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Free-flying Sounders eliminate Houston Dynamo from playoffs

SEATTLE – The Seattle Sounders eliminated the Houston Dynamo from the playoffs at CenturyLink Field Monday night in front of an announced crowd of 39,518. The absence of Raul Ruidiaz and Gustav Svensson for international duty mattered little as the Sounders put up their second-consecutive four-goal performance in a 4-1 victory.

“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to (assistant coaches Gonzalo Pineda, Djimi Traore and Preki),” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said after the match. “They all do a lot of work prepping the group. Those guys do a lot of work to help us be successful. When the players are engaged and the coaching is a high level. You get moments like this where the guys come together and they play well.”

The Sounders struck first in the 18th minute, when a long ball down the flank found Nouhou in the left alley. Nouhou crossed the ball across the penalty area, allowing Cristian Roldan to pick out Bruin inside the penalty area with his back to goal. Bruin turned and fired a left-footed shot to the upper left corner for his seventh goal of the year.

“For me personally it was good to get back on the score sheet,” Bruin said. “My minutes are limited now so I need to make the most of them. I think I did that tonight.

“I have scored goals every year in this league. As the league brings in higher quality players, a lot of them are attackers so I kind of have to evolve my game. I think I’ve done that throughout the years. Whenever I get my opportunities, I’m just going to do my job and try and score goals.”

Seattle scored again in the 34th on a counterattack sprung by Osvaldo Alonso, who laid the ball off to Lodeiro. Lodeiro went on a 65-yard run, eventually dropping the ball to Roldan after drawing the defenders and Roldan buried the ball in the far side of the net to make it 2-0.

Seattle scored again in the 64th minute, when Kelvin Leerdam drove in a low cross from the right side. Bruin let the ball run between his legs and a wide-open Victor Rodriguez smashed the cross in to make it 3-0.

Rodriguez scored again in the 73rd minute, when a long build-up was capped off with a strong finish off a quick pass from substitute Handwalla Bwana.

Houston managed to manufacture some pressure in the late minutes, culminating in a goal in the 87th minute when he scored to the far side of the net on a pass from Arturo Alvarez to salvage some bright side for the hosts.

The Dynamo seemed to be on the unlucky side of several officiating decisions made by referee Drew Fischer. In the 42nd minute, Sounders keeper Stefan Frei made a pair of point-blank saves in the penalty area, before a third shot was powered past him. Fischer, however, whistled Mauro Manotas for handball, though the saved shot appeared to bounce off the forward’s stomach.

In the 85th minute, Nouhou slid in front of a low shot to block it on the goal line. This time, it was Houston’s turn to shout for a handling offense, but despite replays that seemed to show the shot being stopped by Nouhou’s arm, no penalty kick was given.

Seattle can now clinch a playoff spot with a win on the road against Orlando City Oct. 17. The club may be further depleted by international call-ups for the match, but if Bruin, Rodriguez and Roldan continue their recent form, the Sounders are poised to return to the postseason for the 10th consecutive year.

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