Houston, TX (November 21, 2017) – No Stefan Frei, no problem. Despite playing on the road without their starting Goalkeeper, who sustained a hamstring injury in training, the Seattle Sounders beat Houston Dynamo 2-0. A first half Jalil Anibaba red card put Houston in a hole they could not recover from. Gustav Svensson and Will Bruin scored the goals for Seattle.
Houston Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Joe Willis — Jalil Anibaba, Adolfo Machado, Philippe Senderos, DaMarcus Beasley — Eric Alexander, Juan Cabezas — Alex, Tomás Martínez, Alberth Elis — Mauro Manotas
Seattle Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Tyler Miller — Kelvin Leerdam, Román Torres, Chad Marshall, Nouhou Tolo — Cristian Roldan, Gustav Svensson — Nicolás Lodeiro, Clint Dempsey, Joevin Jones — Will Bruin
Houston We Have A Problem: Jalil Anibaba Red Card Lets Sounders Beat Dynamo 2-0
After nearly two weeks off, it was the visitors who appeared to be the fresher team. Just 11 minutes in, Seattle scored on a corner. Lodeiro sent a cross in that dropped into space. No Dynamo player attacked the ball and
Unlike previous two leg series in this playoffs, this match was immediately turned on its head with an early road goal. Houston responded with several good passing sequences but could not challenge back up goalkeeper Tyler Miller.
It all went sour for the home side in the 28th minute. Seattle responded to pressure by countering with speed. Joevin Jones got into space in the box. Jalil Anibaba put a hand on the midfielder and he went down. Head Referee Chris Penso immediately whistled for a PK. After discussing via headset with the Video Assistant Referee, Penso gave Anibaba a straight red card for a denial of a goal scoring opportunity. Penso did not go to the monitor to review the play himself.
Penalty to seattle and a red card to Anibaba pic.twitter.com/Hv2svESdpl
— Total MLS (@TotalMLS) November 22, 2017
Lodeiro stepped up to take the PK, but Joe Willis guessed right. It was still 0-1 in the 28th minute and Houston had a lifeline.
Houston, you have a problem. But it could be worse.
Joe Willis with the penalty save on Nicolas Lodeiro! https://t.co/uazExxgrnP
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 22, 2017
The Sounders would not be denied however. Forward Will Bruin scored against his former team just before halftime. Jones sent in a great cross. Bruin drifted between the center backs to get open, and headed it into the top corner. Willis had no chance on the shot, and the half ended 0-2.
The two sides traded chances in the second half. Manotas, Elis, and Martínez led the way for Houston, but could not finish. Jones and Lodeiro continued to be a force for Seattle. Half substitute Víctor Rodríguez provided good energy as well.
Neither team could muster more than some off target shots and the match ended 0-0. Seattle nearly made it three in stoppage time as Rodríguez hit the crossbar and the rebound was sent over the net. It took almost an hour for Houston to truly test Miller in goal.
Key Event Summary:
11′ Goal – Seattle – Gustav Svensson, assisted by Nicolás Lodeiro
26′ Red Card – Houston – Jalil Anibaba, Denial of obvious goal scoring opportunity
42′ Goal – Seattle – Will Bruin, assisted by Joevin Jones
The first 35 minutes were very exciting, but once Will Bruin scored the second goal, it felt like the match (and probably the series) were over. In these playoffs, it’s been the first leg games that were less entertaining, then the second legs have been all guns blazing. This match immediately wasn’t that win the road goal 11 minutes in. But unlike the Eastern Conference Final, it feels like this one is over.
The scoreline and the highlights suggest Seattle blew out a team that played down a man. Both sides had chances in the second half they could not finish. If Houston was a bit sharper, they could have easily made it 1-2 and given themselves a decent chance in the second leg. They’ll have to improve on that if they want to shock MLS and make it to MLS Cup.
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