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Facing midweek challenges, Dynamo gain rare result in Seattle

In sports, as in life, results are not created equal. The Dynamo went to Seattle on Wednesday and played to a scoreless draw. On the surface, it’s a positive achievement but far from extraordinary. But looking closer at the circumstances, the road point seems a noteworthy accomplishment.

Begin with the freshness of the squads entering Wednesday’s game. The Dynamo had three days of rest following Saturday’s 3-2 home loss to Colorado. Seattle enjoyed nine days of rejuvenation following a 2-1 win at Vancouver on October 2.

Then consider what was at stake for each of the two teams. The Dynamo were eliminated from playoff contention following a dispiriting home loss to Colorado on the weekend. Seattle was arguably the most in-form team in MLS, with a 7-1-3 mark in its 11 previous games. Moreover, interim head coach Brian Schmetzer’s squad was buoyed by the unexpected return of Nicolas Lodeiro and Jordan Morris from international duty and had a chance to clinch a playoff berth with a win.

Wednesday was Seattle’s sixth midweek home game in MLS competition, including playoffs, since August 2014. The Sounders were 5-0-1 in the previous six instances, outscoring opponents 11-3. The San Jose Earthquakes were the only other visitor to gain a point midweek, a 1-1 draw on August 20, 2014.

Dynamo interim head coach Wade Barrett made six changes to the starting lineup from Saturday to Wednesday. The six changes were the most from game-to-game by Houston this season, eclipsing the five adjustments made for a match at Columbus on April 23.

Among the starting group, midfielder José Escalante and defender Keyner Brown made their first MLS starts. It was forward Will Bruin's first start since August 6 at Montreal, defender David Horst's first start since August 24 vs. Seattle and midfielder Eric Alexander's first since August 27 vs. FC Dallas.     

FC Dallas faced a similar task as the Dynamo on July 13, contesting three games in a nine-day span, with a Wednesday date in Seattle the middle game following a Friday road win. Trying to balance schedule congestion as well as the U.S. Open Cup and looming entry into the CONCACAF Champions League, head coach Oscar Pareja made numerous changes, resting several key players, including Fabian Castillo and Michael Barrios. Seattle was ahead 3-0 after 22 minutes and rolled to a 5-0 win over FC Dallas.

The Dynamo did enjoy a man advantage for the final 24 minutes on Wednesday following Osvaldo Alonso’s red card, which certainly led to a bittersweet taste at the final whistle for many fans. Nonetheless, considering everything stacked against Houston entering the game, a shutout and draw in one of the league’s most difficult environments should be viewed as an achievement.

Now the Dynamo will attempt to end the home schedule on a positive note on Sunday as old rivals the LA Galaxy visit (4:15 p.m., TICKETS). The Galaxy have their injury doubts with Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard, but Landon Donovan is back from retirement and Giovani dos Santos is in form after captaining Mexico to a win over Panama on Tuesday. For the Dynamo, it will be another challenge to be met with pride and professionalism.