Seattle, Wash. — It’s been said before and it’ll be said again: there’s something about the Seattle Sounders FC in the playoffs. For the fourth time in the last five years, the Sounders have punched their ticket to the Western Conference Final. This is the club’s second-straight trip to the conference final.
Seattle earned the spot by defeating FC Dallas on Tuesday night. In the second half, an unlikely hero emerged in rave green. Shane O’Neill found himself open in the box on a set-piece, corner kick, play in the second half. O’Neill leapt up and smashed home a header past FC Dallas goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer.
Sounders captain Nicolás Lodeiro provided the assist.
O’Neill took his spot in the starting lineup due to Xavier Arreaga starting on the bench. Arreaga did not substitute in the match, as he’s coming off fulfilling his quarantine requirements after heading for international duty with Ecuador. The Sounders did see a defender return to the pitch, though. While Alex Roldan got the start at right back, Kelvin Leerdam entered the fray in the 68th. However, he came on to replace Joevin Jones, coming back from a hamstring injury.
But, it was O’Neill who was the star of the show on defense.
However, Yeimar Gomez Andrade had moments of excellence too. After the goal post denied Michael Barrios in the second half, the ball fell to Franco Jara. However, Jara’s shot was then deflected by Gomez Andrade, helping out goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
FC Dallas did frustrate the Sounders on defense. Knowing exactly who to mark up on, Seattle only registered two shots on goal from Raúl Ruidíaz and one from Jordan Morris. Lodeiro and midfielder João Paulo did not record a shot on goal.
WHAT A PLAY 😍
— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) December 2, 2020
Seattle awaits their Western Conference Final opponent
Due to the madness in the NFL surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, the MLS playoff schedule was shaken up this week. In order to make the Sporting Kansas City match against Minnesota United FC more visible, the game was moved to Thursday.
Now, Seattle will spend the next 48 hours preparing a game plan for both sides, before finding out who they will face in the Western Conference Final. After the match, Brian Schmetzer said on the FS1 broadcast that the Sounders will be ready for whoever it is.
"I think the team believes they can win."
— 𝗥𝗮𝗰𝗵𝗮𝗲𝗹 𝗞𝗿𝗶𝗴𝗲𝗿 (@RachaelKriger) December 2, 2020
As for hosting scenarios, if Sporting Kansas City tops Minnesota, then the Western Conference Final will be held in Kansas. However, if Minnesota United can provide the upset, the Sounders will host at Lumen Field.
What’s next for the Sounders?
Either way, the Western Conference Final will be held on Dec. 7. Then, the MLS Cup Final will be held on Dec. 12. There has been no decision on where the MLS Cup Final will take place.
Right now, the Sounders aren’t thinking about the finale of the MLS season. Instead, the Sounders will rest and recover, as they await Thursday night’s match and prepare for their opponent. Meanwhile, for FC Dallas, Luchi Gonzalez, with one year under his belt as head coach, will head back to Texas and make 2021 roster decisions.