David Estrada shrugs his shoulders after scoring his fourth goal of the season. (Chris Coulter/SoundersPhotos.com)
David Estrada did it again. No, he wasn't the Man of the Match -- that was undoubtedly someone on the defensive side of the ball -- but he scored the Sounders' opening goal for the third time this season. He also picked up his third game-winner, this one a strike form the top of the penalty area that was on target, but deflected off a Houston Dynamo defender that put the Sounders up 1-0. They never relinquished that lead and the Sounders won 2-0 on Friday night in front of a national TV audience.
Following his goal, Estrada gave a simple shoulder shrug. He admitted, it's just kinda going that way right now.
"Everything that I hit is going in," said Estrada, who now has four goals in four career MLS starts. "It's luck, but I work so hard for it and thankfully it went in."
It was not necessarily the prettiest game from Estrada or the Sounders. After going up by two goals following Brad Evans' successful penalty -- which came just four minutes after Estrada's goal -- the Sounders seemed content to defend and wait for counter-strike opportunities. They did come up with at least two good chances in the second half, but Roger Levesque pushed Alvaro Fernandez's absolutely perfect cross wide and Fernandez was just high on his attempt off a Fredy Montero pass.
The Sounders ultimately put just two shots on frame -- their two goals -- and were outshot 9-7. They also yielded 55 percent of the possession to the Dynamo, who attempted nearly 100 more passes despite playing on the road. The Sounders did win the majority of duels, which seemed to be indicative of a game plan that was heavier on matching grit than on winning any beauty pageants.
Along those lines, coach Sigi Schmid opted to go with a right side of Roger Levesque and Zach Scott, two players known more for their work-rates than their skill. Schmid also pulled a bit of a surprising by starting Patrick Ianni again over Jeff Parke, something he chalked up to wanting to stick with a winning hand.
"It's Patrick's old team, so you're always a little more motivated, a little more geared up to play your old team," Schmid said. "He knows [Houston forward Brian] Ching - he's trained against him on a daily basis for a lot of years. So we felt that familiarity and based upon the fact that we got a good result last week we didn't want to change the middle pair."
Schmid's hunch paid off, as Ianni again had a solid game in front of Michael Gspurning. The goalkeeper, though, was tested on numerous occasions and came up big each time. Gspurning made two saves, but made several other nice plays to earn his first shutout for the Sounders.
This was not a game that lovers of the beautiful game will want to watch again. But it was a sign that this Sounders team may be different than ones of the past. The Sounders clearly had a game plan that was not designed to wow the Dynamo, but they did beat them at their own game. There's a certain kind of beauty in that, too.