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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Sounders can’t close out playoff series, return home for decisive Game 3

By Jayda Evans Seattle Times

The Sounders FC’s playoff run again laid at the feet of Nouhou.

But instead of it being precision defending and a dazzling assist, Game 2 of the best-of-three opening round series against FC Dallas was a nightmare that ended in the Sounders losing 3-1 Saturday at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

The decisive Game 3 is Friday at Lumen Field in Seattle. The winner will advance to play the winner of the Los Angeles FC-Vancouver Whitecaps FC series. The third-seeded Californians won the opener 5-2 at BMO Stadium. Game 2 is Sunday at BC Place in Vancouver.

Dallas sent notice that a third match between the sides would be necessary before the half-hour mark.

Nouhou laid off Dallas midfielder Bernard Kamungo’s dribble toward the box early in the match. The latter had space to send a cross into the box where Paul Arriola snapped a header past keeper Stefan Frei for the opening goal in the sixth minute.

The stinging play followed a missed opportunity for the Sounders to score in the fifth minute. There, forward Jordan Morris jockeyed for control of the ball at the top of the box and may have thought winger Leo Chu was going to help. Chu didn’t, Dallas regaining possession to nullify the danger.

Nouhou’s errors weren’t over. He was shown a yellow in the 10th minute and then clipped Kamungo in the box during a duel in the 13th minute. VAR signaled referee Rosendo Mendoza to review the play and motioned for a penalty kick. Broadcast replays showed Nouhou didn’t get a touch on the ball.

Dallas forward Jesus Ferreria took the shot and slipped it past Frei in the 18th minute to give his side a 2-0 lead. Ferreria led the club with 12 goals in regular-season play, but the penalty kick was his first score since summer.

With FCD relieved of pressure to get the win, the Sounders were able to have longer possession spells. Albert Rusnak had a shot go wide of goal in the 34th minute, and Joao Paulo had an attempt from deep sail over the cross bar.

But Dallas keeper Maarten Paes wasn’t challenged, and his team entered the break leading 2-0.

Kamungo, who ended the regular season healing an ankle injury, subbed on in Game 2 and tested Nouhou on the left side. Kamungo started in place of forward Jader Obrian.

Dallas coach Nico Estevez was forced to call on midfielder Liam Fraser to start after Argentine playmaker Alan Velasco suffered a season-ending knee injury in Game 1. Estevez also swapped defender Marco Farfan for Sam Junqua.

Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer didn’t make any changes to his starting lineup and stuck with the group after the break.

The team exited the locker rooms in the second half like a ball of fire. Morris bodied Dallas defender Sebastien Ibeagha to make a signature run from behind, also beating Asiter Illarramendi and Nkosi Tafari in the box to use a right-footed toe poke to bury the ball in the back of the net in the 48th minute.

Morris had another run where he beat Paes one-on-one for a goal disallowed for being offside when Sounders midfielder Joao Paulo served the through ball.

Schmetzer started to make his substitutions in the 59th minute when he brought on midfielder Nico Lodeiro for Chu. Ten minutes later, striker Raul Ruidiaz (Josh Atencio) and midfielder Obed Vargas (Joao Paulo) were brought on as the team changed shape.

Ruidiaz thought he earned a penalty in the 75th that could’ve leveled the match. Ferreria blatantly tugged Ruidiaz’s jersey in the box to stop a possible attempt. VAR suggested Mendoza review the play and no penalty was awarded.

Vargas had a near chance from the end line in the 83rd minute and a crowded box in the 87th minute were other missed opportunities for the Sounders to pocket an equalizer. If so, the game would’ve been decided in a penalty-kick shootout.

Instead Obrian, who subbed on in the 83rd minute, dismantled Seattle’s defense for a goal in the 89th minute, thrilling the sold-out crowd.

Sounders are now 0-3-1 in playoff matches in Dallas.