Sounders tie Dynamo

  • By John Boyle Herald Writer
  • Friday, March 25, 2011 12:01am
  • Sports

SEATTLE — Sure Friday night was frustrating for the Seattle Sounders, but it could have been much worse.

Despite a thoroughly dominating performance, Seattle settled for a 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo in front of 36,204 at Qwest Field. And while the Sounders were disappointed not to win a game in which they out-shot their opponent 26-6 and controlled the possession throughout the game, the night was looking even more grim until Steve Zakuani tied the score with a goal in the 80th minute. Up until that point, it appeared Seattle was heading towards about as improbable of a defeat as the sport can offer.

“That could have been the most frustrating loss ever,” goalkeeper Kasey Keller said. “I’ve been in those games on both sides, and it’s not a lot of fun when you’re on the losing end, so it was great that we got the goal and battled like hell and had chances to win the thing.”

Up until Zakuani’s goal, Seattle had been scoreless for 259 minutes to start the 2011 season, and the Sounders looked like they were on their way to a third consecutive 1-0 loss. Throughout a lopsided first half, Seattle peppered Houston with shots — the 15 first-half shots and 26 in the game were both team records — but nothing found the back of the net until Zakuani’s score.

Some shots were saved by Houston keeper Tally Hall, who is from Gig Harbor. Some shots hit the cross bar, while others were cleared by defenders or were off target. Houston, meanwhile, had very few chances, but took advantage of one of them when Geoff Cameron fired a shot off the crossbar and into the net in the 42nd minute.

Zakuani admitted he kicked over a chair in the locker room at halftime as a frustrated group of players wondered just what it would take to score a goal.

“We came in at halftime and were thinking, we’ve made chances in the run of play, we’ve had chances on set pieces, we’ve had scrambles in the box, and the ball just won’t go in,” he said. “What can we do?”

But as frustrating as that half was for Seattle, the players also started the second half confident knowing they had played well in spite of the score. And while a tie was not the desired result, everyone was able to breathe a bit easier when Zakuani scored with 10 minutes remaining in the game after the Dynamo failed to clear a corner kick.

“We’re disappointed that we only got a tie, but we’re happy that we fought back,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “Maybe this is the first step. At least we’re heading in the right direction and this is the first step of going in that direction. Right now we’ll take the point and look to go down to San Jose and score some goals.”

As happy as Schmid was with his team’s effort, he was equally displeased with referee Ramon Hernandez.

Two calls bothered Schmid in particular. There was the decision to issue a yellow card and not a red to Houston’s Hunder Freeman after the defender grabbed Erik Friberg when it appeared the midfielder was headed for a one-on-one chance with the goalkeeper. Then there was Hernandez not awarding a penalty kick in the second half when Leo Gonzalez went down in the box — in fact Gonzalez was booked for flopping on that play, though on replays it looked like there was some contact.

“I think it should have been a red card,” Schmid said. “… And I think it’s a penalty kick. So I think those two calls were very influential calls on the game and weren’t made today.”

Questionable calls or not, however, Seattle had more than enough chances to put the game away in the first half. But with 29 games still to play, Schmid isn’t going to overreact to a slow offensive start.

“A little bit of it has been bad luck, a little bit of it has been not good finishing,” he said. “… Right now we’re hitting things and they’re going straight at goalkeepers or not going where we want them to go. Eventually, yeah, if guys don’t put the ball in the back of the net, we’ve got to find guys who will put the ball in the back of the net, but right now I think we’re a little bit snake bit.”

Seattle was without starting right back James Riley, who suffered a mild concussion in training Thursday. Schmid made a couple of lineup changes for the Houston match, replacing defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado with Patrick Ianni and midfielder Alvaro Fernandez with Brad Evans, who was returning from a hamstring injury.

But while a new-look lineup didn’t produce the win Seattle was hoping for, the consensus in the locker room was that the Sounders are heading in the right direction even after starting the year with an 0-2-1 record.

“If we play like this,” Keller said, “we’re going to win a whole hell of a lot more games than we lose.”

Herald Writer John Boyle:

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