The Breakdown – FC Dallas vs Seattle Sounders, 1st Round, Game 2

Home-field advantage in MLS is just amazing. Dallas started well and held on for the Game Two win and now heads back to Seattle for Game Three.

“I think it was on us, but we didn’t match their intensity. We have to come out flying on Friday.”

Jordan Morris

FC Dallas beat Seattle for the first time since May 8, 2022, breaking a stretch of 4 games without a victory.

Lineups and Tactics

Even though the “bench has been shortened” and FCD has a couple of injuries which should make predicting easier, Coach Nico Estevez still managed to throw a couple of wrinkles at us.

As I had theorized, the formation was the same, the 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 fluid hybrid with Paxton Pomykal taking up the Alan Velasco role and Liam Fraser playing the pure 6.

Surprisingly, Sam Junqua started at right back. Resting Marco Farfan or benching for the PK?

Bernard Kamungo turned out to be healthy enough to start.

FC Dallas XI vs Seattle Sounders, 2023 playoffs game two. (Courtesy FC Dallas)
FC Dallas XI vs Seattle Sounders, 2023 playoffs game two. (Courtesy FC Dallas)

In the 73rd minute, Marco Farfan came on for Kamungo, shifting FCD into the 3-4-3.

Then in the 83rd, Jader Obrian came on for Pomykal, perhaps to prevent the 2nd yellow to Pomykal, and Eugene Ansah for Jesus Ferreira. Giving FCD a little more vertical counterattack.

Then lastly, Dante Sealy brought some fresh legs for Paul Arriola in the 92nd minute.

Seattle was in their usual 4-2-3-1 with no changes from game one.

The Seattle Sounders XI at FC Dallas, 2023 playoffs game two. (Courtesy Seattle Sounders)
The Seattle Sounders XI at FC Dallas, 2023 playoffs game two. (Courtesy Seattle Sounders)

Seattle brought on Nico Lodeiro – who has to be on his last legs at this point – for Leo Chu in the 59th minute.

Obed Vargas and Raúl Ruidíaz replaced Joao Paulo and Joshua Atencio in the 69th.

And finally, Kelyn Rowe came on for Nouhou in the 84th as Seattle pushed hard for a goal.


1-0 FC Dallas, 6th minute. A good team goal, Paxton Pomykal plays the hockey assist to Bernard Kamungo. Ema Twumasi‘s overlapping run pulls Nouhou (a run to pull defenders will come up again) and Bernie cuts inside to find Paul Arriola for the goal.

“[Coach] Nico [Estévez] told me to be aggressive and every time I got 1v1s I was shooting or crossing. I saw Jesús [Ferreira] and Paul in there and thought ‘why not?’ and that’s what I did.”

Bernard Kamungo

2-0 FC Dallas, 18th minute. Bernard Kamungo wins FCD a penalty. Jesus Ferreira converts it. This was Ferreira’s first playoff goal.

2-1 Seattle Sounders, 48th minute. Off a “turible” Bernie Kamungo backpass, Jordan Morris uses his power to win the battle with Sebas Ibeagha and finishes before he gets caught by Nkosi Tafari.

3-1 FC Dallas, 89th minute. Jader Obrian intercepts and makes a run in on goal from midfield. A fantastic overlap by Paul Arriolla (directed by Obrian) pulls both the full back and keeper out of position. Obrian with a terrific clean finish for the goal.

Lo Bueno

There were several good options for FCD Man of the Match but I went with Paxton Pomykal. I thought he was terrific in the higher Alan Velasco role. 82% passing, 21 carries, 5 progressive passes, 2 passes into the final third, 1 into the box, and 5 recoveries. Not exceptional numbers but lots of credit for adapting his role to take up some of the Velasco weight.

What a terrific start by FCD, triggered by Kamungo. FCD was patient in the build-up early, controlling the game, playing crisply and quickly, and executing their patterns. For the first 20 minutes that was about as good as FCD can play.

