All the headlines before Saturday’s match between the Seattle Sounders and Houston Dynamo involved Clint Dempsey. After the game, the just desserts will belong to the Dynamo’s forwards as a Giles Barnes brace and Will Bruin's late blast led Houston to a 3-1 win at BBVA Compass Stadium.
Houston came into the night just inside the playoff places in the Eastern Conference. Thanks to Barnes’ first multi-goal game in MLS, they will stay above the red line for another week.
Barnes set the tone early, scoring both of his goals in the first half. The first came courtesy of a hustle play as Bruin worked past former Dynamo center back Patrick Ianni, drawing Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning off his line. With the Sounders netminder out of position, Barnes took a touch inside and blasted the loose ball into the top corner of the unguarded net for his fifth goal of the season, and his first since May 8.
The Englishman's sixth came five minutes later and was of the spectacular variety. Given acres of space by a retreating Seattle back line, he blasted a sterling 30-yard strike past a leaping Gspurning and into the upper 90 to give Houston a 2-0 halftime lead.
Seattle took control after the break and Shalrie Joseph pulled one back in the 65th minute. The veteran midfielder found space on a Marc Burch free kick and headed the attempt downward and into the back of the net to make it 2-1.
That’s as close as Seattle – who played without Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins and brought Brad Evans off the bench – would get. Bruin iced the game in the 74th minute, finishing from close range after a Warren Creavalle header rang off the crossbar to deliver a 3-1 win to the home team.
Houston move to 36 points, good for fifth place, and are three points clear of the sixth-place New England Revolution. The Sounders stay on 34 points and remain just outside the playoff picture in the Western Conference.
Dempsey was the name on everyone’s lips coming into the game, making his first MLS appearance in Texas since 2006. The Nacogdoches, Texas native took time to find the game, but things changed in the second half when Dempsey found more of the game from the first kick.
The U.S. playmaker dropped deeper into midfield and starting to play more of a role igniting Seattle’s attack.
The change worked as Seattle became more dangerous. Dempsey showed his playmaking skill in the 53rd minute when he slalomed through Houston’s defense from near the midfield stripe to set up Marc Burch, but his streaking shot was parried by Hall.
Neagle nearly found a goal in the 81st minute with a clever flick in the box. His bid beat Hall the first time, but clanged off the post and bounced back into the Houston ‘keeper's grateful arms.
Houston will travel to Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday to face W Connection in their CONCACAF Champions League opener before traveling to Montreal to face the Impact next Saturday. Seattle will host the Portland Timbers in a Cascadia Cup clash next Sunday.
Houston Dynamo (10-7-6; 36 points) vs. Seattle Sounders FC (10-8-4; 34 points)
MLS regular season
August 17, 2013 – BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, TX
Attendance: 22,289 (sellout)
HOU: Giles Barnes 5 (Will Bruin 6) 17
HOU: Giles Barnes 6 (Brad Davis 5) 21
SEA: Shalrie Joseph 1 (Marc Burch 1) 65
HOU: Will Bruin 6 (Brad Davis 6) 74
Houston Dynamo: Tally Hall; Kofi Sarkodie, Bobby Boswell, Jermaine Taylor, Corey Ashe; Boniek Garcia, Adam Moffat, Ricardo Clark (Warren Creavalle 39), Brad Davis © (Andrew Driver 82); Will Bruin, Giles Barnes (Cam Weaver 73)
Substitutes not used: Erich Marscheider, Eric Brunner, Brian Ching, Alexander Lopez
Seattle Sounders FC: Michael Gspurning; DeAndre Yedlin, Djimi Traore (Zach Scott 82), Patrick Ianni, Leonardo Gonzalez; Mauro Rosales (C) (Brad Evans 62), Osvaldo Alonso, Shalrie Joseph, Marc Burch (Eriq Zavaleta 85); Lamar Neagle, Clint Dempsey
Substitutes not used: Marcus Hahnemann, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Servando Carrasco, Dylan Remick
Seattle: Leonardo Gonzales (caution) 42
Houston: Boniek Garcia (caution) 83
Referee: Baldomero Toledo
Referee's Assistants: Peter Balciunas, Kevin Klinger
4th Official: Daniel Fitzgerald