BY Art Thiel 10:40PM 08/10/2014

Nothing pretty, but Sounders stop losing streak

A sluggish match finally turned the Sounders way in the 69th minute on a goal by Marco Pappa, ending a streak of more than 250 scoreless minutes.

Obafemi Martins agonizes over a missed chance handled by Houston GK Tally Hall. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

In a game as ugly as the CenturyLink pitch, the Sounders finally ran out of excuses, regrouping in the final 20 minutes Sunday to beat Houston 2-0 and reclaim the MLS points lead it lost in the previous 24 hours.

The Sounders (13-6-2) lost three of the previous four games, all by shutouts, to watch their 10-point lead in the West disappear. Another listless result seemed imminent until the 69th minute when Marco Pappa, finding himself unmarked above the box, blasted a shot that deflected off Dynamo defender David Horst as well as the fingertips of GK Tally Hall and into the back of the net.

A semi-bored gathering of 50,276 — the third time this season the Clink was in full use for soccer — came to attention as the Sounders moved to 11-0-3 in front of crowds of 40,000 and to 41 points, two up on Real Salt Lake, which won Saturday night to leapfrog temporarily over Seattle.

“Sometimes when you’re in a little bit of a rut, you sort of have to fight your way through to a victory,” said coach Sigi Schmid. “Sometimes 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.”

It was also MLS win No. 200 in the career of Schmid, already the winningest coach in league history. He had been waiting a month for it, and there was little beyond its fact to make it memorable.

The Clink field provided a suitably grim platform. The stadium hosted an corporate party in the days before the game, and additional rubberized pellets were raked into the turf. But the field turned into a two-toned swirl of ugly green and ugly gray, although the center circle was all ugly gray. It was also made more slippery.

“I think because of the rubber that came off, there was slipping out there, definitely more than usual.,” Schmid said. “The grounds crew did everything they could to make it as good as possible.”

Had the Sounders lost to the lowly Dynamo (6-12-4, including 1-9-1 in their last 11 on the road) the crappy pitch could have added to the list of excuses the Sounders had for their laggard play: injuries, and the interruptions of the World Cup, The Tottenham friendly, the MLS All-Star break, the U.S. Open Cup, etc.

Or they could just admit they let up after the big lead.

But Pappa’s shot, free of build-up or organization, nevertheless went in and changed the narrative.  Six minutes later, most doubt was removed after a penalty kick from Gonzalo Pineda, whose shot was captured momentarily by Hall, only to lose control and bounce into the goal. The foul was on Ricardo Clark, who grabbed Obafemi Martins by the arm in the area and spun him down.

In the 86th minute, Martins drew his second yellow card for a tackle from behind of Brad Davis, signaling his ejection and loss for the next MLS game Saturday at Real Salt Lake.

The match was the first of three in six days for Seattle, which has five in the next 14. They were helped by the return of defender Chad Marshall, who missed the previous two games with back and neck soreness after a traffic accident.

But he had no hand in the defensive play of the game, which belonged to GK Stefan Frei, who in her 26th minute guessed correctly on a PK by Brad Davis, diving left to catch the shot that Davis began with a stutter step.

The defense remained shorthanded because DeAndre Yedlin was watching from a Clink suite. The MLS All-Star and World Cupper was given the game off after returning Saturday from a 10,000-mile round trip to London, where Tottenham is bidding for his services. ESPN’s Alexi Lalas reported that the Sounders are negotiating a transfer that allows Yedlin to finish the MLS season before reporting to the EPL.

The Sounders meet Chicago in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila, then Saturday at Real Salt Lake.


  • Kirkland

    My seat mates and I were wondering what must’ve taken place at the CLink to cause that bad field; concert, motor cross, something else? Those Amazonians must be real party animals to muck up the field like that. Besom owes the Sounders a sponsorship deal for this, the team’s getting trashed on the soccer purists sites for the field even more than they usually do.

    Very surprised at Houston’s nosedive this year, they’re consistently one of the league’s best. They’ll rebound next year, especially with a full season of Damarcus Beasley; the Sounders didn’t score until they took off Lamar Neagle, whom kept getting torched by Beasley.

    • art thiel

      I think the field was covered with a protective surface (plywood)? that mashed it. But recovery was not good

      • Halfrack

        I thought there was a fancy plywood that has stand offs so as to not crush the green fibers. I pity the fools who bid on any remodel/update job at CLink this upcoming NFL offseason – they’ll get what 3-4 weeks between a NFC Championship and the start of MLS?

        Oh, and Houston will be back in conference next season with 2 clubs joining the East.

  • jafabian

    Gotta feel for Houston. The Astros, Texans and Dynamo are all less than stellar. If it weren’t for the Rockets they’d probably top the Forbes list of saddest sports city.
    A win is a win though the club seemed to be missing some energy. Playing without Martins in the next match will be difficult but at least Yedlin will be back.

    • Kirkland

      Houston will never catch Cleveland. The Astros were in the World Series less than a decade ago, the Dynamo is in MLS Cup every other year (and won it the first two seasons they were in Houston), and how can you not love J.J. Watt?

      Regardless, I’m sure glad Seattle’s not in that conversation anymore.

  • Beacon Hill Pasta Boy

    Yep, the match was pretty ugly but the pitch was worse. Very slick and visually hideous. Shameful.Thanks Jeff Bezos. If the Sounders truly want to be the world class operation they aspire to, they need a grass pitch. Yes, I know what that means and I’m fine with it.

  • Joe Fan

    I do not understand why our world class stadium that is used by the best teams in their respective sports does not have the very best in artificial surface technology. This is getting embarrassing. We know that grass is probably not going to work – lets make sure our artificial surface is the best in the business.

    • Kirkland

      Football and soccer sharing the same Field Turf will always be problematic; football players prefer a harder surface so the linemen can get traction, soccer players want a softer turf so the ball bounces more like it does on grass. That said, I’ll definitely take what the CLink has now over that thin stuff from the Kingdome era.

      • RadioGuy

        I never thought the Kingdome should’ve been replaced (renovated, perhaps, but not imploded), but Fieldturf is far, far better than Astroturf ever was under the roof.

        • art thiel

          I argued for a remodeled Kingdome, but given how the sports-specific stadiums have worked out, I was wrong. Aside from esthetics, the Kingdome had few bathrooms and no place on site to cook food. Everything eaten in that building was cooked elsewhere and warmed over.

      • art thiel

        You have explained the dilemma with turf. And it does wear out. I believe it’s scheduled for replacement after next year. But the expiration date is closer than that.