HOUSTON - The Sounders FC hit a speed bump on their collision course for the MLS Cup Playoffs on Saturday in their regular season finale against the Houston Dynamo.
Riding a five-game winning streak in MLS play, James Riley looked to put Seattle on track for a sixth straight with his first goal as a Sounder in the 11th minute. However, the Dynamo were not about to leave the 23,990 on hand disappointed, springing back to hand the Sounders a 2-1 loss.
“I thought we had some good moments. I think the start of the game was good and then after the second goal we played well and had some good chances,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said.
Seattle tested Houston rookie goalkeeper Tyler Deric early. Riley made an overlapping run on the right side and crossed a ball to Nate Jaqua in the box, but his close-range header was stuffed by Deric in the 10th minute.
One minute later, Jaqua got a shot away from the left side of the box, but was again turned away by Deric. This time, the rebound bounced around in the box and Jaqua wound up touching it back to Riley coming up on the right side of the box. He blasted a first-time shot for a rocket into the top right corner, giving him his first goal with the Sounders FC and a 1-0 lead.
The lead wouldn’t hold though and Geoff Cameron notched the equalizer. Brad Davis knocked a ball to Dominic Oduro, saving a ball from nearly going out of play in the process, and Oduro sent Cameron on a run up the left side. Patrick Ianni gave chase, but Cameron slid the ball under him and past Kasey Keller for his third goal of the season in the 27th minute.
It looked like Seattle might regain the lead in the 35th minute when an errant back pass found the feet of Steve Zakuani in the box. He turned the ball and tried to get around Deric, but instead was taken out by the sprawled out goalkeeper. Rather than a penalty, though, referee Kevin Stott issued Zakuani a yellow card for simulation and the 1-1 score held until halftime.
As the second half kicked off, Houston came out on fire and tallied the game winner before the first minute had passed.
Davis led Mike Chabala up the left side and Chabala, a UW product, crossed the ball into the box where Cam Weaver leapt to knock a header in to give Houston the 2-1 lead. It was the former USL Sounder and Seattle U forward’s third goal of the season.
“I don’t think we brought enough energy to the game. I thought Houston did well finishing the chances they had,” Keller said. “We still had enough chances to come out with a result, but I feel as if it would have been undeserved as I didn’t think we played well tonight.”
Neither team could muster much in term’s of goal-scoring chances until stoppage time, when Alvaro Fernandez sent a long free kick into the box. Jaqua headed it down into the front of the goal, but Ianni’s close-range header bounced off the grass and high over the crossbar and Houston held on for the game’s final minutes for the win.
The loss drops Seattle to 14-10-6 (48 points) while Houston ends the year at 9-15-6 (33 points).
“We have to move on and move forward. It’s important for the guys to realize that they have to do more and that we are capable of doing more. In this league when you don’t bring that extra 10 percent the teams are so close that you lose games,” Keller said.
The Sounders now await their first-round playoff opponent after suffering their first loss since September 4 and only their second since July 4, a stretch that has seen them go 10-2-3 in MLS play.
Seattle will host the first game of their first-round playoff series October 31 at Qwest Field. Tickets are available at www.soundersfc.com or by calling 877-MLS-GOAL.
Sounders FC - James Riley (Nate Jaqua) 11.
Dynamo - Geoff Cameron (Dominic Oduro, Brad Davis) 27; Cam Weaver (Mike Chabala, Davis) 46.
Sounders FC - Kasey Keller, James Riley, Jeff Parke (Tyrone Marshall 46), Patrick Ianni, Leo Gonzalez (Tyson Wahl 71), Sanna Nyassi, Osvaldo Alonso, Nathan Sturgis (Alvaro Fernandez 64), Steve Zakuani, Blaise Nkufo, Nate Jaqua.
Dynamo - Tyler Deric, Andrew Hainault, Bobby Boswell, Eddie Robinson (Adrian Serioux 66), Mike Chabala, Corey Ashe, Geoff Cameron, Lovel Palmer, Brad Davis (Danny Cruz 81), Cam Weaver (Brian Ching 72), Dominic Oduro.