SEATTLE — As their struggles on the road only continue to get worse, the importance of every Seattle Sounders home game only seems to grow. After a disheartening loss in midweek to the Crew, the Sounders found themselves in another virtual must-win against the Houston Dynamo.
It took a little longer than anyone in attendance would have preferred, but Will Bruin ultimately delivered the winner. His 69th minute header from a Cristian Roldan cross was enough to give the Sounders a 1-0 win over the Dynamo on Sunday.
Bruin, whose injured left arm was heavily immobilized and in some sort of sleeve, deserves a ton of credit for crashing the box on the goal. But the win would not have been possible without another stellar performance from the defense, which ran its home shutout streak to 337 minutes and has now posted three consecutive shutouts.
Despite still being without key attackers Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris, the Sounders fielded a much stronger lineup in Sunday’s home match against the Houston Dynamo than they did in midweek at the Columbus Crew. Bruin, Chad Marshall and Brad Evans all returned to the XI as the Sounders hoped to bounce back from their 3-0 loss to the Crew. This was the second meeting between the two teams this season; the Sounders visited the Dynamo on the first day of 2017 season, but came away with a 2-1 loss. This game played out much differently.
The Dynamo came into this match in second place in the MLS Western Conference, but the opening 10 minutes were all Seattle. Finally having an experienced forward leading the line in Bruin, Seattle pushed up the flanks regularly to try and pump the ball into the box as much as possible. The Dynamo were often squelched before getting into dangerous positions, but a couple of defensive missteps by the Sounders gave them a couple of opportunities on goal. The best of those came from Cubo Torres, but his shot was smothered by Stefan Frei and cleared away.
Seattle had their first really dangerous chance around the 16th minute when Joevin Jones fired in a cross that nearly found its way in the net, but Dynamo keeper Tyler Deric parried it away. Flaco Fernandez found the rebound and quickly passed to space near the penalty spot, where Bruin managed a quick shot on goal that was narrowly blocked by a defender.
Even though Seattle dominated possession for the rest of the half, they never really created anything dangerous on Houston’s goal. A handful of corners and near-chances from the wings came close, but they lacked that finishing touch that they’ve often been without this season.
The second half was more of the same, as Seattle came flying out of the gate just as they finished the first 45. But just as their attacking intent was the same, their final passes and finishing were just as abysmal. Brian Schmetzer tried to mix things up a bit around the 54th minute, bringing on Aaron Kovar to replace Brad Evans. This moved Cristian Roldan to right back, where he often goes when an attacker is brought on for the starting right back. This was Kovar’s first appearance since last October, and he showed strong attacking promise on the right wing just minutes after coming on.
A great ball from Roldan that found Flaco running into the box was nearly a great chance on goal, but Flaco’s pass to Lodeiro looked to hit the hand of a defender...but referee Toledo waves away any penalty shouts. Houston also made a key substitution earlier in the half, bringing on Alberth Elis for Cubo Torres. Even though Torres had a couple of half-chances on Seattle’s goal, the Dynamo wanted a player like Elis to run at Seattle’s backline more than Torres had been.
It took awhile, but in the 69th minute the Sounders finally opened the scoring. Osvaldo Alonso made an excellent pass to Roldan as he made an overlapping run from right back, and his cross from near the goal line perfectly found Bruin, who headed it from close range into the back of the net. He almost had another about ten minutes later after a short corner found Kovar, who crossed it deep to Bruin, but this time the header went straight to the keeper.
Things got a bit more frantic in the final ten minutes, with Houston desperately pushing for a goal and the Sounders trying to stay on top. Bruin almost forced Deric to make a huge mistake by running off his line, and the subsequent confusion caused the ball to bounce off a Houston defender and out for a corner. Elis got in behind the Seattle defense and found some space near the top of the box, but his fierce curling shot swerved just outside Frei’s post.
Sounders brought on Nouhou in what looked like a fairly defensive move after the goal, but it made Seattle’s left side very dangerous. He made an excellent move up the left just under the 90th minute, sprinting toward goal and making a great decision to pass to Jones at the top of the box, but his shot was agonizingly off-target. Houston pushed and pushed in stoppage time for an equalizer, but they found none.
After playing six games in about three weeks, the Sounders will now have a two-week break between league matches. They do have a U.S. Open Cup game against the Portland Timbers on June 13, but won’t play a league game until June 17 at New York City FC.