Seattle Sounders FC’s loss to the San Jose Earthquakes started early with a turnover in the midfield and Simon Dawkins quick work to put the opposition up early in the second minute. “It changes the complexion of the match,” Brad Evans explains. “It’s one little mistake, a turnover and then they come down and it’s phenomenal goal, a credit to him and his strike.”
To go down with so much time left in the match enabled San Jose to play an aggressive defense throughout the pitch. Starting forwards Chris Wondolowski and Alan Gordon would drop back for defensive help and pressure Seattle into turnovers.
While Seattle would tie the match on a throw-in deep thanks to Sammy Ochoa’s hold up work and a pass that helped Steve Zakuani earn his first goal in 17 months, it would not be enough in the end. Zakuani’s celebration went to trainer Dave Tenney.
“I give him a lot of credit for getting me into shape and maximizing the things the natural abilities I had – speed and power. He made me fit. Playing 70 minutes, 65 minutes that goes to Dave. He really pushes me in training. Coming back from this Dave’s been a huge role,” Zakuani said postmatch. “I just ran towards the bench because all the coaching staff and the teammates that have been there for me. I just happened to see Dave and Dave’s a really important guy in my career. “
In the 29th minute a poor back pass would grant the Earthquakes a corner opportunity. Victor Bernardez gathered a loose ball after the corner and slip it into a dangerous space. Like so many of Wondolowski’s goals this year he was very tight to the goal and gave a small deflection to beat Michael Gspurning. That match winner was his 10th on the season.
It was also a symbol of what the Sounders struggled with in the first half. Throughout postmatch comments the theme concentrated on will and desire. Wondolowski willed himself into a place where no one could stop him.
In the second half things changed. Seattle would double their attempts on goal, increase possession by 10%, earn eight corners and ten open play crosses. Their tone of play changed.
“They [Earthquakes] came out with the same attitude in the second half, for sure in the first ten minutes they wanted to do the same, but we counteracted it because our energy was better,” Coach Sigi Schmid noted. “We pressured them. We reacted quicker to the turnovers because the sport is a turnover sport. Teams that react well to turnovers are teams that are more successful. We didn’t react well to turnovers in the first half and we reacted much better in the second half.”
Desire and effort in the final forty-five did not result a goal. It did create more chances. In the 71st minute David Estrada returned to the field of play after missing four months with a broken foot. His two shots were both blocked though on frame.
“When you get rebounds like that you try to put a ball on frame. There’s been two occasions where those hit off defenders and went in,” Estrada pointed to his early season success.”This time they went for corner kicks. I think if we get a corner kick it’s good for the team too because it gives a chance for another shot on goal.”
Despite being the smaller team the Sounders would continue to threaten late in the match. “It’s just a mindset. It’s just I want it more than you,” Evans said. “We didn’t do that in the first half well enough. I think we can play these guys more physical. I think that was the mindset going into the second half. We’ll get away with some bumps here and there. They’re the bigger team. They kind of look down on us in stature.”
Mentality is something that San Jose had going for it tonight. It went for them in the previous two regular season losses as well.
Late in the match that desire was demonstrated when keeper Michael Gspurning looked to the bench to see if he should enter the 18 to join the attack on a very late corner kick. “I’m not thinking about if we concede another goal. We don’t have anything to lose. I was just asking if I should go and risk everything because I don’t care if I give up a third one. It means nothing to me if my goal against average statistic gets worse. We wanted the result, but in the second half it was too late.”
The team can look to that half for what they need to do in the playoffs. Coach Schmid noted that losing now and learning this lesson in the regular season is better than in the playoffs.
Brad Evans sums up the team’s feelings best, “This feels like a playoff loss. We’ve only had seven losses in MLS and eight with the Open Cup. Eight losses since March, this one probably hurts the worst for sure.”
The next regular season match is Saturday September 29th in Vancouver against the Whitecaps. That is an opportunity for a bounce back win and to continue the 61 match streak without consecutive losses in MLS play. The team is 31-12-18 during that stretch. NBC Sports Network will be carrying that Cascadia Cup match.
SJ - Simon Dawkins (Alan Gordon) 2'
SEA - Steve Zakuani (Sammy Ochoa) 14'
SJ - Chris Wondolowski (Victor Bernardez) 30'
Seattle Sounders FC - Michael Gspurning, Adam Johansson (Mario Martinez 82), Jeff Parke, Patrick Ianni (Jhon Kennedy Hurtado 49), Leo Gonzalez, Christian Tiffert, Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Steve Zakuani (David Estrada 71), Sammy Ochoa, Fredy Montero.
Substitutes Not Used: Andrew Weber, Zach Scott, Marc Burch, Andy Rose.
TOTAL SHOTS: 13; SHOTS ON GOAL: 1; FOULS: 13; OFFSIDE: 0; CORNER KICKS: 10; SAVES: 3.
San Jose Earthquakes - Jon Busch, Steven Beitashour, Jason Hernandez, Victor Bernardez, Justin Morrow, Mehdi Ballouchy (Steven Lenhart 65), Rafael Baca (Ike Opara 88), Sam Cronin, Simon Dawkins (Ramiro Corrales 60'), Chris Wondolowski, Alan Gordon.
Substitutes Not Used: David Bingham, Brad Ring, Khari Stephenson, Jed Zayner.
TOTAL SHOTS: 17; SHOTS ON GOAL: 5; FOULS: 13; OFFSIDE: 0; CORNER KICKS: 5; SAVES: 0.
SJ - Victor Bernardez (caution) 53'
SEA - Christian Tiffert (caution) 79'
SEA - Osvaldo Alonso (caution) 90'