Playing a man down for the final 37 minutes, the Sounders manned up to prevail 1-0 over a weak Houston Dynamo squad Saturday night in a disjointed game at the Clink (39,860) that barely moved the needle on Seattle’s recent mediocre play.
Despite the returns of Clint Dempsey (hamstring) Obafemi Martins (quadriceps), midfielder Osvaldo Alonso (groin surgery) and central defender Chad Marshall (neck), all missing from the previous 0-0 draw in Dallas, the Sounders managed only a single shot on goal in the first half.
But it was a dandy.
In the 39th minute, Lamar Neagle offered a back-heel pass to Dempsey, who pushed a pass ahead to Martins blasting down the right flank inside the box. As defender Jermaine Taylor approached, Martins executed a 360-degree pirouette that cleared him for a clean shot inside the near post past GK Tyler Deric, who committed to the far post.
But aside from a 72nd-minute weave by Alonso, in his first seasonal start (73 minutes), through five Houston defenders, only to tip the shot off a diving Deric over the crossbar, the Sounders attack isn’t together.
The defense, however, is grinding, with the third shutout in the first four games for the Sounders (2-1-1), although the Dynamo (1-2-2) has scored only two goals this season and has the fewest shots (nine) in MLS. Houston has been goal-free for 259 minutes.
The drama ratcheted up in the 56th minute when Gonzalo Pineda was given a red card for a knee into the chest of Houston’s Ricardo Clark. But because Pineda was airborne and trying to bring down a ball with no awareness of Clark closing on him, the call made little sense.
The setback proved of little consequence Saturday, although Pineda must sit out the next game in Los Angeles against the Galaxy at 4 p.m. April 12.
Houston did bring some heat in the final 10 minutes. but the Sounders didn’t budge in franchise’s 200th MLS game (96-55-49), improving to 5-3-2 against the Dynamo, newly returned to the Western Conference. Last season, Houston fell to 11-17-6 and missed the playoffs.
The Sounders were coming off a draw that saw an MLS first: Neither team had a shot on frame.