The reasons are widely known — injuries and a regional tournament forced juggling with scheduling and lineups — but it doesn’t make the stats any less surprising. For the first time since fall 2021, the Sounders won back-to-back MLS matches. And for the second time this season, striker Raul Ruidiaz scored a league goal.
The Sounders fielded their best possible lineup and for most of the time at PNC Stadium, they played like it in defeating Houston 1-0 on Wednesday. The result helped the Sounders improved to 4-5-1.
“It’s been a hot minute,” said Sounders keeper Stefan Frei of the shutout also being his first MLS clean sheet of the season. The Sounders were unbeaten in CONCACAF Champions League play, Frei collecting four clean sheets.
“Probably not one of the prettiest shutouts, but we’ll take it,” Frei continued. “It was very humid, hot and we were able to get a result in the end. A big three points against a team in our conference.”
The Dynamo (4-5-3) were down a player for the final 36 minutes because of midfielder Adalberto Carrasquilla being shown two yellow cards for bad fouls. Each were for tugging on Sounders players, although there wasn’t a scoring threat, which made the fouls confusing.
Sounders defender Alex Roldan leveled the player count in the 82nd minute by getting two yellow cards in a four-minute span. He’ll be suspended for Sunday’s road match against the Colorado Rapids.
The Sounders didn’t benefit from the brief numbers advantage. Houston, playing its second consecutive match with nine field players, increased their pressure and created multiple chances to level the score.
Frei saved forward Beto Avila’s shot in the 68th minute, while forward Tyler Pasher’s attempt in the 78th minute was high of goal. Frei finished with three saves.
“They spread us out pretty well,” Sounders midfielder Kelyn Rowe said. “They did a very good job of moving us around and creating two-(against)-one that we couldn’t get too much pressure on. Credit to them, they played well. But credit to Frei and the back four for making sure we got the shutout.”
Ruidiaz’s first MLS goal of the season through the run of play was an entertaining buildup that rocked Houston’s defense to sleep. Nouhou had a pass into the box for Nico Lodeiro, the club captain immediately sending the ball around defenders to Jordan Morris at the end line.
The series turned funky with Morris getting a cross back to Alex Roldan in the keeper’s box, the latter getting it to Ruidiaz on the run for the forward to smack into goal with the inside of his right foot. The shot gave the Sounders a 1-0 lead in the 28th minute.
“That’s not an easy ball to have,” Rowe said of Morris’ pass. “Alex played it right on a dime right to Raul, it was a good combination.”
Ruidiaz, who made his third MLS start of the year because of an early hamstring injury, opened up his league scoring with a penalty kick in a win against Minnesota on Sunday. The Peruvian was in the running for MLS’ Golden Boot last season.
Houston had chances in the 23rd minute from Darwin Quintero’s left foot and in the 40th minute from Memo Rodriguez’s left foot. Frei saved the first and the second was wide of goal.
The Dynamo had another daring chance in the 59th minute from inside the box that Frei was able to save.
Three players missed Wednesday’s match because of suspensions. Obed Vargas (Seattle) and Teenage Hadebe (Houston) were because of yellow-card accumulation. Dynamo defender Adam Lundkvist was ejected in his last match, a one-game suspension included in the penalty.
The Sounders remain without defender Jackson Ragen because of health and safety protocols.
Vargas was pegged to replace Joao Paulo (ACL) at center midfielder. In both players’ absence, Rowe was called on to fill the position Wednesday. He was the only lineup change from Sunday’s 3-1 win at Lumen Field against Minnesota.
“Normally a player like Jordan Morris would be held out of a midweek because he’s a sprinter, but we looked at his numbers and he earned a chance to start in a multiple-game week. He’s just one example,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. “For that group to kick the rust off, they needed to go back out there again and show what they can do. That was the reason for keeping basically the same starting lineup.”
Schmetzer added there could be heavy rotation for the Rapids match Sunday. Colorado is also ahead of the Sounders in Western Conference standings.
“It was a bigger game than just about three points; it was closing the gap with teams ahead of us,” Sounders midfielder Albert Rusnak told the broadcast team in a postgame interview. “We’re aware of the fact that we have some games in hand, but they only matter if you take care of business.”