SANTA CLARA, Calif. – “It was just one of those days.”
That was Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid’s reaction after he watched Seattle fall 4-0 to the San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium as the two Western Conference foes met for the third and final time in the 2009 season.
Less than two minutes into the game, San Jose went up 1-0 on an own goal from Osvaldo Alonso and that omen proved to be a sign of things to come as James Riley was sent off with a red card in the 33rd minute and the Earthquakes rallied for three second-half goals to win the inaugural Heritage Cup.
“Obviously I don’t think we played well. I didn’t think we played well taking an own goal like we did at the very start of the game,” Schmid said. “I don’t know where the miscommunication was there. And then taking a red card, we gave ourselves a huge mountain to climb and it was not good. We didn’t play well.”
The second minute goal wasn’t even San Jose’s first shot of the game. Ryan Johnson got a shot away within the first minute that Kasey Keller saved with a diving stop. But Johnson’s cross to the middle one minute later found its way to the foot of Alonso and into the back of the net while Keller waited to grab the ball out of the air.
“You’re going to have games where you lose and the other team is better than you, but we just don’t give ourselves a chance sometimes which is frustrating,” Keller said.
Seattle looked to have the opportunity to equalize in the 26th minute. The Earthquakes played a ball back to goalkeeper Joe Cannon, but unable to touch the ball with his hands, Cannon was forced to play the ball with his feet when Sebastien Le Toux came on in pursuit. Cannon lost control of the ball and it spilled out in front of the open net. Cannon spread his arms wide and held off Le Toux rather than playing the ball, but Le Toux was the one called for the foul and the Earthquakes escaped unharmed.
Then the tables turned dramatically in the 33rd minute when Riley went in on a tackle of San Jose defender Bobby Convey and was sent off with a red card when Convey hit the deck.
The second half didn’t go any better as Cornell Glen scored in the 54th minute, getting around the Sounders defense before finding the left side of the net with a left-footed shot from 18 yards out.
Down 2-0, Seattle finally got their first shot of the game in the 62nd minute, twisting a shot from the right side of the box that missed just outside the far post. In the end, San Jose outshot the Sounders 16-4.
Two of San Jose’s shots came in the 78th minute when Darren Huckerby found himself at the left post with the ball. His first shot was turned away by Keller for one of his ten saves, but Huckerby fought to the loose ball and knocked it in for his third goal of the year and a 3-0 lead.
Chris Wondolowski added another in the 84th minute for the final 4-0 tally in front of 9,919 at Buck Shaw Stadium and the Sounders were faced with turning themselves around after the blowout loss.
“I think we have to digest what happened today and learn from it. Obviously from the first minute of the game we weren’t ready to play,” Keller said. “I know that this was a game where (Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop) said to them that it was a must-win for them. They showed up and competed from the first minute to the end of the game better than we did. I can’t say that too often this season.”
The Earhtquakes won the inaugural Heritage Cup by virtue of goal differential, after the two teams split the final two games of the season. The Sounders 2-0 win in the first meeting was not figured in to the Heritage Cup.
“When I’ve had teams like this, one of the things we’ve always prided ourselves on is that we never lost two in a row,” Schmid said. “We’ve played San Jose in three games and we won two out of three, but somehow they won the Heritage Cup. I don’t know how that works. Maybe next year we’ll play the Heritage Cup and whoever scores the most goals between the 54th minute and the 78th minute of the second game wins the Heritage Cup. I don’t know.”
The loss dropped Seattle to 7-4-8 on the season while San Jose improved to 4-10-5. The Sounders face FC Barcelona in an international friendly on Wednesday night at 7:30 at Qwest Field. Their next league match comes on Saturday against Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.