Obafemi Martins scored the game's only goal and Seattle weathered a second-half Gonzalo Pineda red card to edge the Houston Dynamo 1-0 on Saturday night at CenturyLink Field.

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Obafemi Martins scored the game’s only goal and Seattle weathered a second-half Gonzalo Pineda red card to edge the Houston Dynamo 1-0 on Saturday night at CenturyLink Field.

Here are my first impressions:

– Obafemi Martins personified the first half …

Martins struck an exasperated figure in the early moments of Saturday’s match. The Seattle forward gestured to teammates, threw up his hands at each missed passing lane.

The game itself was choppy, with lengthy injury delays killing the rhythm. Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei got his ankle stepped on by an onrushing Giles Barnes but was able to continue. Houston defender Raul Rodriguez took an elbow to the head from his own ‘keeper, Tyler Deric, and could not, getting substituted out 26 minutes in.

Neither team completed more than 75 percent of its passes in the opening 45 minutes. But when the goal came, it was worth the wait.

Martins gathered a pass from teammate Clint Dempsey on the edge of the Dynamo box and charged into it. He churned around Jermaine Taylor with a 360-degree spin move the finished inside the back post.

For all its frustrating moments, the defining image of the first half was a trademark Martins backflip in front of the away-fans section.

– … and Gonzalo Pineda’s red card characterized the second

The Sounders were cruising right along toward their second win of the young season when Gonzalo Pineda caught Ricardo Clark in the chest with a high boot in the 56th minute.

Referee Ted Unkel initially pulled out a yellow card, but its appropriate color was evident from the groan that arose from the 39,860 spectators on hand at the moment of contact. Unkel corrected himself, Pineda began the long walk to the sidelines and Seattle was forced to play the final 34 minutes of the game a man down.

The Dynamo steadily turned up the pressure, waiting for the mistake that could lead to a tying goal. Barnes momentarily stopped hearts on one side of the stadium, at least, but his curling free kick found only side netting with 10 minutes to go.

Houston finished the game with a 15-5 edge in shots, but the Seattle defense held firm — boosted by late reinforcements in veteran Zach Scott and Leo Gonzalez — and the Sounders were able to hang onto the full three points.

– The Sounders are approaching full strength

A week after injuries and international duty robbed Seattle of five of its regular starters, all but Marco Pappa – who played in 80 minutes of Guatemala’s draw with El Salvador on Tuesday – returned to the lineup on Saturday.

Martins and Dempsey resumed normal programming up top. Chad Marshall, the 2014 MLS defender of the year, returned to the back line. And perhaps most importantly of all, Osvaldo Alonso rejoined the Seattle midfield.

Team captain Brad Evans calls Alonso the squad’s “engine room,” the guy who makes everything else go, and his absence while recovering from preseason groin surgery has been felt. Alonso provided a steadying influence on Saturday, directing traffic, sweeping the ball from one side of the field to the other.

It has been an odd start for the Sounders ever since opening night.

Coach Sigi Schmid missed the team’s second match, the home loss to San Jose. Then came the unnecessary early bye week and the Dallas match that was characterized more by the lineup scratches than anything else.

“It’s nice when you can settle into a groove,” Schmid said earlier this week. “For us, the beginning of the season has been a little bit disjointed – especially for me, a little bit moreso than the rest of the guys.

“It’ll be nice to get into a rhythm of three or four games and be able to play your guys.”

The season is nearly a month old. But only now can the Sounders truly start to build with their first-choice lineup.