Well, that was wild. Welcome to Round One of the new Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Perhaps there aren't enough superlatives to use when describing the Seattle Sounders' 4-3 win over FC Dallas, which instantly goes down in league history as one of MLS's best-ever playoff games. It's right up there with the San Jose Earthquakes' comeback over the LA Galaxy in 2003, the Double Post game in 2015, D.C. United vs. New England Revolution in 2004, Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact in 2016, Seattle vs. Portland last year and all the others.
Let's not split hairs, particularly in the immediate aftermath of this game. Instead of moving the conversation to ranking the best ever playoff games in league history, let's stay right here in this glorious, caffeinated and emotional space, cycling through three reasons why it was an instant classic.
Chaos from the first second
This game was like taking 17 straight espresso shots if only you didn't get the shakes from caffeine overload. It was like indulging in slice after slice of pizza without getting full. For 120 minutes straight.
The young Dallas side were getting stuck in on every 50/50 and seemed intent on seeking out moments to show their mettle. Even after going down 2-0 they didn't back down. In the four minutes between the Sounders' first two goals, Dallas almost scored. Immediately after conceding the second, they went right back to trying to play their possession-based brand of soccer. Or some semblance of it, at least, because the game broke into an end-to-end spectacle before long.
How many different times did referee Nima Saghafi have to step in between two players like a boxing referee as a round ended? The game balanced like an Olympic gymnast on the fine line of being intense and physical, but never dirty or reckless.
The second half and extra time was chance after chance. It felt like every tackle missed might result in a goal, every extra pass completed might be the difference. All of this at breakneck speed. Edge-of-your-seat stuff.
All of the little things
The atmosphere at CenturyLink Field was awesome. The fact that Dallas were the Western Conference's biggest underdogs (combined with their lack of success at Seattle) added to the drama. Homegrowns everywhere. A Nouhou sighting. Terrific presentation from FS1. No egregious errors, refereeing or playing. More than a few great saves. A goal line clearance.
None of those on their own are particularly special. All together? It's part of why it was an instant classic. The game nailed all the little things. If Seattle use this as a catapult for a deep playoff run, it's even more memorable in retrospect.
The sequence of the goals worked well, too. Once Seattle were up 2-0, conventional wisdom would suggest the game was over. Dallas got one back to take some momentum, before tying it on a corner. Then Seattle took the lead again and the underdog had to fight back once more. And they almost did it a third time in extra time after Jordan Morris put Seattle on top 4-3.
Heroic individual performance
Every classic needs a hero; Morris was your man in this one. His hat trick, including the game-winning goal in extratime, immediately vaults him above the rest.
Morris scored his first on a counterattack, flashing how devastating he can be in the open field; He scored his second falling down off a corner, showing his poaching skills; Then he stood tallest on a scrum in the box in extratime to head home the winning goal, displaying his desire. He starred in Seattle's 2016 MLS Cup-winning run, with two goals and an assist along the way, before missing most of the 2017 playoff run and all of last season's. He's picking up right where he left off with playoff form.
He (obviously) wasn't the only standout. Stefan Frei came alive in extratime, saving the Sounders on multiple occasions. Reto Ziegler was awesome for Dallas. Michael Barrios was a nuisance all game long. And Nico Lodeiro was all about doing Nico Lodeiro things, which is always welcomed.