The Seattle Sounders' trio of Raul Ruidiaz, Jordan Morris and Nicolas Lodeiro showed during a dominant victory in the opening round of the Western Conference playoffs why they were named to MLS's Best XI.
The second-seeded Sounders, the defending MLS Cup champions, will look to continue their postseason run Tuesday night when they host FC Dallas in the Western Conference semifinals.
Sixth-seeded Dallas knocked off third-seeded Portland in the first round, prevailing 8-7 in penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw. Playing on the road, Dallas tied the score in second-half stoppage time with a goal by 17-year-old Ricardo Pepi.
Ruidiaz had a goal and two assists and Seattle's two MVP finalists, Morris and Lodeiro, had a goal and an assist apiece in the 3-1 victory last week against visiting Los Angeles FC.
"Those three players stepped it up for them, and have stepped it up for them consistently," FC Dallas coach Luchi Gonzalez said. "And when one is missing or one is off or two are off, the other seems to fill the void. So that's important for us to recognize."
This will be the first meeting of the season between the two stingiest defensive teams in the West. Seattle allowed 23 goals while Dallas gave up 24.
Their last matchup was in the 2019 playoffs, when the host Sounders came away with a 4-3 overtime victory as Morris scored a hat trick.
"We've had our rivalry with Seattle in the playoffs for the last seven years, seeing them often. It's been often that we've lost to them and they've gone on and won the entire thing," FC Dallas defender Ryan Hollingshead said. "We see this really as the hardest matchup we have for the rest of the playoffs. ... It's weird not seeing them at all this year. We'll (watch) video, we'll know what we have to do to win, and we'll be ready for it."
Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said he felt relieved with the victory against LAFC after watching the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference -- Philadelphia and Toronto -- get eliminated in the first round.
"This is MLS, I mean this is like 2020, it's crazy," Schmetzer said. "The team performed up to their level against a quality opponent. Now you've got a (regular-) season ending win against San Jose, you've got a first playoff game win against a tough opponent, and we're starting to build some momentum."
--Field Level Media