FC Dallas won the U.S. Open Cup in September and its first Supporters' Shield a week ago,
but its bid for the treble likely went up in smoke in a span of eight minutes Sunday night when the Seattle Sounders scored three goals to take a 3-0 lead into next Sunday's second leg of the Western
Conference semifinals in Frisco.
Nelson Valdez, who had been scoreless in 24 regular-season games, teamed up with Joevin Jones for the winner in Seattle's 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City on Sunday night, and they did it again -- this time without controversy -- as Valdez put the Sounders ahead in the 50th minute. Uruguayan Nicolas Lodeiro then followed up with goals in the 55th and 58th minutes.
With injured star Mauro Diaz out for the playoffs, FC Dallas coach Oscar Pareja chose to start a 3-5-2 formation that included three center backs and three holding midfielders.
Seattle came close several times in the first half. FC Dallas keeper Chris Seitz stopped Valdez's chested shot, a shot by Erik Friberg required a double clearance off the line by Matt Hedges, and Seitz dove to parry a rocket from Jordan Morris.
Despite the Sounders' first-half chances, Pareja felt FC Dallas was in good shape but admitted that it was outplayed by the Sounders in the first 20 minutes after the break.
"We have to accept that,” Pareja said. “Tonight, we played against a very good team."
The game changed when Jones found the Paraguayan with what looked like a harmless cross at the far post, where Valdez headed the ball past the stranded Seitz. Pareja said the game changed after Valdez's goal.
Morris exploited the space down the right side of the FC Dallas backline and played a ball back across to Lodeiro for an easy goal. A second Lodeiro goal on a breakaway following a long through ball from Jones -- yet a third goal developed from the Sounders' left side -- three minutes later completed the scoring.
"I thought we could be more mature and have more composure on the field and not let them score the second one," Pareja said. "In that part, we should have been much better.”
No team has ever come back from a loss of three goals or more in the first leg of a two-legged conference series and advanced.
The Sounders lost 3-0 in 2011 and 2012 and were eliminated by Real Salt Lake and the LA Galaxy. The San Jose Earthquakes famously lost the first leg of their 2003 series to the Galaxy, 2-0, fell behind 2-0 in the second leg, then came back to win 5-4 on aggregate.
FC Dallas lost Fabian Castillo on a midseason transfer to Turkish club Trabzonspor and then Diaz, its other big star, in the next-to-last game of the regular season in a 2-1 win over Seattle that put it in the lead for the Supporters' Shield. After the latest setback, Pareja remained optimistic.
“I think this team has shown during the year that we can overcome difficult situations," he said. "Why not this one, as well?”
Oct. 30 in Seattle
Seattle 3 FC Dallas 0.
SEA: Nelson Valdez (Joevin Jones) 50
SEA: Nicolas Lodeiro (Jordan Morris) 55
SEA: Nicolas Lodeiro (Joevin Jones) 58
Seattle -- Frei, Marshall, Scott, J.Jones (Fisher 83), Mears, Roldan, Lodeiro, Alonso (Evans 79), Friberg, Morris, Valdez (Gomez 56).
FC Dallas -- Seitz, Hollingshead, Hedges, Zimmerman (Rosales 73), Figueroa, Harris, Gruezo, Acosta, Ulloa (Akindele 66), Barrios, Urruti (Ruiz 90).
Yellow Card: FC Dallas -- Figueroa 85.