Sometimes change follows a loss so ugly that it makes change almost unavoidable.
Change may be coming to the Seattle Sounders’ lineup, but in this case it would follow a 1-1 sigh-of-relief draw at Houston that came so late Sunday that it lightened the impact of the many problems revealed earlier.
“Ties come in different forms,” Seattle captain Brad Evans said. “… You go down, and you get one in the 94-plus (minute), it almost feels like a win.”
Seattle’s goal from defender Chad Marshall came with the Dynamo leading, 1-0, four minutes into stoppage time, and with the referee already having placed the whistle in his mouth.
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“I was glad I could just go up there, throw my body around and luckily get one,” Marshall said. “… It took me back to the high school days — Rubidoux High School, senior year — I’d play forward against the bad teams and defender against the good teams. It was fun.”
Any kind of positive outcome seemed unlikely as the Sounders played listlessly through the first half. They fell behind in the 35th minute when Giles Barnes took advantage of generous space in the penalty area to redirect a cross up and over goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
For long minutes after, the primary mystery was how the high-scoring Dynamo (1-2-2) didn’t build on its lead, despite domination of the often-disinterested Sounders.
Their attention improved after a halftime reminder from displeased coach Sigi Schmid. Things accelerated again in the 63rd minute when forward Oalex Anderson substituted on for Aaron Kovar. Anderson brought both a practical jolt of speed and a psychological jolt of energy. His pace quickly created gaps in the Dynamo defense, and his creativity seemed to remind his teammates how much fun it can be to attack.
“Oalex obviously using his speed,” Evans said. “From the first moment he got into the game he was springing on the long ball.”
The final crucial piece in the turnaround joined in the 79th minute, when veteran forward Herculez Gomez was sent on for his Seattle debut, replacing Jordan Morris.
Gomez was on the field less than a minute when he connected with Anderson, who couldn’t quite finish under close marking from the penalty spot. But from then on, the Sounders offense was active and dangerous.
“I thought Herculez was good,” Schmid said. “I thought the ball he hit that Oalex gets on the end of, and he finds Clint (Dempsey) to the far post, he hit a couple of good balls, and his running was good as well. I thought Herculez’s experience really helped us today.”
Gomez is 34. Anderson is 14 years younger, but his contributions also were noted.
“Oalex is still young,” Schmid said. “He has a tendency to sometimes make a good play and then he shuts down for a second or two, and we’ve got to constantly remind him off the bench. … But obviously he’s got marvelous talent and marvelous speed.”
Until now, Schmid has weighed those pluses and minuses and decided to use Anderson only late in games, where that speed must seem multiplied to tired-legged defenders.
However, Anderson’s increasingly dazzling performances must call for consideration of a larger role — especially as almost-as-young forwards such as Morris and Kovar have failed to produce goals. (Kovar came mighty close Sunday with a sizzling low strike in the 50th minute, which Houston’s Joe Willis managed to nudge wide.)
Similarly, Gomez’s debut may have been impressive enough to demand accommodation.
He may not be 90 minutes fit yet, but it’s difficult not to wonder if 60 minutes of Gomez, followed by 30 minutes of Morris isn’t the better configuration for those players at this stage of their careers — and for the Sounders (1-3-1) as they try to build on back-to-back results Saturday when the Philadelphia Union visits.
The basics: The Sounders were listless in the first half, falling behind 1-0. They rallied in the second half, especially after forwards Oalex Anderson and Herculez Gomez subbed on. Chad Marshall poked home the equalizer in stoppage time, moments from the final whistle.
The goals: 35th minute: Giles Barnes takes advantage of space in front of the goal to redirect a low cross from former Sounder Jalil Anibaba. 94th minute: Oalex Anderson chases down a loose ball on the left side and fires into the box. Houston goalkeeper Joe Willis gets a hand on it, but Chad Marshall knocks in the rebound.
Player of the match: Stefan Frei made six saves to keep Sounders in it long enough for the late goal to matter.
Key moment: It has to be Marshall’s goal. Referee Ismail Elfath already had his whistle in his mouth, and didn’t even allow the teams to start play again after. But less directly, the game changed when Anderson and Gomez replaced Aaron Kovar and Jordan Morris respectively.
Notes: The Sounders are still winless (0-3-3) in Houston. The visiting side still has never won in the series. … The Dynamo still has never shut out Seattle — although they came about as close as possible. … This was the sixth time the Sounders have scored four minutes into second-half stoppage time or later. … After scoring 11 goals over their first three games, the Dynamo have scored one over their last two matches. … Seattle starting forward Nelson Valdez was held out with a leg injury.
Quote: “It was a game of two halves. The first half I thought they were the better team for sure. They were probably unlucky not to get more than one. … I thought in the second half we took the game to them. I think the equalizer was deserved.” — Seattle coach Sigi Schmid
Next match: 7 p.m. Saturday, Philadelphia Union at CenturyLink Field.