The Breakdown – FC Dallas at Seattle Sounders, 1st Round, Game 3

Homefield advantage in MLS is just amazing. I had to dig deep to find the motivation to knock this one out. Cause oh man, was this a tough watch.

“It’s a tough one, and it shows you how tough it is to win away from home in this league. Every year it keeps getting tougher. I am proud of this team and proud of the steps we are taking forward. We reached a new ceiling and we want to break that.”

Sebastian Lletget

FCD has still won just one game at Seattle all-time and has now been eliminated 5 times by the Sounders in the last decade.

“It’s a tough atmosphere to play in, but it’s a great place to play at. They have great fans and they are a team with experience. We give them credit, but at the same time, this one stings. We will have to use this as motivation for next season.”

Paul Arriola

Lineups and Tactics

There were two questions for FC Dallas and Coach Nico Estevez coming into this one…

1. Would Jesus Ferreira be healthy?
2. Would Sam Junqua hold down left back?
ANSWER: Yes, cause Marco Farfan was out. But probably would have been yes anyway.

Which left us with Paxton Pomykal in midfield with Liam Fraser and Asier Illarramendi.

Some people were calling this a 4-4-2, some a 4-2-3-1. But honestly, it was just the same fluid shape 4-3-3’ish FCD always plays. Pomykal was a few yards higher than the last game in an attempt to press alongside Jader Obrian.

The FC Dallas XI at Seattle Sounders, 2023 Playoffs Game 3, November 10, 2023. (Courtesy FC Dallas)
The FC Dallas XI at Seattle Sounders, 2023 Playoffs Game 3, November 10, 2023. (Courtesy FC Dallas)

Bernard Kamungo struggled mightly with his already sore ankle after the João Paulo tackle and was subbed for Eugene Ansah in the 59th.

In the 70th minute to bring on some offensive threat, in theory, Dante Sealy and Jesus Jimenez replaced Jader Obrian and Liam Fraser.

Finally, in the 80th minute, Tsiki Ntsabeleng and Sebastian Lletget came on for Ema Twumasi and Paxton Pomykal.

Seattle Sounders XI vs FC Dallas, Game 3, 2023 Playoffs. (Courtesy Seattle Sounders)

Seattle brought on Nico Lodeiro in the 70th minute for Leo Chu. Then Obed Vargas for João Paulo in the 87th minute.


1-0 FC Seattle Sounders. 36th minute. A brutal pass out the back by Sebas Ibeagha right to João Paulo who drives up the middle and passes to Albert Rusnák on the break into the gap that wasn’t being filled by Ibeagha as he stood and gawked. Rusnák outraces Asier Illarramendi and beats Maarten Paes between the wickets.

Lo Bueno

I did struggle to pick an FCD Man of the Match but, in the end, there was only one player I was comfortable picking: Nkosi Tafari. I thought Tafari was a warrior and brought a warrior mentality. He was up for the mental and physical challenge which I don’t think we can say for most of the team. I loved the way he conducted himself and his game. He had FCD’s most dangerous chance too with 1 shot on goal in the 89th minute, which is a tough thought to unpack.

This is a good save. A big-time keeper making the big save when they needed it.

“Goalkeepers have their tasks and we are lucky to have a guy like Maarten (Paes). You see all around the world, even champions like Manchester City, they need their keepers to make big saves, even though they’re the best team in the world.”

Coach Nico Estevez

And… um… ok… yeah, that’s it.

Camino del Medio

The idea to have Paxton Pomykal press a little higher and more actively with Jader Obrian was, maybe, a good one. It almost worked a couple of times. It would have taken just once to steal a point perhaps. But it also isolated Asier Illarramendi and Liam Fraser too often in a 3v2 and they got dominated.

Asier Illarramendi, even in this ass-kicking, still had such quality. 85% passing, 6 progressive passes, and 8 recoveries.

Paul Arriola tried some stuff. 3 for 5 on take-ons, 6 progressive passes, 1 shot creating action, 69% passing, 1 key pass, 4 passes into the penalty box, and 3 carries in the final third. But since he was the only one doing much it was all too easy for the Seattle D.

“I can say that the group and I are very disappointed. The goal is never to just make it to the playoffs, but also win the title. Overall I am very proud of the group for the season that we’ve had. We always talked about facing adversities and coming back. We dealt with off-the-field and on-the-field stuff. We put ourselves in this position and you can look at it from a good or bad perspective. I am really proud we made it to this third game and we all wish we could’ve had more games.:

Paul Arriola

Muy Feo

Sebas Ibeagha had a great year far exceeding my expectations. But two incredible gaffs from him on one play about 1.5 seconds apart cost FCD the game. Just a brutal moment.

For FCD, 45% possession is fine. 72% passing accuracy is also fine. But 1 shot on goal? Nope, not fine. Not good enough. And that the shot came from a defender in the 89th minute makes it worse. Dallas had an xG of 0.0, that’s amazing.

The fact that Jesus Jimenez was the best hope for FCD off the bench to try and get some offense going late in this game is inexcusably bad roster management. He had 3 touches. 3.

Instant Reaction – 3 Things

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