Just in case you thought Clint Dempsey was going to single-handedly fix everything that has ever ailed the Seattle Sounders, this game was a harsh reminder that he's not quite superhuman. I mean, he might prove to be once he's practiced for a few days in a row, but right now he's not. And he certainly wasn't enough to keep the Sounders from losing 3-1 to the Houston Dynamo on Saturday.
What's funny about this one is that while the scoreline suggests it was no so dissimilar to the losses to Real Salt Lake or the LA Galaxy, the statistics tell a different story. The Sounders actually tied a season-high with 20 shots and easily had enough opportunities to score four goals. On another day, this very well could have ended up as a Sounders win.
Of course, it didn't, and there's ample reason why.
The biggest was that for all those chances, Tally Hall only had to make two saves. One of them came on a wide open shot from Marc Burch that Hall tipped over the crossbar. The other was on one of Dempsey's four shots, which was right at Hall. The Sounders missed at least two wide open headers. They had nine shots from inside the penalty area. They hit a ball off the goalpost. It was actually kinda ridiculous how many good looks they had and how few of them ultimately led to anything.
The Sounders actually had 54 percent of the possession, completed 83 percent of their passes, won 52 percent of the duels and had a better completion percentage on passes inside the offensive half and offensive third than the Dynamo did. Oh, and they were short three of their top offensive players, too.
But they also gave up two early goals and were forced to scramble the rest of the night. This is often what happens when you dig yourself a hole like that.
The good news is that the big picture doesn't really change. While a win would have been nice, this was not a game anyone circled at the start of the year as a "likely win." The Sounders are technically out of the playoffs right now, but that's not a huge concern as they still have two games in hand on virtually everyone and have the third best points per game figure in the West. A win on Saturday against the Portland Timbers could potentially give them the best PPG in the league.
Sooner or later, though, this team needs to figure out who they are. Right now, they are a bad road team and a dominant team at home. We can accept that for at least one more week.
HOU - Giles Barnes (Brad Davis) 21'
SEA - Shalrie Joseph (Marc Burch) 65'
HOU - Will Bruin (Brad Davis) 74'
Seattle Sounders FC - Michael Gspurning, DeAndre Yedlin, Patrick Ianni, Djimi Traore (Zach Scott 82), Leo Gonzalez, Mauro Rosales (Brad Evans 62), Osvaldo Alonso, Shalrie Joseph, Marc Burch (Eriq Zavaleta 85), Lamar Neagle, Clint Dempsey.
TOTAL SHOTS: 20 (2 players, 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (Dempsey, 2); FOULS: 10 (4 players, 2); OFFSIDE: 2 (2 players, 1); CORNER KICKS: 9 (2 players, 3); SAVES: 1 (Gspurning, 1).
Houston Dynamo - Tally Hall, Kofi Sarkodie, Bobby Boswell, Jermaine Taylor, Corey Ashe, Boniek Garcia, Adam Moffat, Ricardo Clark (Warren Creavalle 39), Brad Davis (Andrew Driver 82), Will Bruin, Giles Barnes (Cam Weaver 73).
TOTAL SHOTS: 16 (Bruin, 5); SHOTS ON GOAL: 4 (Barnes, 2); FOULS: 10 (Garcia, 3); OFFSIDE: 5 (Barnes, 3); CORNER KICKS: 4 (Davis, 3); SAVES: 2 (Hall, 2).
SEA - Leo Gonzalez (caution) 43'
HOU - Boniek Garcia (caution) 83'
Referee: Baldomero Toledo
Referee's Assistants: Peter Balciunas, Kevin Klinger
4th Official: Daniel Fitzgerald
Time of Game: 1:50
Weather: Clear and 88-degrees
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial
* The loss was Seattle's first since a 2-0 loss at San Jose on July 13, snapping a four-match (3-0-1) unbeaten run and three-match winning streak.
* The all-time series with Houston is now tied at 3-3-2, and both teams have scored 11 goals. Sounders FC has not been held scoreless by the Dynamo and the road team has not won in eight regular-season meetings.
* Shalrie Joseph scored his first goal for Sounders FC. He last scored on August 29, 2012, tallying two goals for Chivas USA in a 3-3 draw against the New England Revolution. Joseph now sits 21stamongst active players with 40 career goals.
* Shalrie Joseph became the 10th Sounders FC player score in MLS play this season, and 36th player in club history to score a goal.
* Marc Burch recorded his first assist of the season, and fourth since joining Sounders FC last season. Burch now has 14 career assists.
* Clint Dempsey made his first start for Sounders FC. It marked his first MLS regular season start since October 14, 2006, with the New England Revolution.
* Goalkeeper Michael Gspurning made his first start since suffering a forearm injury on July 13. Shalrie Joseph made his first start since July 6 and it was Marc Burch's first start since July 28.
* Seattle's 20 total shots matched the season high set on July 28 against Chivas USA.
Seattle Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid
Thoughts on the match
Obviously we gave up some goals early, I thought our body language early in the game wasn't good and we handed them opportunities early. The first goal was a little bit of a mistake on our part, the second goal the guy hits a great goal and there's nothing that you can do. After that, though, I thought we were as much in the game as they were. It's easily a game that could have been 3-3 or 4-4 based on the chances that we had if we finish our chances.
Thoughts on Michael Gspurning's performance
It was okay. I think there's nothing you can do on the second goal. He looked stranded on the first one and the third one the guy has an open header off the post and it's a scramble.
Impact of the Dynamo's third goal
We felt confident we could get to 2-2, and we talked about it at halftime and obviously their third goal took a little bit of wind out of the sails. But I still thought we continued to fight and battle. I think we hit the post after that, Lamar [Neagle] hit the post; [Brad] Evans has an open header that he puts wide from inside the box. So we continued to create chances and I don't think we hung our heads.
Seattle Sounders forward Clint Dempsey
On his fitness level
You gotta play games to get fitness, so far I've only played two competitive games since I was off with the national team. It's good to get my first 90 minutes, and fitness is getting there and still working on that sharpness, that final shot in front of goal was lacking a little bit tonight. I like to think that I could have put at least one of those opportunities away.
On returning to his native Texas
It's always good to come back to Texas. I had all my family here, so that was great. Obviously we didn't get the right result but it was good for me to get my first 90, it's been a while since I got my first 90. I think the last time that I got it was with the national team. Fitness is getting there, still working on sharpness, I'd like to put one of those chances I had tonight away. But all in all, I thought we created chances and we just gotta build upon that. The last goal we conceded I thought was weak. We can't conceded goals like that if we want to get points.
On integrating himself into a new squad
You have to work on things and see what your best rhythm's going to be. When you have injuries or suspensions it always makes these things more difficult. It was good to get 90 minutes, I'm still trying to catch form and get caught up to speed. Everybody's midseason now where I've been off for a while. But I'm feeling good where I'm at and hopefully I just keep getting better and better.
Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Michael Gspurning
On the first goal
It was a weird situation because in the beginning you didn't see if the ball is coming through or not. Then the ball bounces from his leg a little to the outside and I thought ‘oh, maybe that's far enough for him not to do anything' and that's the reason I come out. I can't come out in front of him because I didn't want to risk a penalty, then wanted to go back. He made it clever, stopped the ball and passed it back to another guy who was free, then a good strike into the goal.
On the second goal
The second one was a nice strike. What should I say? The ball went right through Pat [Ianni]'s leg. I try to reach everything but I wasn't able to reach it.
How did you feel?
I was ready to be back today. That's no excuse for today, that we conceded three goals. I was ready to play. I'm missing a little bit of the rhythm of the game, but that's normal after four week's break. We have to move on for next week, it's a big game.
Houston Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear
Thoughts on the match
It was an entertaining game, I know that. The first 30 minutes were probably the best 30 minutes we've played this year. I thought we looked excellent. Giles scored a good goal and followed up with a great goal. Seattle crept into the game and had some chances and so did we. I thought we could've been 3-0 up and possibly more. It was a good game, lot of chances on both sides. It was entertaining and nerve-racking at the same time for both sets of fans. It's a great three points for us.
What was different about the first 30 minutes?
I think our overall play. I think we were excellent on both sides of the ball. When we lost it I think we hunted it down. Look at the two goals we scored it came from winning the ball in midfield and playing forward. I thought we were very aggressive with our overall play on both sides of it. Obviously Giles [Barnes] found some good gaps in the middle of the field, but it was the entry passes from Adam [Moffat] and Brad [Davis] and Ricardo [Clark] and Boniek [Garcia] that makes those effective. I thought we were winning the ball and our first pass was forward and we followed it up. Defended well, attacked great and that's the reason why we were winning 2-0 at the time.
On dealing with Clint Dempsey
As the game wore on he started to drop into difficult positions. The guy's a smart player. We talked about it in the film and talk before the game, he's not really a true center forward. He's a guy that bounces off the back four and tries to find those gaps. He's clever and has good awareness and can turn himself out of some tight situations. He found himself on the end of some good looks. He makes good late runs. You try your best. They have a good team. They're going to get their chances, you can't keep them quiet for an entire 90 minutes, especially with players like him in there. As long as we're aware of him and make sure we got pressure when he got the ball that was the job.
On the second effort of the team
I think our goals came down to some good second effort. Will [Bruin]'s play to keep with the play was fantastic and even Brad's follow up on the header was good because it keeps the ball alive for Will to get that tap in. I thought our second effort can reap some good rewards and I thought Will's good play was a great first touch and set up the goals great.
Houston Dynamo forward Giles Barnes
Thoughts on the match
I thought we came out the blocks flying. It was important to get a good start when we're at home. To get the two goals early it knocked the wind out of them. I thought we kept the ball well. I thought we were organized, so from us I thought it was a good night.
Importance of getting the second goal
When you get the first goal in any game you look to get second goal to kind of kill their vibe. We thought if we did that it would make it a bit of a hill for them to climb.
Confidence derived from scoring
It's always nice to get on the score sheet, but first and foremost your confidence comes from playing well with the team and working hard with the team. If you work hard you'll get your rewards and hopefully that's what I'm doing. I'm working hard and the rewards will come.
Houston Dynamo midfielder Adam Moffat
On the team's start
I think we did come out with a little bit more energy than we have. It's been a problem of ours that we haven't been scoring early. We got a goal early, which helped. I think we pressed a little higher up the field and got a in dangerous spots and were a little more decisive. For us I think it was just being a little sharper out of the box.
On Clint Dempsey's night
He was looking to get on it. I think he was getting a little frustrated at the end because he wasn't getting the balls. He's a quality player. If me that's marking him you've just got to make sure to stay with him at all times. It's hard. Players that are that good make runs. He's a good player and will do well for them. We're happy we go the three points tonight and shut him down.
If Giles Barnes is stealing his thunder for long-range goals
One goal's decent right. He might want to score five or six though. [Laughs] The second one was top class. Great confidence from the forwards scoring goals. When they score goals, good things happen."
Getting on a roll at home
At home we expect to win every single game and we've not done that this year and it's been pretty disappointing. A big part of that was not scoring goals. We created some opportunities but weren't getting the goals. Now they're coming and hopefully the wins will as well.