The game, and the Sounders season, has ended.
Houston wins, 1-0, on a Brian Ching goal early in added time ... the only goal these teams scored in 210 minutes of this series. (Here's my game story.)
Houston goes on to play the Los Angeles Galaxy for the Western Conference championship and a stop in MLS Cup on Nov. 22 at Qwest Field.
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The Sounders' inaugural season ends with 12 wins, eight losses, 12 draws and one U.S. Open Cup.
In general, the mood in the locker room was the expected mix of pride in the season, but disappointment in its conclusion.
“You lose in the playoffs and there’s no tomorrow, and unfortunately there’s no tomorrow for us,” Seattle goalkeeper Kasey Keller said. “But all credit to Houston, they kept battling, and Brian (Ching) scored one of the best goals he’s ever scored. … It bounced kindly for him, Brian turned inside of it, and put it right in the upper corner.”
That kindly bounce came when Seattle reserve Roger Levesque misplayed a cross into the penalty area. The ball went to Ching near the penalty spot, and he finished on a volley past Keller.
“Their left wing crossed it in over everybody,” Levesque said. “I tried to clear it. Brian Mullan jumped up, I didn’t expect him to be there. It kind of bounced off my foot, off him, and Brian Ching put it in the back of the net. He put a good strike on it.”
Sigi Schmid acknowledged the importance of that play. But he also didn't think the Sounders played their best game.
“It was a hard-fought game; it was a physical game,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “They created some good chances – I thought we dodged some bullets. I thought we had some chances as well -- missed them. At the end, there was a little bit of a mistake in the back, and Brian Ching buried a good goal. That’s not much that separates those two teams.”
Of course, with the final whistle, this season ended and in a way another season began. Schmid and general manager Adrian Hanauer said they were already thinking about the 2010 season ... with the expansion draft the first major issue awaiting.
Another might be the future of Freddie Ljungberg, who repeatedly repeated that he's happy in Seattle and hopes to be back. But he also didn't rule out other options.
I'll have more on that later.
A couple of other minor notes:
Sounders first loss to Houston.
Sounders first loss in blue.
120th minute: A little pushing and shoving as it winds down. Riley sent off with a red.
15 minutes left: The first 15-minute period has ended, Houston up 1-0. The final 15-minutes of the game, perhaps the season, is dead ahead.
106th minute: Nyassi for Marshall as the Sounders look to push forward.
96th minute: Levesque failed to clear a cross into the area, and Houston's Mullan sends it back to Brian Ching who sends a volley past Keller.
Sub: Le Toux in for Montero.
Added time: Regulation has ended without a goal. Now, there will be two 15-minute periods of added time -- no golden goal. If it remains even, it goes to penalty kicks.
Montero down: In 79th minute. Goes off pitch early while trainer tends to him. Back in quickly.
Marshall down: He's up now and apparently Schmid is keeping him in the game. But he's running with a limp. (Marshall, not Sigi.)
68th minute: Zakuani out, Levesque in.
Second half: Has just kicked off. There's only a season riding on it.
Halftime: No goals, but lots of chances both ways. Houston has dominated the run of play, but Seattle has come close on counters, set pieces and a couple of near Dynamo own-goals.
Houston 9 shots, Seattle 2. Houston two on goal, Seattle 0. Houston nine fouls, Seattle seven. Houston three corners, Seattle one.
Judging by the stats, Seattle might want to just go straight to PKs. But the game hasn't looked like a shutout. It really feels like a goal or two will finally get in over the next 45 minutes.
Still cloudy and breezy, but the rain has stayed away.
23rd minute: Dominic Oduro, who is giving the Sounders fits, just put one hard off the near pole.
Soon thereafter, yellow card to Marshall.
12th minute: Houston certainly has had the better run of play so far. However, Sounders just got first real chance, with Marshall heading one over the bar.
Kickoff: Sounders wearing blue ... in which they are 2-0-1. But the draw was here, and that can't be duplicated today. Here we go.
More pregame: A nice ceremony for the Fort Hood victims -- moment of silence, releasing of doves -- has been followed by ...
a Dynamo skit in which someone dressed as a Sounders supporter runs out onto the pitch, throws down a Dynamo flag, and stomps it. He is then tackled by the Dynamo mascot, which is a guy dressed in a -- best guess here -- wolf costume.
Green and blue: A couple of Sounders are warming up in blue pants...
Meanwhile, there is a very nice representation of rave green jerseys in what apparently will be the upper-right portion of the stadium as you watch from home. And the Sounders supporters have an exceptionally high banner-to-fan ratio.
However, I must say that the Dynamo fans may rival Qwest fans in terms of wearing the home colors. Lots of orange in the seating areas today. Plus, orange Dynamo rally towels were handed to the first 10,000 fans through the gates.
Lineups: Sounders -- GK Keller; D Riley, Hurtado, Marshall, Gonzalez; M Jaqua, Alonso, Evans, Zakuani; F Montero, Ljungberg. Reserves: Boss, Ianni, Wahl, Le Toux, Nyassi, Vagenas, Levesque.
For Houston -- GK Onstad; D Hainault, Boswell, Comeron, Chabala; M Mullan, Clark, Holden, Davis; F Oduro, Ching. Reserves: Hall, Barrett, Cochrane, Robinson, Ashe, Landin, Weaver.
Pregame: The gates are open and the first fans have trickled in. The first few Sounders are out on the pitch, but they're in training gear, so I don't tell if they'll be wearing their (unbeaten) blues, which I kind of expect.
The USA, Texas and Dynamo flags are at half staff, in honor of the fallen soldiers at Fort Hood, which is about three or four hours from here. There's also a pregame moment-of-silence planned before the national anthem.
Normal gameday blogging planned: pregame news, lineups, in-game updates and postgame notes and quotes ... hopefully along with lots of comments from you.