Home-field advantage mattered for every team in the MLS Cup Playoffs on Sunday, but no one got quite as much out of it as the Seattle Sounders. They stunned Supporters' Shield and US Open Cup winners FC Dallas, outplaying them from start to finish and scoring three times in a 10-minute spell, as they ran out 3-0 winners.
The Dallas midfield controlled the game for much of the first half, but it was the Sounders who created better chances. While there were no goals in the opening 45 minutes, Seattle were very unlucky not to get on the board. Chris Seitz made an excellent save on Nelson Valdez in the fourth minute and Erik Friberg had an effort cleared off the line just before the half-hour mark.
After halftime, the Sounders improved at getting the ball wide, and that instantly paid dividends. Left back Joevin Jones set up the opener with a burst down the flank and a cross into the center of the box for Valdez, who scored his second goal in as many playoff games.
That same flank continued to be a problem area for Dallas. Jordan Morris set up Nicolas Lodeiro for the second in very similar fashion, beating his man down the left wing and squaring to the center of the box. And three minutes after that, the Sounders added one more in the same fashion, the third time with Jones finding Lodeiro for an easy finish.
Dallas brought on three attacking substitutes and pushed forward for what would have been a vital away goal, but they never made Stefan Frei work too hard. They'll head home knowing that they need to overcome a three-goal deficit, and without an away goal to help them, either.
Seattle Sounders: Stefan Frei; Joevin Jones (Oniel Fisher 83'), Chad Marshall, Zach Scott, Tyrone Mears, Cristian Roldan, Osvaldo Alonso (Brad Evans 79'), Erik Friberg, Jordan Morris, Nelson Valdez (Herculez Gomez 56'), Nicolas Lodeiro
Goals: Valdez (50'), Lodeiro (55', 58')
FC Dallas: Chris Seitz; Maynor Figueroa, Matt Hedges, Walker Zimmerman (Mauro Rosales 73'), Ryan Hollingshead, Carlos Gruezo, Victor Ulloa (Tesho Akindele 66'), Kellyn Acosta, Michael Barrios, Maxi Urruti (Carlos Ruiz 80')
Jordan Morris can do it all -- Morris' best performances have come from the striker spot this season, whether as a lone center forward or with a partner. He's had some decent games on the wings, but they haven't been his best. On Sunday, however, Morris was excellent defensively and at relieving pressure, as well as creating chances for teammates and himself. His assist was well deserved.
Oscar Pareja got his tactics absolutely wrong -- An injury to superstar Mauro Diaz has made things very tough on Pareja, admittedly, but he didn't have to completely revamp his system. It seemed that, because he was without Diaz's creativity, he wanted to play an extra center back and defensive-minded midfielder to clog the center and keep a clean sheet. Ultimately, it didn't work, with Atiba Harris and Walker Zimmerman looking lost at right wingback and right center back, respectively. Dallas would have had a better chance of keeping a clean sheet with a formation they'd spent more time playing in and a winger to track Jones' forward runs.
Nicolas Lodeiro is the best midseason signing in MLS history -- While he's got stiff competition from Jermaine Jones -- whose New England Revolution side did not lose a game that he started in regulation during his first season -- Lodeiro's huge goal and assist tallies are unprecedented for someone entering the league midseason. In 15 starts, Lodeiro now has six goals and eight assists, not to mention the way he helps with creating goals he doesn't get into the box score for, as well as defending through possession. He might be the best player in the league already.