Chances go begging as FC Dallas drops game one in the playoffs

Dallas opened their 2023 postseason campaign with a strong half hour, but things rapidly fell off after missing a pair of golden opportunities in yet another Lumen Field loss.

“It was unacceptable and our energy was not there, said Nkosi Tafari after the game. “It’s a playoff game against the Seattle Sounders FC, and we need to be aware of who we are playing and where we are playing. Outside of that, it’s 11 versus 11.”

There was only one change from the regular season finale as Bernard Kamungo returned from his first half injury, but was only declared 25-minutes fit to take a place on the bench. Jader Obrian took his place in the starting lineup. Sebastian Lletget also returned to the bench with a 25-minute restriction.

For FC Dallas the game started disastrously as an Alex Roldan foul on Alan Velasco led to the Argentine midfielder’s eventual withdrawal in the 18th minute with what was later described as a leg contusion.

Any concerns about slow starts in Seattle in previous playoff campaigns may have been put to rest with Nico Estevez shunning his regular season win-late mentality. Nkosi Tafari made an 80-yard run exchanging passes with Paxton Pomykal and Jesus Ferreira before seeing his shot blocked by Jackson Ragen.

The Homegrowns in that previous passage were twice involved in the first half hour with Paxton Pomykal providing two fantastic opportunities for Jesus Ferreira from the press. One saw a fantastic reaction save by Stefan Frei, but the second went high over the bar to give a strong reminder that Ferreira is without a goal in the entirety of October.

The game began to sway Seattle’s way in the final 15 minutes of the first half, with Maarten Paes making two fantastic saves from Joao Paulo and Cristian Roldan.

Referee Joe Dickerson let the half flow, hesitating to go for his whistle. He was forced into two decisions late in the half with Jesus Ferreira picking up a yellow card leaving a foot in on Alex Roldan after Liam Fraser had earlier gone in hard presumably for Velasco. Marco Farfan was the other Burn player to fall foul of the officials, fouling Cristian Roldan in the Dallas box.

Maarten Paes got firm contact on Albert Rusnak’s 43rd minute penalty, but could only push it onto the post to deflect in.

Nico Estevez believed that a recent rule change by PRO should have ruled out the penalty.

“We were very unlucky that the referee called that PK,” said Estevez. “There is a clear rule that says when an attacker changes the direction of his leg to get the advantage of the defender it’s not a PK. It is a new rule, we had a meeting with the coaches committee. I have no idea why the VAR and referee didn’t apply that rule, but it’s clear for me.”

Play significantly slowed to start the second half. As much fight as the likes of Paxton Pomykal, Liam Fraser, and Ema Twumasi showed, the team just couldn’t connect with Jesus Ferreira. The Dallas forward drifted wide away from play, at one point walking behind a Twumasi burst forward down the right, leaving the Burn right back shy of options.

With Jordan Morris’ 2019 hat-trick still fresh in the memory, the Sounders man briefly had the goal at his mercy in the 62nd minute before a combination of Nkosi Tafari and Marco Farfan beat the ball away and recovered possession.

The USMNT winger would go on to double the score line in the 74th minute, heading in a cross by Nouhou. VAR was involved to a degree as an incident after the goal was checked for violent conduct committed against Paul Arriola, who was left on the ground.

Either side of the goal Coach Estevez went to his bench. First, reshaping his left side by bringing in Sam Junqua and Dante Sealy for Marco Farfan and Jader Obrian. Immediately after, Bernard Kamungo and Eugene Ansah replaced Arriola and Paxton Pomykal. The team even transitioned to a 3-4-3 by the end.

With the new (old) playoff format, the 2-0 score doesn’t matter beyond a loss. FC Dallas returns to Toyota Stadium on Sunday for the second leg for another 8pm kick off and a must-win rematch with Seattle.

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