The end of a losing streak justifies the means.
The Sounders are still working their way back to their best play after a two-game skid. Houston held its own for long stretches of Sunday night’s match, and even the CenturyLink Field turf looked haggard.
But two penalties — one saved, one converted — and a deflected strike changed the game. And Seattle began its run of six matches in 20 days with a gritty, 2-0 victory in front of 50,276 fans at CenturyLink.
“Sometimes when you’re in a little bit of a rut, sometimes you have to fight your way through to a victory,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said.
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“It’s not as artistic as you want it to be, or as beautiful as you want it to be, but it’s a little bit of rolling up the sleeves and fighting.”
Sunday marked Schmid’s 200th career MLS victory. He earned his 125th victory in 2009 to become the league’s all-time leader in coaching victories. He is 32 wins ahead of Bruce Arena, who is second on the all-time list.
The win lifted the Sounders (13-6-2) back atop the Western Conference and overall standings with 41 points.
Though Lamar Neagle and Obafemi Martins came out swinging in the Seattle attack, Houston was the more steady threat for the first half-hour.
By the time Boniek Garcia earned the Dynamo a penalty kick with a drive that hit Djimi Traore’s arm in the 25th minute, Houston deserved to be in front on number of chances alone.
Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei disagreed.
Brad Davis stutter-stepped on his way up to take the kick, but Frei didn’t blink. And he pawed Davis’ soft shot out of the bottom corner to give Seattle a reprieve.
“It kept us in the game,” Seattle defender Chad Marshall said. “At 1-0, Houston is a good possession team. They can keep the ball. … It was huge for us to stay in the game.”
The Sounders didn’t immediately take advantage — the action, in fact, stayed tilted toward the Seattle goal, and Ricardo Clark was inches from opening the scoring with a header off a corner kick in the 32nd minute.
But slowly, steadily, Seattle worked itself into the game.
Martins and Clint Dempsey took turns making solo runs into the box, slaloming through defenders, fighting through contact.
Marco Pappa’s goal came in the 69th minute and off a deflected shot from the edge of the box. It felt like the defining moment — an appropriate one at that — until another followed five minutes later.
Clark tugged on Martins in the center of the box, and the referee called a penalty. Just like Frei earlier, Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall got a hand to Gonzalo Pineda’s spot kick. But his deflection wasn’t strong enough, and the ball bounced off the turf and into the net.
There were 34 combined fouls and six yellow cards — two of them for Martins — two penalties and a deflected strike.
Seattle’s offensive rhythm was still lacking, even in the second half.
“We’re still missing a little bit on our passes,” Schmid said. “Sometimes, our game is still a little bit narrow.”
But the losing streak is over.