Preview: Battle of the undefeated as Seattle host Houston

SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC vs HOUSTON DYNAMO
CENTURYLINK FIELD, Seattle, Wash.

March 23, 2012 (WEEK 3, MLS Game #18)
7 p.m. PT (NBC SN)

A pair of clubs that developed a fierce rivalry in the Western Conference meet for the only time this season when Seattle Sounders FC and the Houston Dynamo put their undefeated records on the line Friday night at CenturyLink Field. Sounders FC got their 2012 season off to a quality start with a 3-1 win against Toronto FC last weekend. The Dynamo have started their long road swing with two 1-0 wins on the trot, last weekend defeating San Jose.

COMPLETE GAME GUIDE (PDF)

REFEREE: Baldomero Toledo. SAR (bench): Ian Anderson; JAR (opposite): Fabio Tovar; 4th: Jasen Anno
MLS Career: 127 games; FC/gm: 24.9; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 47; pens: 47

INJURY REPORT: SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC ñ OUT: GK Josh Ford (knee pain); DF Andrew Duran (knee surgery); DF Michael Tetteh (hamstring); MF Mauro Rosales (knee injury); FW O’Brian White (leg surgery); MF Steve Zakuani (leg fracture); DOUBTFUL: FW Eddie Johnson (hip injury) … HOUSTON DYNAMO -- PROBABLE: DF Corey Ashe (L hamstring strain)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: SEA: Babayele Sodade (Canada U-23) … HOU: Kofi Sarkodie (USA U-23)

SUSPENDED: none

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Key Match-Up: Fernandez vs. Hainault

ALL-TIME (6 meetings): Sounders FC 2 wins, 8 goals … Dynamo 2 wins, 8 goals … Ties 2

AT SEATTLE (3 meetings): Sounders FC 2 wins, 5 goals … Dynamo 0 wins, 2 goals … Ties 1

LAST YEAR (MLS):

3/25: SEA 1, HOU 1 (Zakuani 80… Cameron 42)

7/30: HOU 3, SEA 1 (Clark 7; Ching 23, 70… Fernandez 37)

  • This is the only league meeting between the teams this season.
  • Sounders FC have never lost to the Dynamo in their CenturyLink Field home. Seattle has won two of the three league games (with one draw); the teams also played to a draw in Seattle in the 2009 Western Conference Semifinals.
  • In nine all-time meetings, including the two games in the MLS Cup Playoffs and a U.S. Open Cup semifinal, the road team has never taken the full points.
  • Coaches record: Sigi Schmid vs. HOU: P12 W3 L4 D5 … Dominic Kinnear vs. SEA: P6 W2 L2 D2

SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC

Seattle Sounders FC started off their 2012 MLS season with a bang, getting a hat trick from David Estrada on their way to a 3-1 win against Toronto FC on Saturday evening at CenturyLink Field.

LAST MATCH

  • Sounders FC scored their first goal of the MLS season in the 17th minute. After Alvaro Fernandez sent in a teasing cross from the left, David Estrada was the quickest to react, digging the ball out of a scrum and eventually punching it home.
  • Seattle and Estrada hit for a second six minutes after the break. Played in behind the TFC backline by Marc Burch, Estrada raced into the area unmolested and curled it past goalkeeper Milos Kocic.
  • Ryan Johnson halved the lead in the 62nd minute, setting off from near the midfield stripe before cutting square across the top of the box and hitting a stunning strike into the far corner of the goal.
  • But Estrada soon restored the margin for his hat trick. He played a quick one-two with Fernandez in the area, lashing home a right-footed shot inside the near post.
  • With Eddie Johnson out through injury, Estrada was given the starting spot in attack alongside Fredy Montero. Michael Gspurning made his MLS debut, replacing the retired Kasey Keller.

SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC (4-4-2): Michael Gspurning - Adam Johansson, Patrick Ianni, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Marc Burch - Mauro Rosales (Roger Levesque 79), Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso, Alvaro Fernandez (Christian Sivebaek 65) - David Estrada (Servando Carrasco 87), Fredy Montero.

