In the fourth minute of stoppage time in Wednesday’s match against the Houston Dynamo, the Seattle Sounders trailed 1-0 at BBVA Compass Stadium and looked as if they were bound for their first loss in a month. Then, a cutback cross rolled in from the left side and picked out Nicolas Lodeiro, who converted to the far side of the net to rescue a point for the Sounders and help them remain unbeaten in their last five matches.
Interim head coach Brian Schmetzer wasn’t complaining.
“I wish we would have had all three, but I understand that we can’t always win games,” Schmetzer said. “The drive and determination and effort of the group tonight was tremendous. They will never quit. That will be with us all season.”
Lodeiro’s equalizer was why he was hired; a play from a special player who can change a game, even if he gets only a single chance to score. The Uruguayan had been closely marked the entire game by Houston defenders, often several at a time, and until the goal had his least effective match as Sounder.
As midfielder Cristian Roldan put it:
“Nico saved us on this one,” he said.
The Sounders are a club with proud traditions. Traditions like making the playoffs every season, as well as never winning in Houston, where they are 0-3-4 all time. While the former tradition is in jeopardy this season, Seattle (9-12-4) never truly looked like they were threatening to end the latter.
The Sounders managed one shot against Houston (5-10-10) in the first half, and had difficulty breaking down a team that settled into a defensive shell early in the match.
The struggles were largely tied to Schmetzer’s decision to make a multitude of changes to the starting lineup that had won three in a row.
Clint Dempsey and Chad Marshall did not make the trip to Texas, instead receiving extra rest ahead of Sunday’s clash against the Portland Timbers (2 p.m., ESPN), as Lodeiro shifted into Dempsey’s spot and Zach Scott took Marshall’s. Nelson Valdez and Dylan Remick replaced Jordan Morris and Joevin Jones, who took their spots on the bench, instead.
In the second half, with Seattle still looking to crack the Dynamo’s defensive front, Schmetzer brought Morris and Jones off the bench. The game opened up after that, and Houston saw a window to apply pressure to the visitors.
Seattle lost a promising opportunity after Morris chased down a long ball to go one-on-one with Houston keeper Joe Willis. But Willis charged out of the net and forced Morris to make an easily saved shot.
The Dynamo’s pressure paid off in the 75th minute. A prolonged attack, extended by a series of failed clearances by Seattle, eventually led to a turnover after Jones made a short interior pass to Roldan, who was dispossessed. The ball fell for Houston forward Andrew Wenger, who fired into the side netting to give the Dynamo the lead.
Seattle appeared to have notched a tying goal in the 84th minute, when a cross took a deflection off a defender and appeared to roll over the goal line before a prone Willis reached out and swatted the ball out of the net. Replays showed green space between the bottom part of the ball and the chalk, but no angle definitively proved that the ball had completely crossed the line.
Lodeiro’s last-second equalizer, his second goal as a Sounder, made for 31 points and eighth place with nine games to play. A draw between the New England Revolution and the San Jose Earthquakes keeps San Jose in seventh place in the West with 32 points.
“It was great the way we persevered . . . our team doesn’t stop believing,” Schmetzer said. “The final, little action there was good enough to get us a draw.”