It was a tale of two halves for the Seattle Sounders on Saturday, as a poor first half can be forgotten thanks to a strong final 45 minutes that saw Jordan Morris earn his fifth goal of the season. The 1-0 road win over the Houston Dynamo was not without its frustrations, but it was a well-earned three points for Seattle.
The Sounders weren’t alone in missing key starters for the match, with Raul Ruidiaz and Gustav Svensson out injured. Houston was without Albert Elis due to suspension while Romell Quioto sat with an injury. Thankfully, Seattle’s defensive depth did enough to hold onto the win in hot and humid conditions.
The road victory puts the Sounders at 11-6-5 on the season and into second place in the West for now.
- The Dynamo got the first shot of the match in the 12th minute, as Roman Torres mishandled a long ball and his touch fell to Mauro Manotas, who dribbled the ball from about 40 yards out before unleashing a shot. Luckily, his shot was almost straight at Stefan Frei. The Sounders goalkeeper pushed it away toward Torres, who cleared it out of danger.
- Morris had a penalty shout just a minute later, as it looked like he got his leg clipped from behind. Referee Nima Saghafi did not go to video review, however, and there were limited angles shown on TV.
- In the 31st minute, the Sounders were forced to make an early sub, as Brad Smith went down injured, holding his right leg. Five minutes after he went down, Harry Shipp would finally sub on for Smith.
- Not soon after entering, Shipp had Seattle’s best chance of the half. After Saad Abdul Salam made a nice cut inside, he sent a ball into the right side of the box for a rushing Cristian Roldan. Roldan then sent a beautiful one-touch pass across the box, and Shipp connected well with it, but the shot went just wide of the goal.
- Houston probably should have scored in the 39th minute, when a low cross came in from the left. Luckily for Seattle, Manotas’ sliding effort sent it over the crossbar.
- In the closing minute of the half, Nouhou had a huge headed clearance at the far post, where AJ DeLaGarza was lingering as a long cross was sent his way.
- The Sounders had a great chance just minutes into the second half, when Nico Lodeiro got the ball in the six-yard box. He made a great cut to the left that gave him a strong shooting opportunity, but Lodeiro instead opted to pass to Jordan Morris on his left. The pass was a bit too hard, pulling Morris wider, and his shot went off the side netting out for a goal kick.
- While Houston had far fewer chances in the second half, they had a decent look in the 54th minute. Roman Torres was unable to properly clear a cross and the ball fell right to the feet of McNamara, who would have had an decent shot on goal if he didn’t take such a heavy first touch, which gave Torres and Kim Kee-hee a chance to block his dangerous sliding attempt.
- Morris would put the Sounders on the score sheet in the 59th minute. After Shipp sent a cross into the box, it was deflected high into the air by Adam Lundkvist. DeLaGarza tried to leap over Morris to head it away, but he mistimed his leap and fell awkwardly over the top of Morris. The Sounders attacker was able to flick the loose ball over his defender, take a touch, and then slide on the ground to poke it toward goal. It slowly trickled over the line and into the far corner.
- The Sounders went to five in the back in the 80th minute as Houston sent multiple bodies forward looking for the equalizer. Despite a few nervy chances, Seattle was able to keep the ball away from goal and secure three important road points.
Second-half adjustments pay off: The Sounders played boring soccer for the first 45 minutes of the half and only had one decent chance on goal. While Houston sent most of the attack down their left side, Roldan and Abdul Salaam were able to keep the Dynamo attack mostly contained. Unfortunately, despite the fact that the Sounders did well to keep the scoreline even defensively, they did nothing to get and keep the ball in their attacking third — especially in the middle of the field.
Coach Brian Schmetzer made a smart tactical adjustment at the start of the second half, pushing Morris to the left, moving Shipp to the right, pulling Roldan into the center attacking midfield role, and making Lodeiro a withdrawn striker. The most important part of that move was getting Roldan more involved in a central position, where he could win balls high up the pitch. The adjustments made a big difference, leading to much more dangerous possession and a goal for Morris.
The fact that the Sounders gave the ball away less frequently didn’t hurt either.
Age is but a number: When I was 16, I was busy missing a penalty kick at state playoffs. Danny Leyva? He was holding down the midfield against an aggressive Houston Dynamo attack. The teenager finished the game winning all three of his attempted tackles, good for second on the team. He had the third most passes (45) and finished with an impressive 89% pass completion rate. Leyva also won six of seven duels and completed six of eight attempted long balls. What continues to be most impressive about Leyva is his ability to remain calm in any kind of game situation.
Defensive depth is key on the road: Seattle’s injuries have put their attacking depth in question, but their defensive depth was on full display this weekend in Houston. Saad Abdul-Salaam was tested over and over in the first half as the starting right back, and he withstood the pressure well. His pass also led to the Sounders’ best chance in the first half. Nouhou has earned limited minutes in recent months behind Brad Smith at left back, but had a stellar defensive performance. This was arguably his best match all season. Nouhou also led the team with 74 touches and had one key pass.
Did you see that?!?
That was an impressive dive from McNamara.
One stat to tell the tale
40 - The Sounders won 40 duels this match, compared to 28 duels won for Houston. After the first half, Seattle had won just one more than the Dynamo (18-17). That shows how much more aggressive the team played in the final 45 minutes of the game.