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MLS Playoffs: Houston Dynamo vs. Seattle Sounders (Matchnight Commentary)

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The Seattle Sounders will make their MLS playoff debut tonight against the two-time MLS Cup champion Houston Dynamo in the opening match of their Western Conference playoff series (10pm, ESPN2).

The Sounders are new to the playoffs as a club, but have plenty of experience across the board, from two-time MLS Cup-winning coach Sigi Schmid, to European soccer veterans Kasey Keller and Freddie Ljungberg.

The Sounders will look to knock off a Dynamo team eager to make up for last year's playoff debacle against the New York Red Bulls. Houston is the usual strong and deep squad we've come to expect from Dom Kinnear, but the Dynamo didn't end the season in the strongest of fashions, making Seattle a popular pick to win this series.

I will be providing live commentary from tonight's Game One so please feel free to follow along here. As always, you are welcome to share your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.

Enjoy the action.

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FINAL– That's all for me. Thanks for following along and please feel free to share your post-game comments in the comments section below. 

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FINAL– Game Two of this series will be on Sunday, Nov. 8 at 3pm on Telefutura. You aren't going to want to miss that one.

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FINAL– Men of the Match tonight? I'll say Nate Jaqua for all his effort on both ends for Seattle. For Houston? I'll give the nod to Geoff Cameron, for neutralizing Fredy Montero. Andrew Hainault was also good, and Ricardo Clark gets kudos for battling through a knee injury and putting together a good 90 minutes (though a better second 45). 

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FINAL– Sounders 0, Dynamo 0. What a battle. Some good action on both sides, great chances, quality saves, but no goals. Houston heads back to Robertson Stadium tied. Can they put this series away, or will memories of last year's playoff series loss to New York haunt them? 

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95th Minute– Any second now.

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94th Minute– Wow, Sounders get a look late, but Levesque's header is wide.

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93rd Minute– Last minute of play. Seattle with a free kick on the right flank, about 12 yards from the end-line.

Nobody gets to the free kick. Seattle corner.

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92nd Minute– Sounders corner is headed clear.

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91st Minute– Seattle with a corner.

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90th Minute– Three minutes of stoppage time.

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88th Minute– Phantom call against Seattle. Odds on Sigi Schmid getting fined for ripping the refs after this match? 4/1.

Cam Weaver comes in for Brian Ching.

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87th Minute– Ching nearly creates a chance, but it's sent weakly to Keller.

Houston is still knocking it around.

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86th Minute– Jaqua and Clark have put in some truly inspiring performances tonight. Jaqua has been all over the field while Clark has battled through a knee injury to contribute a surprising effort in the middle.

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84th Minute– Wow, the speed difference between Oduro and Landin is stunning. You half expect a little red cross to appear above Landin's head.

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83rd Minute– Clark with a shot from distance that goes wide. Nice build-up from the Dynamo.

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81st Minute– Sounders down to nine minutes to make something happen.

LeToux is coming on for Zakuani.

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80th Minute– Wow, Landin's "sprint" isn't pretty. It's Cuauhtemoc Blanco-like.

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79th Minute– Ljungberg with a beautiful run and pass, but Seattle can't finish the chance.

Here comes Landin, in for Oduro.

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77th Minute– Wow, a would-be goal from Jaqua is waived off because Salazar had already blown the whistle at midfield.

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76th Minute– Hainault with a great tackle. Solid night for him tonight.

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75th Minute– Ljungberg draws a foul and yellow card from Chabala on the right flank.

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74th Minute– That corner is cleared. What a save by Onstad. On the replay it actually is right at him, but Onstad did well to get the arms up and punch it away.

Jaqua has been a beast tonight. Gutsy performance.

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74th Minute– SAVE ONSTAD!!!! He stones a Jaqua header. Seattle with another corner.

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73rd Minute– Seattle has new energy and is pressuring Houston now. Seattle with a corner.

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72nd Minute– Nothing comes of it.

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71st Minute– Dangerous free kick for Seattle from the left flank, 30 yards out.

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70th Minute– Great counter run by Zakuani, but Cameron intercepts the pass. Vital play there.

Mullan draws a yellow card.

