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FC Dallas vs. Sounders, MLS Cup playoffs: Seattle satisfied with 1-1 tie

Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Opening games of aggregate-goal series have not always been kind to the Seattle Sounders. And while a 1-1 tie with FC Dallas is nothing to do back-flips over, the Sounders are surely satisfied to head back home only needing to keep a clean sheet in order to advance beyond the Western Conference semifinals for just the second time in their history.

That doesn't mean they made it easy on themselves. Dallas was able to take an early lead on a Michel penalty after Marco Pappa thoughtlessly took down Andres Escobar in the box on a ball that posed little if any danger. Even though Dallas had been dominating the possession battle up until that point, they had been held without a shot.

The Sounders, meanwhile, were the team creating more danger from open play. Obafemi Martins had gotten behind the defense for a 1-v-1 that Raul Fernandez saved and nearly scored again a chance right before halftime. That chance saw Fernandez make a great leaping save and Matt Hedges make an even more impressive clearance from a spinning ball as Clint Dempsey was bearing down on the rebound.

That only delayed the Sounders, though. Pappa atoned for his mistake by serving in a perfect free kick that glanced off the head of Osvaldo Alonso in the 54th minute, getting the Sounders a much-appreciated away goal.

The Sounders did need at least one more big play to keep the tie, though. Fabian Castillo was able to race into the penalty area in the 90th minute and unleash a hard shot from about 12 yards out. Stefan Frei was up to the task, leaping to keep the ball out.

FC Dallas: Fernandez, Hernandez, Loyd, Hedges, Watson, Michel, Ulloa, Escobar (Texeira 86), Castillo, Tesho, Perez

Goals: Michel 34

Sounders: Frei, Yedlin, Marshall, Scott, Gonzalez, Neagle (Cooper 65), Alonso, Evans, Pappa (Azira 72), Dempsey, Martins

Goals: Alonso 54

3 things

1. Sounders got the result they needed: For all their accomplishments this year -- they've already won the U.S. Open Cup and Supporters' Shield -- there were still lingering doubts about the Sounders' ability to perform in the playoffs. To whatever degree possible after 90 minutes, the Sounders have shown they can grind out a result. Of course, this is only as good as what they do in Seattle on Nov. 10, but this team has shown themselves capable at every turn. There's precious few reasons to continue to doubt them.

2. Hats off to both defenses: The Sounders and FC Dallas are both known more for their offense -- they combined for more than 110 goals this year -- but it was their defenses that stole the show. It wasn't just that the only goals came off set pieces, it was that neither team really had too many chances. And when there were chances, Fernandez and Frei were both up to the task. Chad Marshall and Zach Scott gave up nothing in the middle for the Sounders, while Zach Loyd and Matt Hedges were just as good on the other side. Hedges also get a bonus point for a ridiculous clearance on that spinning ball right before halftime.

3. FC Dallas need to change it up: The only offense Dallas generated -- aside from the penalty -- was on set pieces and effectively giving it to Castilllo and hoping he made magic. The Sounders may not be known for having a great defense, but they have veterans who are capable of matching up in 1-v-1 situations. If Dallas is going to move on, they need to have something else in their arsenal. Michel is probably the best set-piece specialist in the league but Marshall and Scott are two of the better aerial defenders.