Earlier in the season, a seven-game unbeaten streak including a couple of road trips would be seen as a very good stretch. But the players, the coaches, the fans wanted more from this one. The win to clinch the playoff spot didn't come, and the Sounders admit they lacked some sharpness and cohesion in Houston.
Again, a bad pass out of the back gifted the opposition a great chance for the opening goal, and Ricardo Clark capitalized (although he was a little lucky to see his shot squeeze past three defenders). Again, Obafemi Martins clawed a goal back late on, and Andreas Ivanschitz gets his first Major League Soccer assist.
This is hardly a team catching fire before the playoffs, but they are consistently finding results. And now it comes down to the last match.
Venue: BBVA Compass Stadium
Referee: Edvin Jurisevic
Assistants: Ian Anderson, Kathryn Nesbitt
Fourth Official: Juan Guzman
Weather: Sunny and 82 degrees
SCORING SUMMARYHOU - Ricardo Clark (Brad Davis) 65'
SEA - Obafemi Martins (Andreas Ivanschitz) 82'
MISCONDUCT SUMMARYSEA - Gonzalo Pineda (caution) 40'
SEA - Andreas Ivanschitz (caution) 55'
HOU - Luis Gariddo (caution) 64'
SEA - Chad Barrett (caution) 71'
LINEUPS & STATSSeattle Sounders FC - Stefan Frei; Tyrone Mears, Brad Evans - captain, Chad Marshall, Dylan Remick (Zach Scott 82'); Erik Friberg (Andy Rose 62'), Osvaldo Alonso, Gonzalo Pineda (Chad Barrett 68'), Andreas Ivanschitz; Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins
Substitutes not used: Troy Perkins, Leo Gonzalez, Cristian Roldan, Lamar Neagle
Total shots: 6 (Dempsey, 3)
Shots on goal: 3 (Dempsey, 2)
Fouls: 13 (Alonso, 4)
Offside: 1 (Martins, 1)
Corner-kicks: 5 (Ivanschitz, 5)
Saves: 3 (Frei, 3)
Houston Dynamo - Tyler Deric; Boniek Garcia, David Horst, Sheanon Williams, DaMarcus Beasley; Luis Garrido, Ricardo Clark, Leonel Miranda (Alex 74'), Giles Barnes, Brad Davis (Rob Lovejoy 90+2'); Will Bruin (Mauro Manotas 87')
Substitutes not used: Joe Willis, A.J. Cochran, Rasheed Olabiyi, Erick Torres
Total shots: 11 (Bruin, 4)
Shots on goal: 4 (4 players, 1)
Fouls: 11 (Garrido, 7)
Offside: 2 (Clark/Davis, 1)
Corner-kicks: 4 (Davis, 4)
Saves: 2 (Deric, 2)
SEATTLE SOUNDERS HEAD COACH SIGI SCHMID
On the match
We wanted to make sure that we didn't open up ourselves too early. We figured they had to come at us but they really didn't come at us that much. Not as much as I expected them too, and as a result I thought our game was a little bit passive, a little bit slow. Once they scored I thought we became a lot more aggressive and we created more chances, and they got the corner that helped us get a goal. But even early in the first half, Oba has a really good chance he just puts wide. We had another one early in the second half where Dempsey gets in and Deric comes up with a big save. The other one where the shot gets deflected and Deric comes up with a big save. I think Frei had to come up with big saves. If this were the playoffs a tie on the road is good and you want to win at home.
Would you like to see a little bit more fire and desperation out of your guys especially this late?
It's on me because I prepared the team. I prepared the team tactically so I thought we were just a little bit too slow with the ball a little bit passive and we needed to be more aggressive.
What did you think of Marshall's return?
I thought it was good. We know they like to dump a lot of balls over the top, they like to run into people and he wins headers. He's a big boy. I thought Marshall handled it really well.
You guys talk about also how you guys can lean on Clint and Oba and how they are going come through late and sometimes that allows them to be passive. Do you think that had anything to do with it?
No we need to get Clint and Oba the ball, and we didn't give them the ball enough. There were some miss connections that result in the first half. I didn't think we did a good job with keeping possession in the final third. We need to be a little more patient. They were a little impatient. We need to get the ball to them. The ball's got to move quicker. It's got to move quicker in the back. It's got to move quicker as well through midfield.
It seems some of the eliminated teams didn't bring everything today, but I guess you can't assume that for next week?
No you never assume anything, in terms of that. If you score two goals in the first four minutes and you experiment with a guy playing right back like Philly did, then maybe you're going to open yourself up. A lot of it depends if they are going to experiment with some people or are they going to play with their best team.
Next week what should we expect?
We're going to be more aggressive. It's preparation. A, we want to get the points and we want to establish that home game win for us. We're gone on the road now. We tied L.A. Coming back late, but I really thought we took the game to them. We were unlucky just holding to a tie. But we've gone on the road to Kansas City, we've gone on the road here and we've pulled off ties in not easy places to play.
Any expectation on Valdez for next week?
We're hoping he'll be back. I think that also makes a difference for us. Today we had to play [Erik] Friberg out there. That wasn't his natural position, for sure. It's not necessarily Valdez's natural position, either, but he's more comfortable than Friberg is, so I think that helps us.
Obviously, everybody feels increased pressure as you head into the playoffs. Do you feel that Obafemi or Clint might be feeling that more than others, given how remarkable they are with the team and the team is when they're on form?