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69th Minute– Jaqua heads away the corner. He's everywhere. No number, a bandaged wound, but still getting involved every chance he gets.

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69th Minute– Jaqua heads away a Davis long free kick, giving Houston a corner.

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68th Minute– Houston breaks out on the counter but Evans commits a foul to stop it, earning a yellow card.

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67th Minute– Onstad does well to slap away a dangerous cross.

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66th Minute– Keller caught the corner. Houston is still pressing.

Seattle looks a bit shaken right now.

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65th Minute– Houston corner.

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64th Minute– Alonso gets a yellow card. Seattle fans are rightfully upset considering cards Houston has avoided tonight.

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64th Minute– Roger Levesque comes on for Montero, who was effectively neutralized by Cameron tonight.

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63rd Minute– This game is being played at such a great pace. If only more MLS matches were played at this pace.

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61st Minute– WOW, Montero came OH SO CLOSE. Beautiful turn but his shot goes just wide. Great move, getting the better of Cameron for once.

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61st Minute– SAVE Keller. Easier save on Davis that time.

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60th Minute– Houston looks very comfortable right now. Seattle might be starting to feel the urgency.

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59th Minute– I should note that Clark had the interception and a nice pass to start that sequence leading to Davis' shot.

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58th Minute– SAVE KELLER!!! Stops a Davis shot. Great stop.

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57th Minute– Houston keeps holding on.

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56th Minute– Jaqua is back on the field with a numberless Sounders jersey (note to kit man, keep more than two jerseys for each player).

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54th Minute– Jaqua has to come off again after his bandage came off.

Keller pounces on a Houston cross into the area. Dangerous ball that took a deflection.

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52nd Minute– Good job by Clark to get in Montero's way on the Sounders corner.

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51st Minute– Holden takes down Montero but no card is shown. Houston is doing well to disrupt Seattle's rhythm.

Seattle corner.

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50th Minute– Seattle nearly finds Evans on a good run, but Onstad is there to get the ball.

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49th Minute– Houston's corner doesn't find anybody but it was still well-struck. Holden has been sharp on those all night.

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48th Minute– Ching nearly latches on to a good cross in from Oduro. Surprising play right there. Houston corner.

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47th Minute– Evans heads one wide off a Montero cross. Good stuff from Montero, who dropped deep to find space.

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46th Minute– And we're back.

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HALFTIME– Houston's back four is playing a very good game so far, and Cameron has been outstanding in dealing with Montero. Not regretting my pick of Cameron as Defender of the Year one bit. He's looked the part tonight. 

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HALFTIME– Apparently Landin isn't playing because of knee tendinitis and a dislike for artificial turf. Good thing he's not paid much, right?

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HALFTIME– So what changes might we see? If Luis Angel Landin is healthy I'm not sure why he wouldn't get into this game for Houston. Clark looks like a liability but with the match still scoreless I can understand Kinnear choosing to keep Cameron in central midfield to deal with Montero rather than moving him up into midfield and inserting Cochrane.

For Seattle, you can argue that a move to insert some speed on the right wing might help. Evans has been active, but hasn't really been involved in many attacks. Inserting Sebastien LeToux might not be a bad move at some point.

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HALFTIME– Hainault and Davis had golden opportunities with headers, while Seattle saw Ianni have two great headers blocked by a defender and the crossbar.

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HALFTIME– Sounders 0, Dynamo 0. Seattle had the better of the play, and the better chances, but Houston's defense has done the job and will be happy to go in at halftime scoreless.

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45th Minute– We've got seconds remaining.

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45th Minute– Tell you what, even without the headers Ianni has had a solid game defensively.

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44th Minute– Zakuani wastes a possession with a wide shot from distance. He's never going to score from there.

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43rd Minute– Ianni headed a long Ljungberg free kick and it caromed off the crossbar. So close for Seattle.

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43rd Minute– Ianni OFF THE CROSSBAR!!

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42nd Minute– Montero is figuring out pretty quickly that even fewer fouls are called in the MLS playoffs than the MLS regular season.

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41st Minute– Seattle gives up a bad corner kick to Houston.

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40th Minute– Davis has been a bit more active the past few minutes. He needs to step up if Houston is going to find any chances today.

