Relief mingled with disappointment Friday as Sounders FC got its first goal and first point of the season, but managed only a 1-1 draw despite statistically dominating the Houston Dynamo at Qwest Field.
Going with a new-look lineup, Seattle (0-2-1) launched a club-record 26 shots, compared with Houston’s six. The Sounders also tied a club record with 12 corner kicks – yet they had to come from behind for the home draw.
“We definitely wanted more,” said Seattle forward Nate Jaqua, who made his season debut in the 61st minute. “I thought we played well and definitely did enough to win the game. We just have to finish those chances. It’s one where we can’t get our heads down at this point.
“I think we played some very good soccer, and we have to keep it going.”
Some of Seattle’s best opportunities were botched. But seven shots that were on goal were handled – sometimes acrobatically – by Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall of Gig Harbor.
“Maybe he saves it for his family,” Houston coach Dominic Kinnear said. “But if that’s the case, we’ll be traveling with his family from now on because he was excellent.”
Despite the Sounders’ control, it was Houston (0-1-1) that broke ahead in the 42nd minute when Geoff Cameron got the rebound of a free kick that banged off the crossbar and returned it into the top left corner, where it deflected down just across the goal line.
Suddenly, Seattle was staring at something close to disaster: the possibility of three consecutive 1-0 losses to begin the season.
That was averted in the 80th minute, when an Erik Friberg corner kick squirted through the penalty area and finally on to Steve Zakuani, who sent it in at the far post.
“The turf’s a different beast in and of itself,” Hall said. “It skips off the turf weird, we miss a clearance, and then it just falls right to their player. Very unlucky. But that’s kind of the way it goes. They probably think it’s unlucky that (the ball) came off the crossbar for us. That’s soccer.”
The Sounders had several lineup changes due to both circumstances and choice.
Zach Scott started in place of defender James Riley, who suffered what was called a mild concussion in training Thursday.
However, it was coach Sigi Schmid’s decision to start Friberg and Brad Evans in midfield while leaving designated player Alvaro Fernandez to watch from the bench. Also, Patrick Ianni started in place of former All-Star defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado.
“I always say that when you come off a long-term injury like (Hurtado’s), you have a period of time where everything goes really good, then you slip off a little bit, and then you catch yourself again,” Schmid said. “I just felt right now he was a little bit in that area. I thought Ianni had been training well. ... Brad Evans being healthy and being able to get in the starting lineup, and we felt Friberg’s played well in the games that he’s appeared, so we felt that was our strongest midfield.”
Schmid said he was happy with his team’s effort and the chances they created.
However, he was less satisfied with referee Ramon Hernandez, who gave a yellow card – rather than red – in the third minute when Houston defender Hunter Freeman made a tactical foul on Friberg with no one but Hall between him and the goal.
Schmid also thought his team deserved a penalty kick in the 74th minute when Leo Gonzalez was brought down in the box. Instead, Gonzalez was carded for simulation.
“It’s definitely not a win, it’s definitely not three points we want,” Jaqua said. “But we look at it as a momentum builder. We look to go next week and get a win down at San Jose (on April 2).”