Seattle Sounders FC completed its MLS season by returning to Houston to face the host Dynamo team for the first time since being eliminated in last season’s league playoffs.
That fact served as a kind of omen Saturday as the home team ended the longest MLS win streak of Seattle’s two season franchise history with a 2-1 triumph at Robertson Stadium before a crowd of 23,990.
The streak had reached five games and a six-game unbeaten period. While the match was physical, the tempo had to be somewhat restrained at least in part due to the high level of humidity despite the fact that the temperature was only 83 degrees.
As customary for the Sounders during their second half surge, the team scored an early goal to jump on top 1-0. The scoring began in the 12th minute. It was defender James Riley that initiated it with one of the premier goals of the season.
The score occurred after there had been a good deal of quick ball exchanges near the Dynamo goal. Nate Jaqua ultimately was able to boot the ball back to Riley, who drilled a right-footed bullet into the Dynamo net. Rookie goalkeeper Tyler Deric was unable to do anything about it, given the swiftness and force of Riley’s thrust.
The score was Riley's second career goal. It was his first since Sept. 24, 2005, his rookie season with the New England Revolution.
Houston scored the equalizer in the 27th minute. Brad Davis and Dominic Oduro combined at midfield and played Geoff Cameron into the box. Cameron struck a low, left-footed shot from the left side that beat Kasey Keller to the far post.
The teams went to their respective locker rooms deadlocked at 1-1. It took little time for the home team to notch the game winner after they returned to action.
In the 46th minute Davis launched the scoring sequence that decided the game when he set up Mike Chabala on the left flank. Chabala then swung a cross into the box. Cam Weaver's subsequent header beat Keller inside the far post.
Davis ranks third in MLS with 12 assists.
The most controversial call of the day occurred in the 35th minute. Sounders midfielder Steve Zakuani used his speed once more to move into one of his patented breakaways. Sensing that a Seattle score could be close at hand, Deric moved out of his goalkeeper’s area and into the box.
Zakuani sprawled to the ground as a result of the challenge. Zakuani assumed, as did his teammates, that a red card would be given to Deric and a penalty kick would be bestowed on the Sounders.
Instead the call went the opposite way. Zakuani was issued a yellow card, shaking his head in dismay. When the half ended Sounders coach Sigi Schmid walked immediately toward the referee and registered a protest over the call.
Patrick Ianni had a solid opportunity during stoppage time to pull his team even. He delivered a close range header that bounced over the crossbar. Houston held the edge in shots 11-8. Seattle had more on goal efforts with a six to four advantage. The home team boasted a big edge in corner kicks at 9-1.
For Seattle 2010 was an MLS campaign of two distinctly different seasons. The team finished overall at 14-10-6 with 48 points. Seattle culminated first half action at 4-8-3. In the second half the Sounders notched a highly impressive 10-2-3 mark.
A major factor in the second half surge was the play of veteran forward Blaise Nkufo, who commenced play for Seattle not long after finishing World Cup competition with Switzerland. Until Saturday’s season concluding loss the Sounders had been undefeated in every game that Nkufo started. His record as a starter was 9-1-1.
Despite a highly frustrating season Houston finished with two straight wins. The Texas based team managed to avoid the Western Conference cellar as it finished play at 9-15-6 with 33 points.
The Sounders return to action Sunday, Oct. 31 in a first round MLS playoff match against an opponent not yet determined.
Seattle will host play at the Xbox Pitch of Qwest Field with first kick slated for 5 p.m. Pacific Time. As of Saturday more than 30,000 tickets had been sold. Seattle finished the 2010 regular season with two more wins and one more point than 2009.
Fredy Montero, who did not see action Saturday due to a yellow card from last week’s match against Chivas USA, and Zakuani led the team with 10 goals each. Montero achieved a franchise record 10 assists while Keller's 11 shutouts is one more than his 2009 total.
Schmid was philosophical about the loss. He stated that the physical nature of the play prepared his team for next week’s playoff action.
“As far as the game goes, I thought we had some good moments,” Schmid said. “I think the start of the game was good and then after the second goal we played well and had some good chances.”