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39th Minute– You've got to give Clark credit for gutting out this first half with what is clearly a hobbled knee. Seattle's not taking advantage of him so he's doing the job.

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38th Minute– Brad Davis finally gets a touch and Chabala promptly loses it. Houston still has it, but an offside negates the sequence. Not much attack from the Dynamo tonight.

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36th Minute– The clock keeps ticking and we're still scoreless here. Houston can't be too upset about the scoreline right now.

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34th Minute– Jaqua is back on the field so we're even strength.

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33rd Minute– I'll say this, Cameron and Hainault are doing some heavy lifting to cover for some major gaps in Houston's defense.

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32nd Minute– Ljungberg working some magic, but can't put a shot on goal. He and Montero look good tonight.

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30th Minute– Keller runs out to catch a Mullan cross.

Clark fouls Ljungberg near midfield.

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29th Minute– Seattle a man down as Jaqua gets his eye treated.

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27th Minute– Clark with the high boot to Jaqua's eye. No card for Clark on that one.

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26th Minute– SAVE KELLER. Ching with a decent header that Keller handles easily.

How long will Clark stay in this game? Will Kinnear consider moving Cameron into midfield and inserting either Ryan Cochrane or Eddie Robinson.

WOW, Nate Jaqua has a cut over his eye. It's bloody.

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24th Minute– Ching with a stern warning. Gets lucky not to draw a yellow for a foul on Gonzalez. Ching should just stop trying to tackle people. He already earned two red cards down the stretch of the regular season.

Now Gonzalez is limping.

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23rd Minute– Here's a question. Has Ricardo Clark run on the full sprint yet? I'm watching and waiting. He's relying on trying to read the game because his mobility is clearly limited.

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22nd Minute– Houston corner.

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20th Minute– The game has settled down a bit. Seattle is catching its breath and Houston is getting a bit of a break right now. Will the Dynamo create chances in the run of play? We're still waiting to see some (so far Davis missed a free header on the lone good chance in the run of play).

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19th Minute– Still trying to understand why Dom Oduro is starting this match. I know he's fast, but that's really all he brings to the table.

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18th Minute– Have to love the passion in this match. Passion, skill and a packed crowd. Great stuff.

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17th Minute– Onstad and Montero get yellows for starting that scrape. Not sure what Onstad was upset about, but he chest-bumped Montero, who flopped like you might expect (though it was a hard bump).

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16th Minute– Here's hoping there are no red cards. That would be awful in a game this good.

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16th Minute– We've got some handbags, nice shoving match between the teams.

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15th Minute– Brian Mullan got up high to head away that Ianni header. Great clearance by Mullan on that play.

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14th Minute– Ianni header CLEARED OFF THE LINE!!!

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14th Minute– Seattle earn another corner via Zakuani's speed.

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12th Minute– Wow, seattle nearly unlocked Houston's defense, but Ljungberg's final pass was off.

Ricardo Clark looks SLOW tonight. His knee is NOT right. Is he just rusty and needs to warm up, or is the knee brace he's wearing slowing him down? If it's neither, this could be a long night for him.

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11th Minute– Jaqua's header off the corner is wide and weak.

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11th Minute– Montero forces a corner.

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9th Minute– James Riley looks very sloppy early on in terms of positioning.

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9th Minute– Davis with a FREE header but it's very weak. He's not really known for heading the ball. Now you know why.

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7th Minute– Cameron fouls Montero on the defensive half of the field. He's going to be glued to him today, or at least try to be.

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7th Minute– Keller punches a high ball away, does well to hold his ground against Ching.

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5th Minute– Montero is so tough to deal with because he can float all over the field. Geoff Cameron must not lose track of the dangerous Colombian.

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4th Minute– That's a chance you have to convert if you're Houston. Nice service from Holden early.

SAVE ONSTAD. And it's Zakuani forcing a save after running onto a great Montero pass. Seattle corner.

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3rd Minute– Houston header WIDE and it was Hainault who nearly heads home a Holden corner. He was unmarked.

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2nd Minute– The crowd is buzzing early on, can the Sounders use that early momentum?

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1st Minute– Seattle with a big loss in Marshall. Ianni will have his hands full dealing with Oduro's speed.

