The Seattle Sounders returned to health Saturday, and they also returned to the winners’ circle.
Forwards Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey returned from injury and combined for the lone goal as the Sounders beat the Houston Dynamo, 1-0, at CenturyLink Field.
Helping preserve that lead were Chad Marshall, returning from a neck injury after missing the scoreless draw at Dallas last weekend, and defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, making his season debut after missing the first three matches with a groin injury.
“Those guys are important,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “Marshall helped us today, especially against a team like (the Dynamo) with his heading. Ozzie just has such good instincts when he sits in midfield. He reads the play well, he’s quick to anticipate and react, stealing some balls. … Those two guys and Oba and Clint’s return certainly made a big difference.”
Even at that, there were two changes to what had seemed to be Schmid’s first-choice lineup at the start of the season. Andy Rose started at midfield in place of Marco Pappa, who was on the bench after returning late in the week from duty with the Guatemalan national team. And Dylan Remick started at the left back spot that had been held by Leo Gonzalez, in what was apparently a coach’s decision. Gonzalez came on as a sub for Dempsey as the Sounders played out the final minutes.
The revitalized lineup paid off in the 39th minute, when Martins took a pass from Dempsey at the top of the box, ran down the left side — including a 360-degree spin past defender Jermaine Taylor — and then finished to the back of the net.
That ended a 215-minute scoreless streak by Houston goalkeeper Tyler Deric.
However, 20 minutes later Seattle midfielder Gonzalo Pineda was sent off after a kick to the chest of Houston’s Ricardo Clark. That forced the shorthanded Sounders into additional personnel decisions that stressed even this relatively healthy roster.
“We probably played Ozzie about 10 minutes more than we wanted to,” Schmid said. “We only wanted to play him 60 and we pushed him into 70 because he was sitting in there and he was doing a good job in there. Clint did a lot of work for us in terms of dropping into the midfield and helping us when we went down a man. That obviously saps a lot of energy. Sometimes Oba came back, but Oba was doing the work up front.”
Marshall and Alonso both said afterward that they came through feeling good.
“Happy,” Alonso said. “It’s been a long time without playing. Come back, playing, winning this game, even with 10 men. … I can’t describe this moment for me.”
Houston fell to 1-2-2 and has scored two goals over the five games.
“You went to LA Galaxy, you went to Seattle, and with all due respect, could’ve won both games,” Dynamo first-year coach Owen Coyle said. “… I have players that if we make better decisions in the final third, the goals will come. We dominated the game tonight and we should’ve won, but haven’t. It’s a sore one to take.”
The Sounders (2-1-1) return to MLS play April 12 at defending MLS Cup champion Los Angeles.