Results always matter, especially in the playoffs. A home-and-home series is always a tricky proposition to deal with for any club but FC Dallas proved on Sunday that they have the chops to hang with the best club in the league for 90 minutes.
The 1-1 draw with the Seattle Sounders wasn't the result the club was hoping for out of the first leg but there is still 90 minutes to play next week and that is a big enough reason to feel okay about what we saw last night.
Back to the 4-4-2
Once again Oscar Pareja made lineup changes to start the game, and yet again they paid off. Moises Hernandez, Raul Fernandez and Andres Escobar all worked their way back into the lineup and each of them made a difference in this one at some capacity.
Even before the suspension to Mauro Diaz, I felt Dallas would match up better in a 4-4-2 against Seattle because it would open up the wings a bit more against them. As good as Seattle is, they do have weaknesses on the wings when dealing with speed (though DeAndre Yedlin showed his speed and then some last night on a couple plays...that kid has some serious wheels).
Pareja made the other switch with having Fabian Castillo go up top with Blas Perez and kept Tesho Akindele on the wings to deal with Yedlin. Those moves worked out in some part but in other ways exposed how much the club needed Perez to be more involved.
Aside from losing Osvaldo Alonso on a free kick in the second half, the defense probably put forward their best effort of 2014 last night. That may seem like a slight exaggeration considering it was a draw and they let in a goal but look at who they bottled up on the night and tell me they had a better performance this season.
Zach Loyd was back at center back with Matt Hedges, proving this is all a matchup thing. While Walker Zimmerman was great against Vancouver last Wednesday and he proved to be a force against LA earlier in October, the Loyd and Hedges pairing makes so much more sense right now against Seattle. The two work well with one another to bottle up the likes of Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins. The full backs also did a great job of keeping Marco Pappa and Lemar Neagle from doing a lot of work from the sides as well. Je-Vaughn Watson and Moises Hernandez had their moments but overall played a solid 90.
This was also a game where we saw Victor Ulloa at his very best in the middle of the park. He had the tall task of dealing with Alonso and Brad Evans. By the end of the game, I felt Ulloa came out on top.
Away goals are what they are
There is no getting around it, the away goals are a thing in MLS playoffs now. We didn't have them for years and now it is a new wrinkle to the mix. Most of the players i asked last night about the new rule seem to like it as they know they have a good shot at scoring in Seattle. They already did it once this year.
But that is the thing about this series when you look at it from afar. Neither team was going to shutout the other. Seattle has a tough history in the playoffs and aside from 2010, so does Dallas. If anything this new rule pushed both clubs a little more than we would without it there.
I will say this though, towards the end of the game this series began looking a awful lot like the Salt Lake series that helped push FCD towards a MLS Cup in 2010. Now, it may not go exactly that way but crazier things have happened before and with 90 minutes to be decided next week in Seattle, there is still plenty to play for here. I don't know about you but I don't feel like the season has ended just yet.