Stunning Dempsey free kick propels Seattle over FC Dallas
Seattle brought Clint Dempsey to Seattle for these sorts of big playoff moments. Dempsey delivered in spades with a stunning free kick three minutes from the end to lift Seattle to a 2-1 victory over FC Dallas in the first leg of their Western Conference semifinal on Sunday.
Dempsey held the fate of the match in his hands as he assessed his options 25 yards from goal. He waved off Andreas Ivanschitz and then curled his free kick over the wall and past FC Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez to complete the Sounders comeback at CenturyLink Field.
“It was about time I make one of these,” Dempsey told FS1 after the match. “I’ve been taking them all year and I haven’t found the back of the net. I hit the post a couple of times, but it feels good to come up with a goal when we needed it.”
Seattle needed a comeback to exit this first leg with a slender lead. FC Dallas opened the match brightly and took the lead when Fabian Castillo collected a sublime Mauro Diaz pass and tucked inside the far post after 18 minutes. FCD posed a threat on the counter as the match unfolded, but Seattle eventually responded through a fine solo goal by Ivanschitz to tie the game after 67 minutes.
Dempsey completed Seattle’s late push with his precise free kick. The stage now shifts to Toyota Stadium for the second leg next Sunday (live, 7:30p.m. ET, FS1, FOX Sports GO) with the outcome firmly hanging in the balance.
“We conceded at home,” Dempsey said. “You never want to do that. But we did everything we could to give ourselves a fighting chance heading into the second leg. We’re looking forward to that game.”
The cadence of the match favored FC Dallas at the outset. Seattle opened the match in search of goals and permitted the game to stretch from back to front. FCD relished the space afforded and spent most of the first half exploring it through Castillo and Diaz.
Both players combined to procure a stunning opener after 18 minutes. FCD goalkeeper Gonzalez collected after Zach Loyd made an important tackle inside the penalty area and quickly distributed to the left. One pass up the flank played Diaz into space to send Castillo through over the top. Castillo raced onto the expertly slotted ball and tucked it inside the far post to stake FCD to a precious lead.
Castillo’s opener arranged the game perfectly for FCD. The visitors focused on their shape and waited for Seattle to pursue the game too earnestly. Those moments arrived as the match progressed, but FCD never quite found a way to exploit them. Castillo buzzed about willingly and Diaz scurried to link the play without punishing Seattle appropriately.
It took a while for the Sounders -- hindered by the glaring absences of Osvaldo Alonso (groin) and Brad Evans (hamstring) -- to adjust to the situation. Seattle produced the odd half-chance through commitment (Erik Friberg’s sidefooted effort just after the half-hour) or fortune (Dempsey’s shot straight at Gonzalez after a deflected Marco Pappa free kick four minutes before halftime) without mustering the usual level of incisiveness.
Those issues largely continued after halftime and placed the Sounders in a rather troublesome spot. FCD posed a considerable threat on the break, but Seattle required at least a goal to stay in the tie. Sounders coach Sigi Schmid chucked Nelson Valdez into the fray and moved Clint Dempsey into a midfield role in a bid to conjure the same effect from the victory over LA Galaxy.
Ivanschitz eventually benefited from that move when he latched onto a Dempsey pass and started his run toward the equalizer. The resulting, slicing foray met surprisingly little resistance on the edge of the FCD penalty area. Ivanschitz took full advantage of the ground yielded to slot inside the far post to draw Seattle level.
The pulsating equalizer arrived on the heels of a FCD penalty shout -- Tyrone Mears appeared to handle a Castillo shot, but referee Kevin Stott waved the appeals away -- and infused the Sounders with belief as they searched for a second. Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei dove bravely to thwart David Texeira inside the goal area as both teams searched for a winner.
Dempsey eventually provided it from a set piece three minutes from the end. His curling effort from the outside of the penalty area left Gonzalez with no chance and rounded off the Sounders comeback in some style. There is still considerable work ahead of the second leg, but Dempsey’s critical second gives the Sounders a narrow advantage to protect heading into the return match in Frisco next Sunday.