Stefan Frei

Sounders look to get back on track in match against Houston on Sunday

Sounders FC vs. Houston Dynamo

MLS Regular Season
Sunday, August 10; 7:30 pm PT; CenturyLink Field
TV/Radio: ESPN2; KIRO Radio 97.3 FM; ESPN Deportes Radio, 1490 AM (Spanish)

Over the course of the last month, the Houston Dynamo has gone through a big transformation. With players returning from World Cup duty and two more World Cup additions, the Dynamo is now a much more formidable foe than its record would indicate, and on Sunday it will make its lone visit to CenturyLink Field to face Sounders FC.

Seattle is coming off of its first consecutive defeats of the season and looking to get back in the win column, but will have a tough task ahead in Houston. After a slow start to the season and an eight-match winless streak that was snapped last week, the Dynamo has built confidence after last week’s victory.

“They’re a team right now that needs to get results and get points as they move forward. So they’re a dangerous team,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said.

Sunday’s match will serve as a reunion for four players who saw playing time with the U.S. National Team in Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin from Sounders FC and the Houston Dynamo’s Brad Davis and DaMarcus Beasley all played roles in advancing to the Round of 16. Assuming Yedlin is back from his medical exam in Europe, where he could see a transfer after the 2014 season, those four will get the chance to renew acquaintances on the field for the first time since the World Cup.

“The understanding is that DeAndre will be with us through the end of the season, which is a good thing. It keeps our team intact," Schmid said at training on Saturday. "It’s just a matter of it, at the end of the day, being the best situation for him. Staying here a little while longer, I think, just helps prepare him for that opportunity even more.”

Davis started against Germany, playing 58 minutes in a 1-0 defeat in the Group Stage finale. Beasley, meanwhile, was one of only three U.S. field players to play all 390 minutes in the tournament run. It was the new Dynamo signing’s fourth World Cup.

In addition to the four who played in Brazil, Seattle and Houston have other players who have had recent call-ups for U.S. camps. Brad Evans was a regular during World Cup qualifying, while Tally Hall, Corey Ashe and Will Bruin were brought in for January camps or the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Add to that Honduras National Team midfielders Luis Garrido and Boniek Garcia and Houston alone has four players that appeared in the 2014 World Cup. That makes the Dynamo an even more complete team as it looks to climb into the playoff chase.

“All of the experience that you garner makes you a little more resilient to dealing with adversity. When players have played in big games like that, it’s just their decisions in different situations. They’ve been faced with more difficult decisions and have figured out ways to make those decisions and that’s what makes them national team players,” Schmid said. “The addition of Beasley and the addition of Garrido make Houston a better team. Those guys are both good players.”

While the approach will change slightly with Garrido thrown into the midfield, one thing that won’t be different is the fight in the Dynamo. A team that has reached the MLS Cup final four times since relocating from San Jose in 2006, Houston has established itself as a perennial contender in MLS due in large part to the coaching of Dominic Kinnear.

“Dominic Kinnear’s always had big, tough teams. They’ve always been very physical. They’re going to fight to the very end,” Sounders FC forward Chad Barrett said. “They’ve got good leadership and great players. They got a good win last week against D.C. and they could be changing their season. Of course, we want to get out of the slump we’re in and we need to do that with a win at home.”

That slump has seen Sounders FC get shut out in three of the last four matches and suffer consecutive losses for the first time this season. Now faced with the possibility of falling out of first place in the Western Conference for the first time since April 19, there is an urgency to earn a victory in the Seattle locker room.

“We have to forget about it. We have to focus against Houston and prepare mentally and physically to beat them,” midfielder Osvaldo Alonso said. “We’re still the top of the West and we have to keep playing our game.”

Added Barrett, “Two games is enough. I think we just got a little bit too comfortable in our positions. But two losses will wake anybody up. We need to right the ship and that’s what we’re going to do on Sunday.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 pm PT, with television coverage on ESPN2.