BY: Karen Watson
SEATTLE – A couple of early rapid fire goals lifted the Sounders to a 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo, and a strong defensive performance by the home side earned goalkeeper Michael Gspurning his first MLS shut out.
Coach Sigi Schmid was forced to make few changes to the lineup that impressively handled Toronto in the MLS home opener last Saturday, replacing Mauro Rosales with Roger Levesque and Adam Johansson with Zach Scott. Rosales picked up a minor knee sprain late in the Toronto match and Johansson is out with a hamstring injury.
Once again David Estrada came up big; scoring in the 22’ after Dynamo defender Geoff Cameron had a disastrous clearance sending the ball right to the waiting Sounders forward. Estrada fired off the shot, which was deflected off the unlucky Cameron before landing in the far corner of the net. This was Estrada’s fourth goal in two MLS matches.
The league’s official scorer initially ruled it an own goal but later awarded it to Estrada after a review by MLS officials during the second half. Last week’s hat trick phenom chalked it up to a bit of luck but Schmid again touched on Estrada’s work rate saying, “when you work hard, you get rewarded.”
On the heels of that goal the Sounders were awarded a penalty in the 26’ after Patrick Ianni was pulled down by Cameron on a header attempt from a corner. Referee Baldomero Toledo had a clear view of the incident and didn’t hesitate in giving the penalty kick to Seattle which was then converted by midfielder Brad Evans. After taking a long run up, Evans smashed the ball past Houston keeper Tally Hall who had guessed the right direction but just couldn’t get a hand on it.
During the opening twenty minutes of play the Sounders did a poor job of maintaining possession and gave the ball away easily, but two goal insurance seemed to settle the home side and it was as if the roles were reversed for the rest of the match. While Seattle developed a rhythm and did a terrific job of breaking thru in the box, Houston had trouble finding space and simply weren’t able to get forward. Brian Ching and Brad Davis, the Dynamo’s two most dangerous players, were effectively shut down by the lack of service from their own team mates.
Houston only had one real scoring opportunity in the 17’ when Will Bruin fired a shot from straight on the goal but Gspurning made the save, punching the ball away to right and over the cross bar. The Sounders defense had a strong showing as well, continually stripping Houston of the ball. For the Dynamo, the story remained much the same after the break and Seattle’s goal never really came under threat in the second half.
The Dynamo went with the strategy of clogging up the middle by throwing defensive resources into central midfield, continually leaving space on the wings where the Sounders were able to push forward. Evans, along with Levesque and Scott made several runs out of midfield down the left side, utilizing the acres of space provided by Houston’s back four.
“I knew the game wasn’t going to be pretty. You bring in guys like Roger and Zach and you know they are going to battle – they’re going to go for every header, every tackle. We loose a little bit of that creativity on the right but we get the defensive advantage,” commented Evans after the match.
“I thought we showed a very good resiliency. We scored our two goals, I was pleased with the way our team came in and battled and the way they played today.” Schmid praised the team in his post-match press conference. Seattle next plays the San Jose Earthquakes at home on March 31.
In other club news, the Sounders have bought out the remainder of forward O’Brien White’s contract who continues to suffer from blood clots in his legs and prevented him from playing since the middle of last season.