Clint Dempsey scored in his first game since August of last season but the Seattle Sounders opened their 2017 MLS Cup-defending campaign with a 2-1 road loss to the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday.
Dempsey, making his much-anticipated return to the field after missing the second half of last season and all of the 2016 playoffs with an irregular heartbeat, scored Seattle’s lone goal of the evening in the 58th minute off a cross from left back Joevin Jones.
But that tally wouldn’t be enough to top a Houston side that put the Sounders backline on its heels throughout the first half before opening the scoring with a free kick goal from forward Erick “Cubo” Torres in the 12th minute. Winger Romell Quioto then delivered what turned out to be the decisive blow with a highlight-reel strike in the 42nd.
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With Saturday’s loss, the Sounders still have never won an away match at Houston in franchise history, although they did manage two dramatic draws last season.
Houston jumped on the board early, taking the 1-0 lead after Torres won a free kick just outside the Seattle penalty box. The 24-year-old former Chivas USA standout then blasted his attempt over the Sounders wall and past goalkeeper Stefan Frei, giving the hosts the lead.
That lead would double in the 42nd off a perfectly placed, bending strike from Quioto that snuck past a diving Frei and into the net, putting the Sounders in a two-goal deficit that would hold as the score heading into halftime.
Seattle would strike back after second half kickoff, however, after a cross from Jones popped free in the Houston penalty box and landed in front of a waiting Dempsey. The star forward then slotted a left-footed finish past Houston goalkeeper Tyler Deric, pulling the visitors within 2-1 – a welcome sign for the 33-year-old US national team veteran after his six-month layoff.
The Sounders would push for an equalizer for the rest of the half, with midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro coming especially close off another feed from Jones in the 73rd. But Houston would manage to hold them off the scoresheet and preserve the victory.
Seattle will look to get on track with their next match, which will see the club hit the road once again, this time for a matchup with the Montreal Impact on March 11 (4 p.m. PT; JOEtv, ROOT Sports (Outside Seattle), KIRO Radio 97.3 FM, El Rey 1360AM) .