This final week-and-a-half of the regular season could now get very nervous indeed.
The 10-man Sounders were unable to clinch a postseason berth on Wednesday night at CenturyLink Field, instead getting held to a 0-0 draw by the Houston Dynamo after Osvaldo Alonso picked up a second-half red card.
These are my first impressions:
– Seattle left the door wide open.
The Sounders started Wednesday’s match on the verge of a playoff spot, needing only a home win against a last-place team to ensure their qualification. 90 minutes later, their standing is suddenly much dicier.
Most Read Sports Stories
- Michael Penix Jr.’s special season culminates in Huskies' Apple Cup win, postgame family reunion
- By winning an all-time Apple Cup shootout, Huskies become an all-time team
- After brilliant Apple Cup outing, Michael Penix Jr. has secured his status among Husky legends
- Seahawks announce throwback uniforms in 2023
- Apple Cup aftermath: Huskies plant imaginary flag in Pullman, Odunze and McMillan's milestone and more
Seattle (13-13-6) still has a four-point buffer between it and seventh-place Portland. But with a trip to first-place Dallas on tap this Sunday, should the Timbers and Sporting Kansas City keep the pressure on, this final week-and-a-half of the regular season could get very nervous indeed.
– For a second straight match, the Sounders were forced to dig deep.
Last Sunday at BC Place, it was Alvaro Fernandez pulling his hamstring less than 10 minutes into the match. On Wednesday night, it was Andreas Ivanschitz hobbling off with a strained right knee with less than a quarter of an hour gone, pulling his jersey over an anguished face.
Seattle’s depth was already being tested to the point that Tony Alfaro was forced to make his first career start out of position. The rookie out of Cal State Dominguez Hills deputizing ably at left back with Joevin Jones and Oniel Fisher both away at international duty, Brad Evans suspended and Dylan Remick out with a concussion.
Houston plays an unapologetically brutish brand of soccer. It beats you up, and it forces you to break them down. The Dynamo tallied 11 fouls in the first half to Seattle’s two, while sharing less than 30 percent of the possession.
Houston maintained enough of an attacking threat to set the home crowd on edge, too, from Will Bruin’s first-half pile-driver to Keyner Brown’s header off the crossbar early in the second half.
– For a second straight match, a veteran put his teammates in a tough spot.
In Vancouver, it was Brad Evans getting sent off shortly after scoring the game-winning goal for head-butting the air in the direction of an opponent.
Alonso’s red card in the 64th minute of Wednesday’s match was much more clear-cut. Maybe Bruin should have been sent off, too, after the pair of them tussled on the far side of the field, but Alonso clearly grabbed the Dynamo forward’s face and neck.
“The playoffs are coming. We have to be prepared to make sure that all of the players stay on the field. …. We need to make sure we understand that in the heat of the moment, we have to remain calm.”
That was Schmetzer on Evans last week, but it could easily apply to another one of his veteran leaders who lost his cool in another big game.
– Both goalkeepers had themselves a night.
Stefan Frei hasn’t had much to do lately, with the quickly coalescing defensive partnership of Chad Marshall and Roman Torres cleaning up most opposing chances before they even reached Seattle’s box.
But Seattle’s athletic shot-stopper rose to the challenge and Bruin’s powerful drive midway through the first half, diving to get just enough of a finger on the ball to deflect it off the left post. Frei’s intervention kept the score knotted at a point when Houston was starting to grow in daring and confidence.
His wasn’t even the best save of the first half. At the other end of the field, Houston’s Joe Willis first got a big paw to Erik Friberg’s close-range chip then hustled to bat the follow-up attempt wide, too.
The match entered the intermission scoring not for the lack of action, but for a couple of standout plays by the players standing between the pipes.