“In the game plan, there were moments that were well executed. The game plan is why we had two good chances in the first half. We had some other situations running in behind their backline. Today we were a more complete team with a little more determination, speed and quality. When we play like this, we can win as it is difficult for any opponent.”

Coach Nico Estevez

Bernard Kamungo, specifically, had 3 progressive carries, 2/3 in take-ons, 2 shot-creating actions, 2 goal-creating actions, 7 progressive receptions, and even 6 recoveries. Super cool that he got to play in front of his family.

“It’s very special. I want to see my mom because I want to see how she reacted to me assisting the goal and all that. It’s a very special day and getting the win in front of my mom is something extra special. I’m very proud of this moment and I’m sure my parents are proud of me as well.”

Bernard Kamungo

There were two goals by FCD in this game where an off-ball run by an FCD player pulled the Sounders defense and created an opening. Let that be a lesson kids as to why we make off-ball runs. Sometimes you can help create the goal without even touching the ball.

Remember last week when we talked about Jesus Ferreira and 40 pass attempts? He was much better in this one, and much more patient. 27 pass attempts. He stayed in the right positions and thus had 0.8 xG with 5 progressive receptions on just 34 touches. And he still helped create with 4 shot creating actions.

Pretty much everyone for Dallas played well, I’m not going to run through them all.

“Fraser and Asier Illarramendi did an amazing job, and everyone really did tonight. I was telling the guys that when we are in the playoffs and someone asked me ‘Who is the Man of the Match?’ I cannot decide – this is how you play the playoffs. If we play like this, everyone could be Man of the Match, then we competed really well.”

Coach Nico Estevez

When Paul Arriola subbed off, he handed the captain’s armband to Asir Illarramendi. Illarra turned and jogged back to give the armband to Nkosi Tafari. Tarafi tried to wave him off but Illara insisted. I love that respect for Tafari, he’s earned it this year and in this game.

This was FCD’s 11th sell-out of the season. Awesome.

Camino del Medio

FC Dallas up 2-0 went into the mid to low block as Seattle tried to get back into the game. Everyone hates the block, it’s the “prevent defense” of soccer. But teams do it because it works. Just like it did in this game. Yes, it’s no fun to watch. We all hate it. But, well… winning and stuff.

“We had a really good beginning of the game and we were able to close the game the right way. We just have to be able to control the game a little better. We dominated the ball during a great part of the game but we can never be too confident because Seattle is a very dangerous team.”

FCD Captain Paul Arriola

At halftime, the stat line was classic Nico-Ball. 44% possession, 2 shots, 2 shots on goal, 2 goals. This is a perfect example of what we have talked about all year about this team and its need for efficient shooting. Low shot totals, but high percentage chances for goals. That’s prime FCD right now. Is it fun and exciting? Not really.

The 66% passing by FC Dallas was one of – if not the – lowest pass percentages of the season (Fbref has them at 67.2% for 3rd worst). A combination of the playoff pressure, the physically intense way Seattle plays, the mid-block they use that makes it very hard to pass… But it turns out that for FCD, low passing percentages aren’t a big deal. Of the bottom 16 passing performances in 2023, FCD has a 9-4-3 record. All their other games… a 3-7-10 record. I know, right?

Muy Feo

FC Dallas went to a 3-4-3 again, or 5-4-1 if you want to be that guy, in the 73rd minute when Marco Farfan came on. But man I don’t dig this shape. After having 4 shots in the entire 2nd half, Seattle had 4 shots between the 83rd and 87th minute. 4 doesn’t sound like a lot but they only had 11 total. Maarten Paes had to make 2 saves back-to-back on shots that had a combined 1.0 xG.

Instant Reaction – 3 Things


  1. I was pleasantly surprised by estevez playing junqua over farfan
    I never thought he’d do it
    Farfan hasn’t been any better than average this and several times he’s just been downright bad
    Roldan pretty much owned him in Seattle with his physicality and Marco gave the ball away to cheaply
    Junqua is at least more physical and I think he would actually provide more of an offensive presence
    I hope he starts in Seattle

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