Sometimes you have to enjoy the little things.
Whether surviving a zombie apocalypse or merely a difficult end-of-season swoon in Major League Soccer, taking joy in those moments throughout life’s journey can be just as satisfying as the destination itself, even if you never end up making it.
Not that the Seattle Sounders have given up hopes of a late-season resurrection. The dim hopes of a postseason run brightened slightly after their come-from-behind 2-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo Sunday evening at Lumen Field, but the three points were almost an afterthought in the wake of many fans’ wildest dream coming to fruition in the 59th minute.
Nouhou’s goal — for those who got to see it live — was unspectacular and a bit scrappy, but it might as well have been an extra time winner to clinch the championship for the reaction it received. After all, when you wait 149 games for your first you might as well party like it’s the end of the world as you know it.
When the Sounders season ends — whenever that is — there will be tall peaks and deep valleys to discuss. Where the first career goal in MLS by Nouhou rates along that path might be skewed by his cult-favorite status. But darn if it wasn’t a moment to savor.
Sometimes it is the little things, indeed.
While Nouhou isn’t paid to bang in goals and provide assists, it has long been discussed as the hole in his overall game: the need to be more of an attacking threat. Even his most ardent critics in that area would acknowledge his improvement in delivering crosses, and simply being more dangerous going forward. But the end product has been inconsistent at best. So it was particularly encouraging for the Cameroon international to have a hand in both Sounders goals, as they continue to try to find a more consistent attack.
The reason for the Sounders’ struggles can’t be blamed on one specific area, but a complete lack of production from the bench this year certainly hasn't helped. In the absence of Raúl Ruidíaz for most of the summer, neither Will Bruin nor Fredy Montero were really able to provide consistent relief, at least at the forward position. With Ruidíaz back, it provided head coach Brian Schmetzer an alternative approach. Moving Montero back a line as more of an attacking midfielder, where he was able to influence the game with his on-the-ball abilities and work-rate. And of course he still has the scorer’s mentality, getting into the penalty box to nod home the game-winner. It was his 75th career goal for the Sounders, a franchise record and the first by a Sounders substitute this year.
Some day the Sounders’ luck will turn around. Perhaps it will be a run of favorable results in the last matches of the season, or perhaps a ball will finally bounce their way. That run of luck didn’t feel like it was coming against Houston, when another “excuse me” deflection on a shot found its way past Stefan Frei in the 26th minute, giving the Dynamo a goal mostly against the run of play. Whether it’s been red cards or penalties or VAR decisions, it hasn’t been the Sounders’ day, month, or even their year.
The Sounders are in a bit of an interesting position, trying to salvage a playoff run with a midfield fairly decimated by injuries. With some limited options, Schmetzer opted to start both Josh Atencio and Danny Leyva in the defensive midfield. That duo has gotten a run-out in a couple of matches and were mostly solid there. At least, they weren’t the cause of the Sounders’ issues in this match. It will be interesting to see if Schmetzer opts to give them another opportunity on the weekend against Austin FC, though he may not have much of a choice.
Three points aside, it’s still a long shot for the Sounders to make a run, though they did get a little bit of help thanks to a rather inexplicable penalty shot. Still, results mostly went against them — they remain six points out of seventh — and even the slightest slip up from here on in could seal their fate. But as Nouhou said after the match, the Sounders never give up, so as long as there is a chance, the Sounders will look to take it. The schedule itself is manageable, but whether they can find the consistency to take advantage of it remains to be seen.