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1st Minute– And we're off.

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PRE-GAME– Tyrone Marshall was a very late scratch due to an injury in warm-ups. Patrick Ianni starts for Seattle.

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PRE-GAME– Here is Houston's starting lineup:

————-Ching————Oduro=————

———————-Holden———————-

Davis————————————–Mullan

———————–Clark———————–

Chabala—Cameron——–Boswell—-Hainault

———————–Onstad———————-

Dom Oduro gets the call ahead of Luis Angel Landin.

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PRE-GAME– Which match-up will I be watching tonight? The Freddie Ljungberg-Ricardo Clark match-up. If Clark isn't 100 percent, Ljungberg could have a field day.

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PRE-GAME– We're five minutes from kickoff.

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PRE-GAME– Ricardo Salazar is the referee tonight. Here's hoping he and Freddie Ljungberg can stay out of each other's way.

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PRE-GAME– Trying to remember the last time a first-round MLS playoff series was this highly anticipated? This series is going to be a great advertisement for MLS. Between the fan bases for both teams and the talented rosters they both boast, you can't really ask for more. No other series in the first round comes close.

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PRE-GAME- A lot is being made about Seattle's record against Houston this year but it needs to be pointed out get again that these teams did not meet at full strength one time this year.

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PRE-GAME– This game isn't kicking off until after 10:20pm. Going to be a late-night for East Coast MLS fans.

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PRE-GAME– It's fitting that the 2009 MLS playoffs will begin and end at Qwest Field. SBI will be in Seattle for MLS Cup in three weeks time and am looking forward to a trip back West.

Here is Seattle's starting lineup:

————–Montero——-Jaqua——————

Zakuani————-Ljungberg—————Evans

————————Alonso———————–

Gonzalez——Hurtado——-Ianni———–Riley

————————Keller————————-

Nope, no surprises in that group.

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PRE-GAME– Are we ready for some playoff soccer?

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122 comments
  • lassidawg

    Check out the video and notice that Onstad did his own play acting when he grabbed his face.

    I don’t think any one is disputing that the Sounders we grabbing and fighting for balls in the air. There is a huge diffference between battling in the air than the tackles by Ching on Gonzalez and Clark on Jaqua. both of those should have been a minimum of yellows. To by fair Hurtado deserved one for his studs up tackle in the first half.

    Like

  • lassidawg

    Zak was horrible, I also don’t think Ljungberg played that well. Zak should have been subbed out shortly after halftime. FL played better after Jaqua went up top and when Roger came into the game.

    I think the 2nd game is going to be intense, it is a shame that we have to wait 10 days to see it. How nice would it be for the hype if it was being played this Sunday. Anybody who says they know is going to win isn’t correct. These two teams are evenly matched, with different styles, so it is going to take something fluky.

    Is Holden going to get any Europeon looks, I sure like how is playing.

    Ching looks like he is about finished.

    3 best Sounder players last night Ianni, Jaqua, and Keller.

    Like

  • Wes

    One of the best MLS matches I’ve seen this year. Very enjoyable and yet another reason I would like to live in Seattle.

    Like

  • jimmygreaves

    Regarding the Jaqua- Clark thing. I saw a very similar situation some years ago(it was Germany playing a team I forget). The player running in (Jaqua in this case) was given a foul for dangerous play. It could be argued that Clark was going for the ball and Jaqua created the danger, that he put himself in the situation to be cut. Sounds messed up I know but the German player was, I beleive, given a card for dangerous play, to go along with his bandage.

    Like

  • cfig

    Agreed on Ching but disagree on Clark if you mean when Jacqua took a knock to the head. Had Clark’s foot gone up toward Jaqua I’d totally agree, but Rico already had his leg in the air and then Jacqua dove in on it.

    Like

  • Nord

    It’s not that there’s that many badasses in Seattle, just enough drunkards who think they are badasses. Word is coming out from the Dynamo travelling support of a mild case of hooliganism from some of the Sounders faithful, and gross mismanagement of security for away supporters by Qwest officials.

