Sometimes the ends justify the means, and that’s especially true when you’re in an inferno, and just want to go home. So, it was as the Sounders endured the usual oppressive conditions in Houston, some unexpected injuries and squad rotation. The first half wasn’t great but some second-half adjustments and a quality goal from forward-winger-forward Jordan Morris, mean the Sounders leave Houston with three points.
Jordan Morris: You score the game-winning (and only) goal, and you’re a winner for sure. Morris had a decent game notwithstanding the goal, making some very good runs which challenged the Houston defense. Morris’ four shots equaled a season high for him — he had four the last time the Sounders played the Dyamo, too — and he showed an aggressiveness that has sometimes been missing from his game. The goal, though, was something special and ranks as one of the best he’s ever scored. The play was a combination of good position, an unwillingness to give up on the play and just a hint of Raúl Ruidíaz-style magic. It was Morris’ first goal since April 28, ending a five-match goal-less drought.
Nouhou: Finding minutes has been hard for the left back but he did the most with it in this one. He had a fantastic defensive performance, locking down his side of the field, especially late on with Houston pressing for a goal. He didn’t offer a huge amount going forward as usual, though he did serve Jordan Morris a good cross in the 25th minute that was headed well-wide. The performance should calm any fears about the state of left back even after Brad Smith was forced out of the game due to injury, especially with Joevin Jones still potentially there to give the team a different look.
Danny Leyva: After a quiet first half that largely mirrored the team’s overall performance, he showed a much higher soccer IQ and quick passing helping the Sounders turn the possession deficit around. His stats for the game were actually fantastic.
MLS | 16 year old midfielder Danny Leyva vs. Houston ⤵️— Football Wonderkidz (@FootWonderkidz) July 28, 2019
✅ 90 minutes
88.9% pass completion
6/8 long balls
⚔️ 6/7 duels won
3/3 tackles won
At 16, he’s an integral part of a big @SoundersFC away win over the Dynamo.
On the road against a playoff caliber team, Leyva showed a level of comfort more befitting a 10-year veteran. At some point, one wonders when he works his way into a permanent starting role. It probably won’t be this year, but starting in 2020?
Tactical changes: After a largely frustrating first half, coach Brian Schmetzer made a pretty radical change to the formation, moving Morris out wide, deploying Nico Lodeiro as a false nine, and moving Cristian Roldan back to the middle of the field. It paid immediate dividends, as the Sounders looked far more dynamic in attack. It’s hard to imagine this portending some sort of future tactical shift, but it was a clever move that clearly disrupted the Dynamo’s plans.
What happened to those strong starts?: This has been a pattern for the Sounders as of late on the road, with sluggish performances in the opening 45 minutes in New York, Columbus and now Houston. In fact this was the seventh straight road game in which the Sounders have failed to score in the first half. To their credit, they’ve mostly been able to stay in most of those games, but they aren’t making their life any easier.
The injury bug: It must seem like one step forward and two steps back for the Sounders. After playing close to a first-choice side against Portland, the Sounders lost Ruidiaz to a concussion and Gustav Svensson to a hamstring before the game. Then Brad Smith to a leg injury during it. With Victor Rodriguez still making his way back from his hamstring issues, the Sounders could use some reinforcements for the closing stretch (that transfer deadline clock is ticking).
Forward depth: The Sounders didn’t get going until they moved Morris out wide, and set up Lodeiro as a false 9. It served to get Lodeiro more involved and get Morris challenging Houston’s slow outside backs, but the Sounders’ depth at the No. 9 position is being severely tested. Ruidiaz isn’t expected to be gone long, but are Justin Dhillon and Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez enough to do a job in a pinch as the business end of the season approaches?