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Sports >  Seattle Sounders

Sounders’ defense falters without Yeimar as Seattle falls in Houston

UPDATED: Sat., Oct. 16, 2021

From front left to right, Seattle Sounders' Josh Atencio, Houston Dynamo's Darwin Ceren, Dynamo's Griffin Dorsey and Sounders' Leo Chu watch a corner fly in during the second half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Houston.  (Associated Press)
From front left to right, Seattle Sounders' Josh Atencio, Houston Dynamo's Darwin Ceren, Dynamo's Griffin Dorsey and Sounders' Leo Chu watch a corner fly in during the second half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Houston. (Associated Press)
By Jayda Evans Seattle Times

For the multiple ways Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer can mix-and-match the most versatile roster he’s had of late, Yeimar Gomez Andrade remains irreplaceable.

The All-Star defender missed his fifth match of the season because of suspension for yellow card accumulation. The space Yeimar covers on the right side of the backline, the interceptions he makes and the communication he provides were all desperately needed Saturday at PNC Stadium in Houston.

Shane O’Neill shifted over to fill Yeimar’s spot in the three-center-back formation – teaming with Xavier Arreaga and AB Cissoko – but the Sounders’ season-long stingy defense was charitable to Houston. The Dynamo took advantage early for a 2-1 win. It was Houston’s first outright victory against Seattle since 2017.

“They surprised with the first goal,” said midfielder Jimmy Medranda, who scored Seattle’s lone goal. “They went up and we kept (making) mistakes and didn’t find a way to play our game.”

Seattle (17-6-6) finishes three games in an eight-day stretch with a road match against the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday.

The Dynamo (6-12-12) were awarded a free kick in the 14th minute and forward Darwin Quintero pegged an assist to forward Maximiliano Urruti outside the goalkeeper’s box. Urruti spun a right-footed shot across his body and over the right shoulder of Sounders keeper Stefan Frei for a goal that would be tough for anyone to defend.

The Dynamo’s second strike had O’Neill, Arreaga and defensive midfielder Joao Paulo stuck like cones on the training field.

Dynamo midfielder Griffin Dorsey sent a cross to Quintero, who on his first touch, lobbed the ball over Joao Paulo. Quintero sliced the ball behind Arreaga and froze O’Neill in driving a left-footed shot into the bottom-right corner of goal in the 20th minute.

For the following 70 minutes, the crossbar and post handled the defending for the Sounders. Houston still wove its way into scoring positions, but the attempts clanked off the woodwork in the 50th, 55th, 60th and 67th minute.

“When it looks like the shot is going to go in and it dings off the bar, it’s definitely a sigh of relief that they didn’t score on us,” Sounders midfielder Josh Atencio said. “We had some areas that we needed to be better in defensively and offensively. We’ll try to digest this game and move on from it.”

The Sounders are 1-3-1 without Yeimar in the starting lineup. Saturday’s result nullified an opportunity for Seattle to secure one of the top four playoff positions in the Western Conference bracket.

“Yeimar would’ve been a big help today, but I’m not so sure that he would’ve been our savior,” Schmetzer said. “We need to make sure that every player is aware that teams have certain plays, they work on it during training and they do certain things. So, we have to be on our toes.

“The individual defending that went on for the second goal, yeah, somebody needs to make a tackle. You can’t dribble around four of our guys. But, then again, the play started up a little higher up the field. There were some tactical things that allowed them to start that play that I’m going to try and correct.”

The Sounders remain first in the West with 57 points. Sporting Kansas City trails and could move within two points of the Sounders’ lead with a win Sunday against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

Medranda had his club’s lone goal in the 41st minute. Joao Paulo’s service from a corner kick was deflected, Medranda deadening the ball with his first touch and using a wind up run to send a lethal, left-footed strike from outside the box into goal.

The banger was Medranda’s fourth of the season – a career-high for the MLS veteran.

Joao Paulo had the last chance to equalize in second-half stoppage time. The shot hit the bar.

“I thought the ball bounced inside,” Medranda said. “It was very close.”

Both sides had multiple players return from international duty for the FIFA World Cup qualifying window. Schmetzer was able to select Cristian Roldan (U.S.) and Arreaga (Ecuador) for the starting lineup because neither logged a lot of minutes for their national team.

Alex Roldan, who captained the El Salvador team, and Nouhou (Cameroon) subbed into the match in the second half. Houston kept internationals Maynor Figueroa (Honduras), Darwin Ceren (El Salvador) as reserves and Teenage Hadebe (Zimbabwe) started.

Sounders striker Raul Ruidiaz (Peru) is out with an injury.

“It shocked them a little bit,” Schmetzer said of Houston’s opening goal. “It got to them a little bit. … The team suffered a little bit in their cohesion. I don’t that group of players took Houston lightly. We understand every point is vital for us to stay ahead of Colorado and Sporting KC.”

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