    Like

  • Soccerinatl

    For me it’s no wonder mls players playing for the national team get sent off in international matches for the national team. They are learning their trade in a league that tells the refs are the most leniant in the world by far. I would think twice before choosing a d mid from mls ever again. Do we really want a league that gives the advantage to the defender over the attacker? MLS we like skilled players over a bunch of fast guys. Protect the few you have in the league please

    Like

  • Brent McD

    All in all, I thought the officiating was decent. I always prefer that referees give warnings before dishing out cards left and right. Having said that, Ching probably deserved yellow. Entertaining game. Surprised it ended a scoreless draw.

    Like

  • WK

    i’m ready for the houston era to be over. holden and rico overseas, and ching to retire. come on seattle.

    Like

  • madmax

    Houston could easily have been cited 30 times in this match, a foul every three minutes. MLS coaches call this disrupting play, Freddy Ljungberg calls it Rugy. I think he may skedaddle after this year.

    Like

  • Thats whats up...

    I disagree, Freddy seems to relish the city of Seattle and I think he likes playing in the US. Finally, I think he is excited about the league’s expansion and growing reputation. He also knows that after the World Cup there will be some exciting new international signings that will boost the league as well.

    Like

  • Sterlinho

    “84th Minute- Wow, the speed difference between Oduro and Landin is stunning. You half expect a little red cross to appear above Landin’s head.”

    That red cross comment has got to be the greatest line you’ve ever written, Ives. It made me laugh out loud.

    Like

  • Tezcatzontecatl Beer God

    The contact made was deliberate and with intent. It was stupid, unnecessary and should have resulted in a red card. Was it as bad as Wick’s stomp on Fredy? No. But it still should have resulted in an ejection.

    Like

  • madmax

    “…Oh and the Clark high kick was not intentional…”

    A foul, or even a carded foul does not have to be intentional. EPL announcers created this myth.

    Like

  • advocat

    Message to MLS: please stop the hack-fest that is the Dynamo. The won a few trophies- well, great for them. But enough is enough. The league is destroying any possibility of quality soccer. 40k people came out to watch Houston hack and intimidate their opponent. Will this produce better soccer? Nope. Will it produce more interest in soccer?More profits? Not a chance. The league must send a message: play soccer or you are out of our league. If you want big crowds- then produce big soccer.

    Like

  • DL

    yeah he Holden is getting looks but no one seems to know specifics. Although rumors normally do not work out. Some here think he may sign a one year deal to keep playing through the world cup and move after that. IMO that would be the smartest move for him and Clark both. Why risk getting reserve minutes in Europe and potentially hurting your chances against guys like Feilhaber, Torres, Edu and Jones (they play instantly when they come back) respectively.

    Like

  • PeterJH

    It’s funny reading your comments on Landin. I was watching him last night, also noted how slow he looked, and was thinking, “They let Kamara and Akinbiyi go, paid all that DP money, and this is what they got?” After Landin’s signing, wasn’t Houston telling everyone how they used their DP slot is the way it really should be done?

    Like

  • DL

    Actually Landin is not making alot of money. I think his actual salary is around the 250k mark but his loan fee put him into the DP category (I think it is around 500k total). So saying they paid “all that money” is probably overstating alittle. Not saying the guy is a speed demon but he is playing on a bum knee. As far as Ade goes, he never adjusted. Kamara talked himself out of Houston. He was becoming a cancer in the locker room and that does not fly with Kinnear. Plus, the team and him were FAR apart on contract talks.

    Like

  • Darkman

    What this game proved is that both teams are beatable.

    As for the sounders “supporters” they just proved quantity will never take the place of quality.

    ACES

    Like

  • PeterJH

    Some of that is useful to know, thanks. I don’t entirely swallow the argument he’s only technically a DP, not after the hype given with his signing.

    I think there’s more going on than his knee regarding his speed. To be kind, he looked out of shape. There’s no excuse for a pro athlete to let his “conditioning” go, there are ways to maintain cardio even with knee injuries.

    Like

  • sammysounder

    Enought whining about the fouls. I’m a Sounders fan at the match and thought the ref did fine. He let some really physical play go, but did so both way.

    I saw it as a lack of playoff experience on our part as we didn’t adjust quickly enough. If the ref lets that go then we need to man up and bash back.

    Like

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