Back in his favored forward position, Jordan Morris was able to get the Sounders a needed win headed into the MLS All-Star break.
Morris, who has played on the right wing this season, was up top when he snagged a poorly defended ball by Houston and flicked a right-footed shot into the net in the 59th minute. Dynamo defender Maynor Figueroa was caught watching the ball slowly cross the goal line, and Seattle went on to a 1-0 win Saturday night at BBVA Stadium.
“I’m just happy to help the team out,” said Morris via audio provided by MLS. It was his fifth goal of the season.
Morris was moved to the forward slot due to Raul Ruidiaz suffering a concussion in the loss against Portland at CenturyLink Field last week. Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer initially downplayed the injury following training at the club’s facility in Tukwila on Wednesday.
Ruidiaz played the full 90 minutes against the Timbers and scored a goal in the 50th minute after the collision occurred in the eighth minute. But he was left home along with defensive midfielder Gustav Svensson (hamstring) and winger Victor Rodriguez (hamstring).
That prompted midfielder Cristian Roldan moving to a rare position for him along the right wing and left back Brad Smith going to the opposite wing. Mainstay Harry Shipp was substituted for Smith in the 31st minute because of an apparent groin injury.
A halftime adjustment actually moved Morris to the left side of the field and center midfielder Nico Lodeiro forward. The two played well off each other, giving Morris space to work and ultimately score.
“I felt like I was on an island a little bit,” said Morris of the lining up in the traditional spot of a forward against Houston’s defense in the first half. “To move out left helped a little bit just in terms of getting the ball more and taking people on.”
Unlike in the loss to Portland, the Sounders intensified their defense after Morris’ score. The Timbers scored their game-winner one minute after Ruidiaz’s equalizer.
Nouhou was a highlight defensively. He made his fifth start of the season as part of the shuffling due to injuries and matchups.
“It was a collective team effort in a really tough environment,” Morris said.
There were multiple hydration breaks in the match due to temperatures that were 89 degrees at kickoff. The weather is likely why the clubs were sloppy and lethargic to open the game.
Shipp had the team’s best scoring opportunity in the first half, in the 36th minute, off a feed from Roldan. The shot grazed the outside of the net. The attempt was one of three for the Sounders in the opening half.
Houston had 10 shot attempts before halftime. Sounders defender Nouhou headed away the most threatening one in stoppage time.
With the win, Seattle (11-6-5, 38 points) swept Houston this season and remains in a tight race with the Los Angeles Galaxy (37 points with a late game Saturday) for second in the Western Conference. Houston (9-10-3) is outside the playoff picture with 30 points.
MLS is on break to host its All-Star Game in Orlando on Wednesday. Lodeiro is Seattle’s sole representative.
“We did well,” Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei said via audio provided by MLS. “Defensively, it’s very difficult when you’re playing in a hot place like this because as you continue to sweat, that mental lapse is happening. … That was the tricky today, try to stay focused and not let something stupid happen and (we) were sharp.”