FC Dallas – Seattle Sounders: Ruíz Nets Shield Worthy Winner

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FRISCO, TX (October 16, 2016)FC Dallas regained control of the Western Conference and the Supporters’ Shield race with a 2-1 victory over the Seattle Sounders at Toyota Stadium on Sunday evening. Carlos Ruíz scored a stunning volleyed goal in the 89th minute to bag all three points for the Texas side. Their winning result is especially important in light of the Colorado Rapids 1-0 loss on the road in Portland. With one match remaining, FC Dallas is again in control of the race for MLS’ regular season crown.

FC Dallas entered the match after an extended idle period due to the recent international break. They started the match one point behind the Colorado Rapids who captured the top spot in the Western Conference last Thursday. Fourth place Seattle came into the match on the heels of a disappointing midweek draw to Houston, a match where they had a chance clinch a playoff berth.

Seattle was without several key starters due to injury and suspension including Ozzie Alonso, Andreas Ivanschitz, and Clint Dempsey. Ryan Hollingshead replaced left back Maynor Figueroa for FC Dallas, who missed the game due to suspension.

FC Dallas In Pole Position For Supporters’ Shield

First Half

The game started in measured fashion with both teams trying to find their passing rhythm and a route to goal. FC Dallas had marginally better play and possession in the early minutes, but both teams struggled to threaten the opposition’s goal. FC Dallas had a half-chance in the 16th minute when Maxi Urruti broke through on goal, benefiting from a precise through ball from Mauro Díaz. Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei came off his line quickly to smother the chance and Urruti’s shot skipped off the face of the onrushing keeper and wide of goal.

Seattle’s Hercules Gomez had a goal disallowed in the 33rd minute after he poked the ball home in a scrum that followed a Seattle corner kick. The referee blew his whistle before the ball hit the net, negating the goal and awarding a foul against Seattle’s Román Torres. Replays showed little evidence of an infringement.

The visiting Sounders found an opening goal in the 41st minute from a free kick won by Seattle’s lively right back Tyrone Mears. Seattle’s Níco Lodeiro stood over the free kick near the right side of the penalty box, 25 yards from goal. He motioned to cross the ball into the center of the penalty box, but rather than cross, he curled a disguised shot directly at goal. The shot caught Dallas goalkeeper Chris Seitz cheating and playing the cross. The ball snuck into goal inches to the left of the post, giving Seattle a first half lead.

Second Half

Seattle started the second half confidently but soon took a defensive posture, attempting to protect their lead. Seattle’s center back stalwart Chad Marshall left the game in the 63rd minute with an unspecified injury.

It took the better part of the second half, but after pressing forward in increasing numbers, FC Dallas searched for and found the equalizer in the 79th minute. A soft free kick was awarded on the right side of the Seattle penalty box. Mauro Díaz delivered a free kick into a crowded six yard box. Stefan Frei made an initial save with his legs, but Maxi Urruti followed immediately and shoveled the blocked ball into goal from close range.

Guatemalan legend Carlos “El Pescadito” Ruíz had entered the match for Dallas just two minutes before their first goal. Although he didn’t factor into the equalizer, the substitution would have a major impact on the game.

Ten minutes after Dallas had leveled it, the game seemed to be headed toward a 1-1 draw. In the 89th minute, Dallas built a late attack down the right side through winger Michael Barrios. Carlos Gruezo squared the ball to playmaker Mauro Díaz at the top of the box. Díaz had his mind made-up before the ball arrived, and chipped a wonderfully floated ball behind Seattle’s back line to the slippery Ruíz.  El Pescadito located the chip over his right shoulder and volleyed with the outside of his boot directly into goal.

Nothing more was needed. Dallas grabbed an opportunistic three points that could and should be pivotal in the final MLS standings. A dark shadow was cast over the victory by two key injuries sustained by FC Dallas. Both Kellyn Acosta and Mauro Díaz were injured during the match. Early reports suggest that Díaz’s injury (achilles) could be season ending.

Supporters’ Shield & Playoffs

With the win Dallas is now two points clear at the top of the Western Conference on 59 points. They head into the final week of the season on top of MLS but facing a difficult final match against LA Galaxy at the Stubhub Center on October 23rd. Win that match, and they will lift the Supporters’ Shield. If they lose or tie, the Supporter’s Shield winner will depend on the result between the Colorado Rapids and Houston Dynamo. Colorado is the only team that can catch Dallas for the Supporters’ Shield and the first place seed in the West. FC Dallas has a 3 goal advantage over the Rapids in goal difference, so even if they draw next weekend, they still have a decent chance to remain top.

Seattle’s loss drops them to fifth place, and they’ll try to win at home next weekend against Real Salt Lake to confirm their ticket to the postseason. Even if they don’t win, they can still qualify for the playoffs, but will need help from other results on the final day of the season.