HOUSTON – Nate Jaqua and Steve Zakuani made amends for a pair of earlier near-misses by combining for a second-half goal that gave Seattle Sounders FC a 1-1 draw Sunday against the league-leading Houston Dynamo.
“This is a good draw,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “Sometimes you have games that become defining moments, and this game was something that was really important to our character. Being able to come down here and get a tie with the team that (has) the league lead in points and to do it against obstacles – not only obstacles with weather, but obstacles of missing those chances – it was a big character-building moment for us.”
Seattle controlled most of the way, taking more shots and putting more on goal. But the Dynamo broke ahead in the 36th minute as Geoff Cameron headed a Brad Davis free kick past Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller.
The Sounders – who had failed to score in four of their previous five league games – equalized in the 70th minute.
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The play started with a long run by defender James Riley, who crossed from just outside the penalty area. Zakuani headed the pass back across the goalmouth, where Jaqua sent in an awkward but effective right-foot volley from 9 yards out.
“I’m a streak eagle, of course,” said Jaqua, who played for Houston before coming to Seattle in the expansion draft. “Once I get on a roll and start scoring, it’s a lot easier for me to score. It’s been a little while, so there’s a little frustration there. But you keep playing, and hopefully they’ll start falling in the back of the net.”
Twenty-three minutes before Jaqua got the goal that counted, he seemed to score one that didn’t – wiped away when he was ruled offside.
And just four minutes before the tying goal, Zakuani had somehow missed a wide-open goal by sending the ball steeply over the crossbar from close range.
“I was really proud of our team from the standpoint of coming down here and playing,” Schmid said. “… Going down 1-0 and missing chances and not losing our heart and continuing to battle back from having a goal called back because of offside, and they continued to battle and fight … that’s something I’m really proud of.”
Seattle played with an unusual lineup, partly because leading scorer Fredy Montero was suspended for yellow-card accumulation. Schmid adjusted by moving Freddie Ljungberg into Montero’s usual forward slot, while giving former USL-1 Sounder Roger Levesque his first start of the season in the midfield opening created by Ljungberg’s move.
Ljungberg had missed the previous two games due to disorientation attributed to a blood-sugar condition. However, he played 88 minutes in his return, despite the game kicking off in 90-degree heat.
By picking up a point in the standings, Seattle (8-6-9, 33 points) climbed into a tie with Chivas USA for third place in the Western Conference. Houston (11-6-7) ran its unbeaten streak to three games and moved alone to the top of the MLS table.
“It was a tough game, and I think a draw is pretty fair,” Houston coach Dominic Kinnear said. “We have a lot of respect for how they play. … Getting a point is nothing to be disappointed about, but it is tough to lose the lead.”
Join the postgame discussion at blogs.thenewstribune.com/soccer