SEATTLE — The game’s unlikely hero didn’t know he had just scored the winning goal until a teammate started shaking him.
Patrick Ianni, who had one career goal in 43 previous Major League Soccer games before Saturday, surprised his coach, teammates and 32,404 fans at Qwest Field when he controlled a header just in front of the goal and fired in a bicycle kick that propelled Seattle Sounders FC to a 2-1 win over the first-place Houston Dynamo.
With his back to the goal, however, Ianni had no idea the shot had gone in until Fredy Montero grabbed him and started the celebration.
“I had no clue,” said Ianni, whose goal in the 46th minute came off a Freddie Ljungberg corner kick that was headed down to Ianni’s feet by Jhon Kennedy Hurtado. “I looked in the goal to make sure he wasn’t joking with me or something.”
Asked if he had scored on a bicycle kick before, Ianni said, “Since I was six? No … I obviously never practice that or anything, so you just kind of try to do your best to put it on frame, and fortunately it went in.”
Ianni very likely wouldn’t have been on the field to score the game- winner if regular starting centerback Tyrone Marshall wasn’t with the Jamaican national team for the Gold Cup. And up to that point, his most notable play in the game had been a gaffe that led to a Brad Davis goal which put Houston ahead 1-0 in the 12th minute.
“I was thinking every time we got a corner that I needed to get one back for my team,” Ianni said. “It’s definitely in the back of your head for sure and you only have 90 minutes to do it, so as the game keeps going on, you start to thinking every set piece is a chance to even it up for your team.”
Sounders FC assistant coach Brian Schmetzer, previously the head coach of the USL Sounders, filled in as head coach Saturday because Sigi Schmid was at his son’s wedding in California. He was as surprised as anyone by the game-winner.
“They’re very rare, especially from Pat Ianni,” Schmetzer said with a laugh when asked about bicycle kick goals. “If you would have told me before the game that we were going to win the game on a bicycle kick, and I had to pick one of my players that was actually going to score the bicycle kick, Pat would have been like number nine.”
The victory was Seattle’s first come-from-behind win, and it was Houston’s first loss when scoring first. Seattle pulled to within three points of the first-place Dynamo in the Western Conference standings.
Houston was down several starters because of injuries and national team call ups, but Seattle was also missing regular starters Brad Evans and Marshall, who were with their respective national teams, and midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, who is recovering from an injury.
“It was my first MLS head coaching victory, and then to be down 1-0 to the top team in the league and to come back and show character certainly made it even more special,” said Schmetzer.
After falling behind early, Seattle tied the score in controversial fashion on Fredy Montero’s team-leading ninth goal of the season. Montero controlled a Nate Jaqua pass with his chest, then hit a left-footed shot past Houston keeper Pat Onstad. Just as the ball crossed the goal line — or just when it was at the goal line depending on which team you ask — Houston defender Mike Chabala cleared the ball away. Assistant referee Emiliano Monje signaled that the ball was in the goal, but Houston players and coaches vehemently disagreed.
“I know for a fact it wasn’t in and I know for a fact that the linesman was out of position,” Houston coach Dominic Kinnear said. “And I know for a fact that it was the same guy that called a goal on us two years ago at Salt Lake and it wasn’t even close to a goal. So I know he’s wrong and I’m sure he’ll watch it and know he’s made a mistake, but it’s too late.”
Seattle doesn’t have another MLS game until July 25, but hosts English Premier League power Chelsea FC on Saturday at Qwest Field. Seattle and Houston face off again on July 21 at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.