That was quite possibly the most entertaining, thrilling and exciting 0-0 affair I've seen in quite some time. From a tactical standpoint it was a fun chess match between two teams and their respected coaches. Even though the result didn't favor FC Dallas this time, it was still an entertaining affair --- at least it was for me.
The Away Goal
I've read plenty, as I'm sure you have as well, about how the "away goal" system is rather confusing. Not in the sense of how it works but why it's implemented in the MLS playoffs and why the league would disregard the work of the regular season. That being said, the system makes for an intriguing tactical match up - whether it's for the better or worse for MLS is entirely debatable - as we witnessed what the Seattle Sounders look like when they're desperate to not concede. Case in point:
These are all of DeAndre Yedlin's touches in the attacking half (not including throw ins). That's 11 touches. Total. For 90 minutes. This would be a more reasonable had Fabian Castillo been lined up on his side and Yedlin was tasked to contain the Colombian speedster but that was not the case as Castillo spent most of the night on the right side. The Sounders were desperate not to give any space for the Dallas attackers to run into and basically held their entire back four back, forcing Dallas to play through all four defenders for a chance at goal.
You can sense that Oscar Pareja knew that's how Seattle would play and tried his hand to beat it with the following -
Mauro, Mauro, Mauro
When a team decides to hang back, you unleash your Super Mauro on them for as long as he can stand on his two magical feet. I'm not sure anyone here thought Mauro Diaz could go a full 90 like he did this past Monday. I certainly was surprised by how fit he was and how he steadily found the game and while he was hacked pretty intensively by Ozzie Alonso and Pineda. Diaz suffered 5 fouls in the match (4 in the first half) and the most of anyone on the field. But despite the close attention paid to him, Diaz found the ball and did his best to try to carve up the Sounders defense.
We weren't treated to that penetrating through ball that Diaz is known best for - hard to pull off with defenders hanging deep - but we did see a Mauro shake off tackles and keep his high level of skill as the game wore on, (39 touches in the first half, 37 in the second) and we found Diaz occupying the coveted Zone 14 towards the last 15 minutes of the match.
In the end, Dallas ran out of time but it wasn't for the lack of effort or ideas. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. This was the one match where I thought the absence of Hendry Thomas was most sorely missed. He would've freed up a central midfield position and Dallas could have safely used two strikers in a 4-1-3-2 formation rather than having two d-mids tracking Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey. In the end, it was a good season for the Hoops overall.