Apparently the Seattle Sounders are going to stick with being annoyingly suspenseful for the remainder of the Major League Soccer season.
Two months ago, they were so far off the playoff radar, they were essentially left for dead. But after a furious rally under interim coach Brian Schmetzer, Seattle had a chance to clinch a postseason berth with a victory Wednesday over hapless Houston.
That didn’t happen: The two teams settled for a disappointing 0-0 draw in front of 39,772 fans at CenturyLink Field.
It’s not over for the Sounders, who saw their four-match winning streak snapped Wednesday.
They still need just one victory in their final two matches to guarantee a playoff spot for an eighth consecutive season, which would tie the Los Angeles Galaxy for the longest current streak of MLS postseason appearances.
Their next chance comes Sunday at FC Dallas, followed by a home finale Oct. 23 against Real Salt Lake.
“We are going to go to Dallas and try and get a result,” Schmetzer said. “We won’t give up. Things happen.”
Against a clog-the-middle Houston defense, Seattle did everything but score for the first 60 minutes, rifling 11 shots on goal, playing 10 corner kicks and applying constant pressure.
And in the 62nd minute, on came Nelson Valdez, a trusted goal-scoring finisher for the Sounders.
But a couple of minutes later, the Sounders took a big hit when midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, a captain, and Dynamo forward Will Bruin got into a heated argument on the left side near midfield.
Very quickly, Alonso lost his cool, reaching for Bruin’s face, scratching his cheek and poking his eye.
Alonso received a red card in the 64th minute, meaning the Sounders would play the rest of the way a man down to Houston. Bruin was given a yellow card.
It was Alonzo’s first red card since 2013. And it is also the second time in back-to-back matches that a Sounders player was ejected. Defender Brad Evans missed the match Wednesday after he was tossed in the team’s 2-1 victory over Vancouver.
Schmetzer’s frustration was easily detectable after the match.
“You have to understand, Ozzy has always had a fiery temper from day one. I am not making excuses for the kid, but the fact of the matter is, he has given us everything since I’ve taken over,” Schmetzer said.
“What I want from him … and the rest of the team is to make sure that this stops, because we cannot afford to shoot ourselves in the foot anymore.”
Both squads had golden scoring opportunities in the first half.
Bruin’s big right foot lit into a shot just outside the Seattle penalty box in the 30th minute. Goalkeeper Stefan Frei deflected it just enough with his hand to push the shot off the right post.
Ten minutes later, midfielder Erik Friberg — who came off the bench in the 16th minute after Andreas Ivanchitz left the game with a sprained right knee — dribbled between two Houston defenders, and had a clear path to the goal.
Dynamo goalkeeper Joe Willis, whose 1.66 goal scored against average is the fourth-worst in the MLS, knocked away the first 10-yard shot, but right back to Friberg.
Again, Willis made a big deflection on Friberg’s second attempt, which came just off the left post.
“Time and time again, he’s made big stops for us,” Houston coach Wade Barrett said.
Seattle is now 7-1-4 since Schmetzer took over for fired Sigi Schmid on Juy 26. … The last time the Sounders went scoreless in a match was July 26 in a 3-0 loss at Kansas City. … Tony Alfaro, Seattle’s second-round pick in the 2016 MLS Draft, made his first career start Wednesday. He was at left back. … All three of the Sounders-Dynamo matches this season were draws. … Seattle is now 5-0-2 at home against Houston, dating back to 2009.