The Seattle Sounders secured a spot in the Western Conference Semifinal after a professional team win over FC Dallas Friday night.
While it was necessary for the Sounders squad to work together as a collective to emerge victorious, a standout performance from center midfielder João Paulo was a crucial factor in the team’s success over the course of the 90 minutes.
“JP’s contributions a lot of the time go unnoticed,” said Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. “He was into the game, he was fired up and he worked hard.”
The Brazilian midfielder’s impact was undeniable on both sides of the pitch. Offensively, he posted two key passes, three successful dribbles, three shots, and 15 passes into the final third. And when the Sounders needed a moment of magic to break the game open, João Paulo supplied an inch-perfect through-ball assist to Albert Rusnák in the 36th minute, putting the Sounders in the lead just before halftime.
“It was JP’s pass that kind of led me on to the run and it was his pass that was really timed well for me to shoot one time,” said Rusnák.
João Paulo’s defensive efforts came from his ability to track back and shut down opposition in high pressure moments. Not only did he tally 12 recoveries, but he also won 80 percent of his duels throughout his 87 minutes on the pitch.
“He covered a lot of ground and he put his every effort into the game,” said Schmetzer.
His presence in the middle of the pitch ultimately allowed the team to gain control of the match from the get-go. Whether it be the high intensity he displayed from the opening whistle, or the way he was able to dictate the tempo and momentum of the match through his passing and movement off the ball, João Paulo guided the Rave Green to yet another shutout, another home victory, and the opportunity to continue their run in the playoffs.
“That's my job to keep the team connected between the lines,” said João Paulo. “Not just me, but Josh [Atencio] kept the connection between the backline with the guys in front.”
João Paulo and the Sounders resume their postseason journey in two weeks in what will be a do-or-die, single-elimination match against the reigning Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup winners LAFC in the Western Conference Semifinals.
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