The Sounders FC got back on the winning side of the ledger Saturday night, earning a 2-1 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes in front of a sellout crowd of 28,999 at Qwest Field.
Freddie Ljungberg scored one goal and assisted another from Fredy Montero as the Sounders improved to 5-3-5 (20 points) on the season to leap ahead of the Colorado Rapids for third place in the Western Conference.
“It’s a matter of getting back that confidence, knowing we can win. There’s been games that we’ve played well, like in Chivas when we came away with the loss, and played a better, complete 90 minutes than we played today,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. “At the end of the day, it’s a good solid win. We want to win when we’re at home and we did that tonight, so I’m very proud of the effort the team put in.”
The Sounders had several chances in the first half, but were turned away by top-class saves by San Jose goalkeeper Joe Cannon, who had three first half saves and several other instances where he came off his line to stop Sounder chances.
“There was one, I don’t know how he kept the ball out,” Ljungberg said. “It was nice when a goal went in because we were wondering what the hell was going on.”
In the 42nd minute, Seattle finally got past Cannon. San Jose defender Jason Hernandez misplayed a ball in the defensive third, leaving it on the feet of Ljungberg for a pass to Montero. Turning back, Montero dropped a pass to Sebastien Le Toux, who slipped the pass through the defense to Ljungberg on the attack. Ljungberg then knocked it past Cannon for his second goal of the season for a 1-0 lead to take into halftime.
“I just tried to dummy the goalie so he goes down a bit, then I tried to shift over … it’s as simple as that,” Ljungberg said with a laugh.
In the 59th minute, Seattle added to their lead on Montero’s fifth goal of the season.
Seattle earned a corner kick on the right side and Ljungberg whipped it in with a right foot, finding Patrick Ianni’s head in the middle of the box. The header fell to Montero, who collected it and touched it past Cannon for a 2-0 lead.
San Jose was able to bounce back to get to 2-1 in the 68th minute as the Sounders turned the ball over in their own box and Darren Huckerby capitalized for his first goal of the season. Shea Salinas got possession of the loose ball and knocked it down to Ryan Johnson, who centered it through three Sounders to Huckerby for a one-touch goal past Kasey Keller.
“We just got complacent and didn’t clear the ball,” Keller said. “I don’t know why and I guarantee you it won’t happen again. There is a time and place to play and that wasn’t one of them. For now it means nothing and you learn from it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
The misplay came after Seattle had continued a strong run of play through the first 60 minutes.
“We sort of lost the plot a little bit,” Schmid said of the late lapse. “They became more aggressive and a bad play in the back results in their goal. We need to do a better job of managing it, but when you’re in a streak where you’re not getting wins, right now you’ll take the win.”
The win ends a six-game drought for the Sounders, who were 0-1-5 in that stretch. It also starts a stretch that will see them play three games in eight days, with five out of six games on home turf at Qwest Field.
“(The win was) very important. We had a great run at the start of the year, then a bad run, so today starts a new run for us,” Steve Zakuani said. “We’re very, very excited right now - the morale is high. If we can keep getting wins on the bounce, then everyone forgets the stretch of draws and we’re back where we want to be.”
Added Stephen King, “Overall it was a good team performance. We knew we had to come out and get three points tonight. We haven’t won in a while and especially being at home at Qwest with the fans, we had to use that to our advantage and do what we needed to do to get the three points, whatever that was.”
The Sounders play a Wednesday night game against DC United at Qwest before traveling to New York to face the Red Bulls. Kickoff Wednesday night is 7:30 and the game will be nationally televised on ESPN2.