First impressions from Seattle’s 2-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo on Sunday night at CenturyLink Field:
– That match was ugly.
The CenturyLink Field pitch looked charred and black, with pieces of the rubber base gathering in the corners. The explanation given by the team was that a weekend corporate pushed field preparations back to match day.
The play on the pitch reflected the surface.
There were 34 combined fouls (19 on Seattle, 14 on Houston) plus six yellow cards — “To be honest, it was very hard for the referee,” Sounders defender Djimi Traore said. “He had a very difficult job.”
He wasn’t the only one, with both teams struggling to connect passes for long stretches and legitimate scoring chances coming at a premium.
– Inches can make all the difference.
One penalty kick bounced off a goalkeeper’s hands and was quickly smothered. Houston could have turned its extended spell of first-half pressure into a goal, but Stefan Frei stood firm to deny Brad Davis.
Another penalty kick bounced off a goalkeeper’s hands and into the net, with Gonzalo Pineda’s PK putting Seattle ahead 2-0 and in control.
“I thought I was going to save it before the deflection, so when it changes direction, it’s difficult,” Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall said. “It’s a really big field and at the same time, it’s a game of inches. That first goal, just another inch the other way I’m making the save off the deflection and the penalty comes and it hits the wrong part of my knee and bounces in.
“So, game of inches, (it) changes everything.”
– Chad Marshall made a difference in the Seattle defense.
We finally got the full story of the injury that kept the Sounders center back out of the Los Angeles and San Jose losses: Marshall was driving teammate Brad Evans home from a team BBQ, stopped for a car that was parallel parking and got caught in a chain-reaction fender-bender. The next morning at breakfast, Marshall turned his head and felt his back cramp up.
Regardless of how it happened, the Sounders are just glad the ordeal is over. Marshall marshaled a back line featuring three changes from the San Jose loss, and though it occasionally bent, it never broke.
“He makes good plays, he wins headers, he helps break up attacks,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “His knowledge of when to step in is very good.”
Those qualities — and Frei’s strong hands — helped explain the difference between the unit that gave up four goals in two losses and the one that held a clean sheet Sunday night.