I don't think they feel more pressure than the others do. I think they're guys who've played at the highest levels and guys who have no problem dealing with the demands that the game brings. I think they're fine with that.
SEATTLE SOUNDERS DEFENDER BRAD EVANS
On playing in this the final weekend of the season
It is what it is. Tough to play away against a team that has to win otherwise they find themselves out of it. It's always going to be a difficult task - one that is very similar to a playoff situation, so obviously it's good to come back from a goal down. We had a couple half chances before that, as well. And after that, maybe a penalty shout, but it is what it is and we leave it to the last game.
You guys have talked about your not panicking and keeping cool heads and riding out the strain here. Do you think you could use a little more fire and desperation this point in the year?
We've come back from behind a couple times this year, so there's fire and desperation to come back. If we didn't tie these lasts two games, we'd be out of the playoffs, so I think that shows a bit of character there in realizing that desperate situations call for fire at the end of the games and at this point, dig deep and get back into it back home on Sunday.
Does this result change out your outlook on the LA game and some other games around that?
No, at this point, we've got to just focus on ourselves and focus on what we're doing on the field, you know being more prepared if a team does play three in the midfield - the ways around that. Little situations in games that we can maybe find a better outcome, but at the end of the day, we've got to focus on ourselves, and like you said, we've left it to the last game.
What did you see from [Chad] Marshall in his return?
Great. Solid once again. Winning every aerial duel, battling, sliding, tackling, you know, passing out of the back. A standard Chad Marshall performance.
What was the vibe at halftime and what was the message in the locker room?
Everybody was frustrated at halftime. I think from back to front, we weren't finding the passes in the midfield from the back and also skipping the midfield to find the guys up top. We've got to do a better job of getting everybody involved and that's on us to be more aware of our surroundings and playing a certain way. We've got to look at tape and figure out what it takes to pick out these guys up top and get them involved in the game earlier on so that we can put them under more pressure, you create a few more chances in the first half. Little things - zero crosses in the first half from us, whether it was from outside backs or wingers - you know that changes games and can turn teams around.
SEATTLE SOUNDERS DEFENDER CHAD MARSHALL
On his return
Yeah, I was completely aware of everything that was out there. I had no hesitation going up for headers or anything like that. It felt good, a little stiff, but that's going to come with it. As far as the game, it was nice to salvage a point, having gone down. Obviously we wanted to clinch the playoffs here today, but we'll have to save it for next week.
It was sort of a muted celebration of the goal. Were you guys just trying to push through and get a next goal, or was it just sort of a relief?
No, I think we were trying to get the win, so we weren't content at that point with getting the goal. We wanted to push and I think that's why we made the substitutions. Yeah, we definitely wanted to win here.
HOUSTON DYNAMO HEAD COACH OWEN COYLE
On the match
I thought we were excellent today. We were playing against a high quality team. We wanted to finish with a home win. That would have made it 8-1-1 in our last 10 home games.
We had some wonderful chances to score two, three or four goals today. We're delighted with how we went about it.
On Seattle's goal
It was a soft goal. But even then we picked ourselves up. Manotas comes in and gives us two or three chances to get a winner.
We have to make sure we're tighter defensively and not giving up goals. We know we can score goals. The first half, I felt that was as good as we passed the ball all season against a top team. We made them look very ordinary and we dictated control the game.
On the season as a whole
There is no doubt it was a season of transition. It was about everything we're trying to implement in terms of infrastructure. We're not just trying to build a team. We're trying to build a club. It's a 10-year anniversary. I've worked with clubs that are 120 and 130 years old. We have to put the fabric in place and keep up with the current trends.
HOUSTON DYNAMO MIDFIELDER RICARDO CLARK
On the match
It was disappointing, especially after we played what I felt was a really good game for almost all the 90 minutes. I think we came out with a great mentality the first half especially. I don't think they even had a sniff. In the second half they created one or two more chances but I still thought we were the better team. It was just unfortunate at the end just letting in kind of a soft goal. After a great performance it was really disappointing.
On conceding the goal
It's those little moments of concentration that have kind of let us down. It's been something that's happened all season. It's disappointing. That's something we definitely have to look up and definitely have to rectify and move forward.
On his goalscoring this season
Brad's great when he gets the ball on the wing. Either crossing it or finding the open man for goals. He's done that on a consistent basis and thankfully I've been able to connect with him a couple of times this year and even last year. Credit to him and credit to my teammates for finding me in good positions.
HOUSTON DYNAMO FORWARD WILL BRUIN
On missing the playoffs
It sucks. For me, my career this is my fifth year. My first two years it was MLS Cup both years. Playoffs the third and lost in the Eastern Conference finals then these last two years not making the playoffs. It sucks but that's the way it goes. I thought we should've been in the playoffs to be honest with you. We shot ourselves in the foot a lot of times this year. To still give ourselves a chance coming into the final two games is good. We're there, we're right on the cusp of being a contending team but we've got to be consistent the whole year.
On Seattle's goal
From watching a replay on the board it looked like it just got through everybody and Obafemi was right there. That's a goal scorer's goal. We worked so hard to get the lead and then we give that up. We've got to be tuned in on restarts because that can happen.
On the playoff race
I feel like the whole final third of the season we were saying it's a must-win and that weighs on you. We got to put ourselves in a position early in the season where we don't have to say it's a must-win.