The Seattle Sounders’ playoff fate will go down to the final day of this MLS season.
The Sounders came from behind for a 1-1 draw with Houston on Sunday at BBVA Compass Stadium. The result managed to drown the Dynamo’s playoff chances, but it wasn’t enough to put Seattle through.
That sends the Sounders’ playoff hopes to the final day of the season: 4 p.m. Sunday, when they will meet Real Salt Lake at CenturyLink Field, which will be opened to its full capacity.
“Obviously it’s pressure,” goalkeeper Stefan Frei said. “I think with our kind of squad, we’ve had our ups and downs and our injuries, our suspensions and national team duty: At some point that becomes an excuse. I think with the people we have now, it’s in our own hand. … We need to get into the playoffs. Our squad is way too good to be watching from the outside in.”
Seattle could have clinched a playoff spot with a win. However, after a puzzlingly passive first half, the Sounders fell behind on a Ricardo Clark goal in the 65th minute. Obafemi Martins provided the equalizer on a close-range header in the 82nd minute.
The Sounders were subdued in their celebration, instead quickly heading back to the center circle in pursuit of another goal. There were chances, but nothing got to the back of the net.
“We wanted to make sure that we didn’t open up too early – we figured they had to come at us,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “But they really didn’t come at us that much – not as much as I expected them to. And as a result I thought our game was a little bit passive, a little bit slow. Once they scored, I thought we became a lot more aggressive and we created more chances.”
The Dynamo’s goal came after the Sounders lost the ball on their own end. Houston quickly worked down its left side, where Brad Davis sent a pass to the top of the penalty arc. Ricardo Clark received it with a space in front of him and directed it just inside the left post.
“We tried to build out of the back, and we had a turnover,” Frei said. “Tried to stop the counter from happening. We maybe drop a little too deep, and we leave that spot open on top of the box. We’re hustling really well to try to close him down, but somehow the ball squeaks through probably four or five guys, and I just can’t see the ball and it dribbles in.”
In the 82nd minute, Martins got the equalizer – his team-high 15th goal of the season -- heading in an Andreas Ivanschitz corner kick from about a yard out.
Seattle (14-13-6) extended its unbeaten run to seven games, climbing to 48 points, good for a fifth- and sixth-place tie with Sporting Kansas City and one point clear of San Jose below the playoff red line.
The Sounders moved to 0-3-2 at Houston (11-13-9) in a regular-season series in which the road team has never won.
Chad Marshall returned to the Seattle central defense, just 18 days after being taken from the training pitch in an ambulance after suffering a neck injury later diagnosed as a sprain. He missed the home draw with Los Angeles that week, but the bye week that followed allowed him to miss just one match.
“It’s nice to salvage a point, having gone down,” Marshall said. “Obviously, we wanted more here. We wanted to clinch the playoff here, but we’ll have to save it for next weekend, hopefully.”
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SUNDAY: Seattle at Real Salt Lake, 4 p.m.