SEATTLE– So fitting that if the Seattle Sounders are to redeem the 2016 season, the long road back to the red line begins against FC Dallas — the speedy youngsters who exposed the Sounders as anything but in last season’s playoffs.
The teams have gone in opposite directions since Dallas eliminated Seattle on penalty kicks in the Western Conference semifinals last fall. Dallas entered the night atop the Supporters’ Shield race, while the Sounders sat in last place in the conference, tied with the Columbus Crew and Chicago Fire for the worst record in the entire league.
But in a bloodletting that seemed to exorcise months of demons, the Sounders dismantled a weak FC Dallas lineup on Wednesday, riding an early penalty kick and goals from five different players to a 5-0 win in front of 40,101 at CenturyLink Field. Not only was Dallas outshot 12-2, it didn’t attempt a shot until the 83rd minute.
The visitors went down a man in just the fourth minute, giving up a penalty in the process. Both teams played the final hour with 10 men after referee Ricardo Salazar ejected Clint Dempsey in the 33rd minute.
Dempsey opened the scoring before most fans found their seats, converting the penalty kick past goalkeeper Chris Seitz.
Salazar awarded the penalty and issued a straight red card to Maynor Figueroa after a close-range shot from Andreas Ivanschitz caught Figueroa’s extended arm inside the 6-yard box. Seitz initially slapped away a near-post cross from Joevin Jones, but the ball fell directly to Ivanschitz, who quickly sent the rebound back toward goal.
It was Dempsey’s third goal of the season, and the first home goal for the usually high-scoring Sounders since May 7.
Dempsey was ejected barely 30 minutes later, but the Sounders managed to put the match away with two more goals before losing the advantage.
Ivanschitz doubled the lead in the 18th minute, tracking down a lovely ball over the top from Osvaldo Alonso and chipping Seitz from 19 yards out. Ivanschitz burned defender Atiba Harris on the play and then caught Seitz in no-man’s land.
Rookie Jordan Morris joined the fun less than five minutes later, running onto a nicely placed pass from Dempsey and burying a shot into the far netting from the corner of the 6-yard box. It was Morris’ team-leading seventh goal of the season.
Salazar then tossed Dempsey for swatting Juan Esteban Ortiz across the face. Ortiz earned a yellow card himself on the play, initiating the contact with a knee to Dempsey’s thigh and a forearm to his upper chest.
The playing field might have evened out after Dempsey’s ejection, but the Sounders continued to dominate.
Jones, stellar in both attack and defense all night, added a fourth goal in the 61st minute, sending a 19-yard shot off a defender’s leg and past a flat-footed Seitz. Right back Oniel Fisher, making his first appearance since the season opener, earned the assist.
Cristian Roldan capped the scoring in the 73rd minute, rising between defenders Walker Zimmerman and Aubrey David to head in an Ivanschitz free kick from close range. It was the first career goal in more than 2200 minutes of play for the second-year midfielder.
The Sounders (6-10-2, 20 points) ended a three-game losing streak at CenturyLink Field, moving past the Dynamo and into ninth place in the West.
FC Dallas (11-6-4, 37 points), playing six games in 20 days and facing another road match on Saturday, fielded a reserve-laden lineup. Playmaker Mauro Diaz was not in the 18; Fabian Castillo, Maximiliano Urruti, Mauro Rosales, and Michael Barrios all began the match on the bench. Only Barrios and Castillo saw the pitch.
In a season when nothing seems to come easily, Wednesday’s win was not without its cost: Dempsey’s red card will keep him out of this weekend’s vital Cascadia tilt against the Portland Timbers.
Looking forward, the Sounders visit the Timbers (6-6-7, 25 points) on Sunday, while FC Dallas visits the Chicago Fire (3-8-5, 14 points) on Saturday.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Osvaldo Alonso. One of the few consistent bright spots for the Sounders this season, Alonso badgered in defense, charged forward in support, linked lines brilliantly, and earned himself two assists on the night. How valuable has Alonso been for the Sounders in 2016? He played every minute of every match this season until stepping off the pitch in the 62nd minute on Wednesday.
Honorable mention goes to Ivanschitz, who scored a goal, earned a penalty, and picked up an assist. He generally looked aggressive, rejuvenated, and more like the player who helped propel the Sounders to the playoffs last year — all promising signs for Seattle’s playoff hopes.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Dempsey’s penalty. So many times this season the Sounders have started brightly, failed to capitalize, and eventually found themselves trailing. The early lead visibly buoyed a team that has struggled with confidence as losses and shutouts piled up over the months.
MATCH TO FORGET
FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja. Yes, Dallas is playing a mess of games in a short period of time, but you have to wonder if he would rather have rested at least a few players against the Chicago Fire on Saturday.
Sleeping giants and whatnot.