SEATTLE – The Seattle Sounders hosted FC Dallas with their playoff lives on the line. Thanks to a goal from Albert Rusnák in the 33rd minute, Seattle earned a 1-0 victory to take the series 2-1 and go qualify for the Western Conference semifinals against LAFC.

The first half was absolutely dominated by the Sounders. They had 64% possession in the first 45 games, outshot Dallas 8-0 and scored the only goal of the half. The breakthrough came just after a good chance from a free kick in which Cristian Roldan crossed the defensive line into space on the right to receive a short kick and play in a cross which Jordan Morris headed in, but the effort was easily caught by FCD goalkeeper Maarten Paes. Almost immediately after the restart, João Paulo caught a Dallas pass in midfield and spotted a run from Albert Rusnák. He slipped the ball perfectly through a closing window and Rusnák had a superb shot which Paes touched, but not enough to keep it out of the goal.

After halftime, Seattle wasn’t as dominant, although they still controlled much of the game. Dallas really started to assert itself in the final 10 minutes, hitting its first shot of the game at the 89th minute. Dallas generated a handful of good looks as the Sounders struggled to regain control and see the game out, but in each case, Stefan Frei and his backline were able to handle any potential danger before Dallas could capitalize.

In the end, it’s another win, another shutout, and the Sounders are headed to the conference semifinals for the first time since 2020. They will host LAFC after the international break.

Key moments

1′ – A nice build from the Sounders finally creates a corner after Rusnak reaches the baseline.

12′ – After a series of misses and dangerous decisions in the Sounders’ defensive zone, Nouhou flicks the ball over the line for a goal kick.

20Jackson Ragen wins a header from a free kick which is easily collected by Maarten Paes, but he is called back for a foul.

30Cristian Roldan steps on a cut Jordan Morris and sets up JP for a shot, but his effort is easily handled by Paes.

35The Sounders take a creative approach to a free kick that sees Cristian in space down the right sending a cross for Morris, but his header is caught.

36 – AIM! Albert Rusnak scores! He receives a through ball from JP which splits the defense and although Paes receives a touch, he can’t stop the goal! 1-0 Sounders

40Morris plays on a potential foul in the box to set up Cristian for a superb shot from the top of the box, but the shot goes wide to the left.

55Morris almost added a second for the Sounders to cap off a superb move from Roldans and Josh Atencio, but his attempt was blocked at a corner.

58Morris makes a big save from Paes, trying to press the ball high at the near post after a good ball from Rusnák.

61After some excellent touches and a nice 1-2 at the top of the area, Léo Chú’s touch fails, denying a clear look at goal.

72Jackson Ragen glances at the far post from a free kick after Nouhou is brought down on the ball, but his shot does not trouble the keeper.

76Nico Lodeiro sends a fantastic ball for Morris, but he takes a deflection and goes well beyond his reach and goes out for a corner.

87FC Dallas has a dangerous look as Jesus Jimenez cushions a header at the far post after a superb cross, but Yeimar clears it before the shot arrives.

89Dallas takes its first shot of the evening as Nkosi Tafari gets a header into the area that Stefan Frei easily clears. It was Dallas’ only shot in the game.

Quick thoughts

Control of the midfield: This victory, like so many others, simply doesn’t happen without João Paulo directing the play in midfield. His assist on the only goal of the match was a thing of beauty and was just the icing on the cake of a deserved Man of the Match performance. He led Seattle with 86 touches, completed three of four dribbles, made 12 digs and won eight of 10 ground duels. When he’s playing at his peak, there aren’t many guys in this Sounders quad who are better, and tonight he was at his best.

Attacker selection: Jordan Morris continues to solidify his claim to the starting spot at center forward for the Sounders. He may not have scored as Seattle secured their spot in the next round, but he did just about everything Brian Schmetzer and his team could have asked for. He almost created several goals with excellent hold-up play, notably on the chance he created for Cristian Roldan when he held off and turned around two defenders inside the box before releasing the ball . He delivered shots to the backline wherever he appeared and worked hard to win the ball back when the Sounders were out of possession. Raúl Ruidíaz is always a great option sitting on the bench, but there’s a reason he stayed there tonight.

Clean sheets keep piling up: Stefan Frei and the Sounders team earned their 16th shutout of the season with the 1-0 victory this evening. Frei and others will point to the team’s collective effort as the reason for this record, but clean sheets tend to appear as a goalkeeping stat for a reason. Frei’s ability to organize the team in front of him and control his zone is generally a key component of the team’s best shutout record in the MLS era. Stefan Frei may not get the respect he deserves around the league, but his stability and consistency will be remembered long after he’s gone. Hopefully it won’t be for years.

Did you see that?!?

What did he say?!?

A statistic to tell the story

7 – Albert Rusnák’s 7 goals this season have been decisive and he now has five goals in his last 10 matches.

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