There are no style points awarded in MLS and for that, the Seattle Sounders should probably be thankful. Aside from a moment of absolute brilliance from Obafemi Martins, the Sounders were left to slog through an ugly match with the Houston Dynamo on Saturday that saw the home side play the final 30 minutes down a man. Luckily, that was enough, as the Sounders won 1-0.
Martins' goal really was a thing of beauty, though. In the 39th minute of a match that was pretty ugly in just about all respects, Lamar Neagle intercepted a pass and was able to put Clint Dempsey into space with a clever back heel. Dempsey pushed it ahead to Martins, who spun around hapless defender Jermaine Taylor and beat Dynamo goalkeeper Tyler Deric with an exquisite shot.
It looked like the Sounders might be on their way to a relatively easy win, especially after they opened the second half on the front foot.
But that all changed when Gonzalo Pineda came into a 50/50 ball with a high boot that caught Ricardo Clark in the midsection. Referee Ted Unkel initially pulled out a yellow card, but switched it to red. It was the Sounders' third straight game in which a red card was shown.
The Dynamo weren't able to do much with the man advantage, though. For all the possession they maintained, chances were tough to come by and Frei only had to make one save during that time. In fact, the best chance after the red card came off the foot of Martins, who worked himself free from the wing to get an open look from about 12 yards out. But his shot went well high.
- What else can you say about Martins? This may not have looked like this best match, but even aside from his goal he was a key reason the Sounders pulled this out. It was his relentless running and willingness to track back that allowed the Sounders to keep from going into a complete bunker after the red. If he had scored while the Sounders were a man down, this would probably go down as his best Sounders performance ever.
- On the flip side, Dempsey did not look like himself. Maybe he's still recovering from the injury that sent him home from the United States camp, but he had numerous heavy touches that short-circuited Sounders breaks and generally struggled to find the game. But that's the thing about Dempsey, he only needed one really good touch to make a difference and he did what he had to do on Martins' goal.
- Brad Evans quietly had another tidy match. Evans ended the match with four interceptions, 11 clearances and five recoveries as he actually helped Chad Marshall overcome a subpar performance. Evans is still very much a work in progress, but you can see what the Sounders were thinking when they made the move.
- Osvaldo Alonso played 70 minutes and looked very much like his old self. Even though he clearly wasn't at full strength, the trademark tackles and ability to control the midfield was still there. He probably looked better today than he has for many months. That he almost finished off his shift with a goal was the icing on the cake.