Blood, noise and yellow cards outnumbered scoringchances as the expansion Seattle Sounders debuted in the MLSplayoffs with a 0-0 draw against the Houston Dynamo on Thursdaynight in the first match of a home-and-home, aggregate-goals set.
Second-seeded Houston, seeking its third MLS title in fourseasons, denied a frantic late flurry of corner kicks and set playsby Sounders star Freddie Ljungberg.
The playoff opener was yet another splashy event in theSounders' smashing inaugural season.
Seattle, the third seed in the Western Conference, setattendance records while becoming the first expansion team in 11years to reach the MLS postseason.
The crowd of 35,807 at Qwest Field was the largest crowd for aconference semifinal playoff match in MLS' 13-year history.
It was the fourth scoreless draw this season for each team.
The second match of the series is Nov. 8 at Houston, where theDynamo are 4-1 in the playoffs. They also have the league's besthome winning percentage over the last four seasons. The winneradvances to the one-match conference championship.
Houston could use the 10-day break after playing four times in12 days.
Most of the rowdy fans were standing, singing and chanting andwaving signs such as "Welcome to Green Hell" throughout thechilly night.
Lead owner and Hollywood filmmaker Joe Roth attended, andminority team owner actor Drew Carey walked the perimeter of thefield before the game wearing a huge smile, a white team cap andone of the green-and-blue team scarves that were everywhere in thestadium and atop freeway overpasses around the city
The two stingiest defenses during the regular season - 29 goalsagainst each in 30 games - bulled through 60 minutes. There wereonly two prime scoring chances in that span. The first came fromformer Dynamo player Patrick Ianni, who started because TyroneMarshall had a sprained knee. He headed a shot off the crossbar inthe 43rd minute on long free kick by Ljungberg.
In the 58th minute, Houston All-Star midfielder Brad Davis hadhis shot from the top of the penalty area poked away with a righthand by diving goalkeeper Kasey Keller.
The chippiness started when Houston goalkeeper Pat Onstad bulledFredy Montero, Seattle's top scorer, to the ground in front of thegoal after a whistle in the 16th minute. Onstad received a yellowcard, as did Montero for racing up off the turf and charging at his41-year-old opponent.
Ljungberg, who missed on numerous passes early in his first MLSplayoff game, had pointed words for Onstad at the end of theskirmish. Houston's Brian Mullan yanking Seattle's Jhon KennedyHurtado away from the scrum with his arm around Hurtado's neck.
The raucous crowd lustily booed Onstad each time he touched theball after that.
Eleven minutes later, Houston's Ricardo Clark kicked formerDynamo forward Nate Jaqua above his left eye. Jaqua left the pitchfor 3 minutes of game time after blood trickled down his face, butHouston couldn't muster a scoring chance with the brief manadvantage.
The cut and blood bothered Jaqua into the second half, when themost impressive player in the match finally summoned trainers towrap the circumference of his head. Seattle's 2008 expansion draftpick from Houston also had to change his bloodstained jersey, intoone with no name or number on the back.
Jaqua returned again to poke a short pass in front for Monteroin the 61st minute. Montero, who had 12 goals in the regularseason, dribbled his point-blank shot just outside of the rightpost.
Jaqua was turned away by Onstad on a header from close-range,off a corner kick by Ljungberg in the 74th minute.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times