minute after Matt Hedges fouled midfielder Cristian Roldan outside the box crushed any hopes of returning home for the second leg (Nov. 8 at 7:30 pm ET on FS1 and FOX Deportes) with an advantage.
FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja was particularly candid about his team missing the chance at securing a decisive advantage. And though he praised his squad for its all-around quality performance, the fact they are now in a must-win situation heading into the second leg, in his eyes, falls on the shoulders of the officials.
“The second one [goal], it wasn’t a foul. Period,” Pareja said. “It wasn’t a foul, and on this big of a stage, you cannot give that. It’s incorrect.”
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Added midfielder Victor Ulloa: “The tie would have been huge for us. But it was a soft foul, if anything, and what a great strike by Dempsey.”
Also going against FC Dallas was an alleged handball committed by Seattle defender Tyrone Mears in the 56th minute that would have resulted in a penalty kick had referee Kevin Stott called it. Stott told the pool reporter at CenturyLink Field after the match that he felt Mears' arm was in a natural playing position and that he had not handled the ball.
Even with the occasional misfortune, Dallas created plenty of opportunities to pull away on the scoreboard and to put to bed the officiating narrative.
Including drawing first blood in the 18th minute thanks to the chemistry between Mauro Diaz and Fabian Castillo, who both shined throughout the match, Dallas dominated the Sounders’ backline on the flanks by routinely turning on the jets to set up shots and crosses in the box. But although they found themselves in the right positions, according to Pareja, his team didn’t finish like he thought it would.
“I don’t think we made the right decisions in the last third,” Pareja said of the FC Dallas attack in the second half. “I thought we could hurt them more. When we get in those spaces, we’re dangerous. We were most consistent in the first half. In the second half, we still had some chances.”
The inability to capitalize on many of these chances came back to bite Dallas, as the visitors were consistently forced to fend off Seattle shots (14 total, 7 on target), many of which were caused by defensive miscues in their own third. Fortunately for Dallas, 20-year-old ‘keeper Jesse Gonzalez kept them in the match for much of the game, finishing the night with five saves, a handful of them coming from point-blank range.
The Dallas defense eventually broke down, despite Gonzalez’s best efforts.
“We knew they were going to bring the intensity, and it was important for us to match it,” Ulloa said. “I think on the first goal I should have cleared the ball better.”
Now FCD head to Toyota Stadium, where they compiled a league-best 13-2-2 record at home with seven clean sheets. That alone is enough to give Dallas the belief they are still in the driver’s seat, despite the fact Dallas has only beaten the Sounders once in their last eight matches, including postseason play.
“The series is open,” Pareja said. “We’ll wait for them in Frisco.”