HOUSTON – What began with such a bang almost seven months ago, on that magical night in downtown Seattle when Sounders FC’s inaugural season opened in grand victory, ended ever so abruptly Sunday with Seattle’s 1-0 overtime loss to the Houston Dynamo in the Major League Soccer playoffs at Robertson Stadium.
Brian Ching’s goal in the 96th minute, during the first overtime period, did it for the Dynamo, which ousted Sounders FC from the MLS Cup playoffs in the second leg of the teams’ Western Conference semifinal series.
“I thought it was going to head to penalties (kicks) the way it was going,” Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid said. “Crap happens, and there’s nothing you can say.”
All either team needed was one goal to win after a hard-fought, physical and defense-driven scoreless first game in Seattle on Oct. 29, and more of the same Sunday in Game 2. The Dynamo, two-time MLS Cup champions, got that goal, and its best playoff scorer came through.
Ching, a former Gonzaga and pre-MLS Sounders standout, fired a shot off a failed clearance by Sounders FC sub Roger Levesque in the goal box, not waiting for the ball to come down for a bounce. The velocity of the blast was too much for Sounders FC goalkeeper Kasey Keller to have time to react.
The Dynamo and Sounders FC were the two least scored-upon defenses in MLS in the regular season and played to a 0-0 draw in the first leg of the series.
Seattle’s defense, in need of adjustments after a shaky first half, tightened up in the second and hardly allowed more than a sniff of the net to the Dynamo throughout regulation time.
The first half wasn’t Seattle’s best of the season, as Houston’s Dominic Oduro was a major headache for Sounders FC’s defense. Oduro, a forward, had three very good scoring chances, including one shot that hit the post in the 23rd minute. Another went wide of the far post in the 30th minute.
“It’s hard, because we were used to being at our house (Qwest Field) every 15 days,” forward Fredy Montero said, “seeing the stadium so full, dreaming that we could reach the final because it’s in Seattle. But the team did the best it could.”
The Dynamo next face the Los Angeles Galaxy, who beat Chivas USA 1-0 on Sunday. The Galaxy will host Houston in a single match Friday to determine who goes to the MLS Cup final.