TEAM NEWS

  • Making his third MLS start, and his seventh league appearance, in his third MLS season, Estrada was named MLS Player of the Week after his hat trick. Estrada has scored four of Sounders FC’s five goals in competitive matches this season.
  • “Something that we haven't had in the past is that runner that's up top and that's good at getting behind the defense and can just wreak havoc. When you have that it disorganizes the other defense,” said Brad Evans. “Instead of playing in front of them all the time we have somebody that can stretch and bring players out. He found himself in good positions this game and finished three really good goals."
  • But a down side after the match was losing Mauro Rosales to a knee injury that forced him off in the 79th minute. “It could be a couple weeks; it could be a little more. We’ll have to see how it goes the next few days,” said Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid.
  • Rosales recorded 13 assists, to go with 5 goals, in 26 league appearances in 2011.
  • "You don't want to lose players at any time and certainly he's a very important player to us because of the creative impulses he gives to the game,” said Schmid. “We're going to miss that part of it and it puts a little more of a burden on the other guys.”
  • With Rosales out, Schmid will face a few decisions. Marc Burch, who started at left back vs. Toronto FC, could move forward into the midfield, or Christian Sivebaek or Roger Levesque (both of whom came on as substitutes in the TFC match) could slot into the position. Alvaro Fernandez — who played a part in all three Seattle goals — would switch flanks, and Leo Gonzalez could start at left back.
     
  • “We had that situation a game or two last year and the team responded well and we won some important games without him,” Fernandez said. “We just hope we can make that happen this year as well.”

HOUSTON DYNAMO

The Houston Dynamo made it two wins on the trot on their seven-game road swing to kick off the 2012 season, winning 1-0 for a second successive week, against the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday afternoon at AT&T Park in San Francisco. The Dynamo are tied with Sporting KC atop the Eastern Conference as the only clubs with maximum points from two games.

LAST MATCH

  • The Dynamo took the lead after 14 minutes. Brian Ching raced into the area to run onto an Adam Moffat through ball, and when he was clattered into by goalkeeper Jon Busch, referee Chris Penso pointed to the spot.
  • Brad Davis pulled the resulting penalty to his right, placing it in the side netting past Busch, who guessed correctly but still couldn’t deflect the shot.
  • Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear made one change to the team that defeated Chivas USA 1-0 in the season opener. Jermaine Taylor came in at left back for the injured Corey Ashe.

HOUSTON DYNAMO (4-4-2): Tally Hall - Andre Hainault, Geoff Cameron, Bobby Boswell, Jermaine Taylor - Colin Clark (Nathan Sturgis 82), Adam Moffat, Je-Vaughn Watson, Brad Davis - Will Bruin (Calen Carr 67), Brian Ching (Cam Weaver 67).

TEAM NEWS

  • Of the five MLS teams that have started the season with extended road swings (Columbus, 1999; LA, 2003; Chicago, 2006; Sporting KC, 2011), the Dynamo are the first to not only record shutouts, but also win the first two games on the trip. The Dynamo will play their first seven games on the road while awaiting completion of BBVA Compass Stadium in downtown Houston.
  • In his first season as the first-choice goalkeeper in 2011, Tally Hall recorded six shutouts in starting every league match along the way.
  • “We asked him before the game to be a big body for us and come out and catch some balls and take pressure off the defense,” Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear said. “As the game wore on, he was becoming a better, imposing goalkeeper for us. He made one real good save on Chris Wondolowski and I thought he grew in confidence and effectiveness as the game went on.”
  • After suffering a hamstring strain in the season-opening win vs. Chivas USA, left back Corey Ashe missed out on the win vs. San Jose. Ashe said he expects to be fully available this week.
  • “I didn’t want to do anymore damage to it, so I figured I’d sit out,” Ashe said about the decision to hold off on a return this past weekend. “I’ll be fine, ready for the game [Friday].”
  • In Ashe’s place, Jamaican international Jermaine Taylor slotted into the left back spot. “I thought he did OK,” Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear said. “We asked Jermaine to play left back and thought he had some very good moments for us.”
  • Taylor and midfielder Je-Vaughn Watson ñ both of whom played the full 90 minutes — joined the Jamaican national team for a friendly Wednesday vs. Costa Rica in Kingston. "We'd like to keep the same 11, but you never know. It's going to be a quick turnaround. Guys got a lot of travel," said Kinnear.
  • The Dynamo have won both matches by 1-0 scorelines, matching their record of all of last year.
     
  • "We've had our chances," Will Bruin said to the Houston Chronicle. "We've been creating them, but right now they haven't gone in. We've been managing to get the wins, which is huge (to have) two wins on the road while creating chances and not being able to get them in."

NBC Sports Preview: SEA vs HOU