As their Sunday night Western Conference Semifinal second leg against FC Dallas hit stoppage time, the Seattle Sounders were improbably in prime position to grab the draw that would have sealed them a spot in the Western Conference Championship.
Center back Chad Marshall had just headed home a dramatic 90th-minute equalizer to even the game at 1-1, a scoreline that would have allowed the Sounders to advance despite succumbing to an onslaught of second-half pressure and narrowly missed opportunities from a young, dynamic and hungry FC Dallas attack.
But in the end, all the Sounders are left with is yet another early playoff exit and an offseason full of question marks after a Walker Zimmerman tally just one minute after Marshall’s goal sent the series to extra time.
FC Dallas would eventually prevail on penalty kicks, topping Seattle 4-2 in the shootout, ensuring the Sounders will have to wait for their first MLS Cup for at least one more year.
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“I don't think I've ever been a part of anything quite like that,” Seattle midfielder Andy Rose said afterward. “1-0 down, especially after we got a couple throw-ins and the corner kick, something inside me knew were going to score and sure enough Chad had one of the best games I've ever seen for a center back.”
Seattle managed to keep FC Dallas off the board until an 84th-minute tally from Tesho Akindele, the culmination of a second-half barrage led by FCD winger Michael Barrios. The Colombian gave Seattle’s left fullbacks fits throughout the night with his blazing speed and delivery into the box.
“Second half, I think they picked up a little bit more space, Barrios came to life a little bit,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. “For them, [Mauro] Diaz got a little too much space at times to playmake. But we were hanging in there. I think they were the better team in the second half.”
Neither side managed to tally in extra time, leading to the penalty shootout that sealed the fate of Seattle’s season after 20-year-old goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez managed to save attempts from both Andreas Ivanschitz and Chad Barrett.
The result of the shootout overshadowed a mammoth effort from Sounders ‘keeper Stefan Frei, whose heroic work throughout the game was arguably the biggest reason Seattle had a chance.
“Stefan, obviously, kept us in the game,” Schmid said. “Penalty kicks are penalty kicks. You can win, you can lose.”
The Sounders now head into an uncertain offseason, with the futures of Schmid and some members of the team’s veteran core sure to be hot topics of discussion.
“It’s going to be way too long an offseason,” Frei said. “I’m going to miss my guys. Not being able to go and train with them and stick together and fight. I’m going to miss that. Hopefully we can come back and put a good team together next year and get ready. It’s going to be a tough offseason.”