Photo by Jane Gershovich/JaneG. Photography
By JASON MITCHELL
SEATTLE — It didn’t have to be pretty. The toast of the league for most of the season, the Seattle Sounders had suddenly lost three out of four matches, the Supporters’ Shield lead, and seemingly much of their mojo.
It was not pretty. But it was a win.
A deflected strike from Marco Pappa and a penalty kick goal from Gonzalo Pineda gave the Sounders all the scoring they needed in a 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo in front of 50,276 at CenturyLink Field on Sunday night.
“Sometimes it’s not as artistic as you want it to be or as beautiful as you want it to be,” said Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid, “but it’s a little bit of rolling up the sleeves and fighting.”
Full of questionable tackles, questionable calls, and questionable passes, for most of the night the match seemed destined to end in a scoreless draw.
Pappa changed all that with a little more than 20 minutes remaining in regulation.
In the 69th minute, the 26-year-old midfielder stepped into a short pass from Clint Dempsey just outside the penalty area, spun beautifully on newly acquired Designated Player Luis Garrido, and unleashed a shot that deflected off David Horst before finding the back of the net for the 1-0 lead. It was Pappa’s third goal of the season.
Gonzalo Pineda added an insurance goal with a 75th minute penalty kick that deflected off goalkeeper Tally Hall for the 2-0 lead. Referee Chris Penso awarded the penalty after Ricardo Clark pulled down Obafemi Martins in the penalty area on a Sounders free kick.
Houston never really threatened to respond, let alone equalize. Penso did issue Martins his second yellow of the match in the 86th minute, but the Dynamo couldn’t do anything with the man advantage.
With the victory, Schmid became the first coach in MLS history to reach 200 wins.
“I’ve been coaching,” said Schmid, “for a long time, and it’s fantastic to finally get it. I was starting to wonder if I was going to get it. It’s a reflection of a lot of great players who have played for me.”
The Sounders (13-6-2, 41 points) also regained a slim lead over Real Salt Lake and Sporting KC in the Supporters’ Shield race.
The Dynamo (6-12-4, 22 points) controlled most of the first half, frequently catching the Sounders’ defense out of shape and missing out on a golden opportunity to strike first.
Linesman Ian Anderson whistled Djimi Traore for a handball in the area in the 24th minute, but goalkeeper Stefan Frei dove to his left to deny Brad Davis on the ensuing penalty kick.
“We made a couple of mistakes and little bit of luck goes their way,” said Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear, “and there you have it. I thought it was a pretty even game. I thought we looked real good in the first half.”
Frei also delivered a stellar kick save in the 52nd minute after Giles Barnes faked defender Djimi Traore to the ground and earned himself a one-on-one, close-range look at goal.
The Sounders, so lethal throughout the first few months of the season, didn’t muster so much as a half-chance until Pappa harmlessly slammed a 39th-minute attempt from the top of the area into Horst.
Despite knocking off D.C. United at home last week, the Dynamo have still lost seven of their last 10 matches after a surprisingly strong start to the season.
Newcomers Garrido and DaMarcus Beasley did, however, continue to impress in their second match since signing with Houston in late July.
“I thought they were good tonight,” said Kinnear. “I thought they both looked good tonight.”
Beasley smothered Lamar Neagle throughout the match and repeatedly sped forward to feed dangerous balls into the box. Garrido broke up numerous attacks in central midfield, freeing Clark to play a more advanced and creative role.
Looking forward, the Sounders host the Chicago Fire on Wednesday in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals before traveling to face Real Salt Lake (10-4-9, 39 points) on Saturday. The Dynamo host the Philadelphia Union (6-8-9, 27 points) on Friday.
Here are the match highlights: