The Seattle Sounders have yet to find their first victory, but at least they found more than one goal in an entertaining 2-2 draw Saturday night against the San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara, CA.
Seattle managed some offense without Fredy Montero, the team’s top scorer the past two seasons. Montero had a small fracture in his wrist and was forced to remain home. His absence didn’t dampen Seattle’s thirst to attack.
Unfortunately for them, the Sounders were in a charitable mood defensively, giving up the ball more than once and slacking off in their marking at inopportune moments. The narrow field at Buck Shaw Stadium probably didn’t help as the Earthquakes lobbed dangerous diagonal balls and were quick to counter. That put Seattle’s defense under pressure almost immediately.
We had some turnovers and that always puts you in trouble,” Coach Sigi Schmid said. “We had some chances and they had some chances. It probably could have ended 4-4 and nobody could have complained. But two goals should be enough to win when youre on the road.
Schmid substituted midfielder Erik Friberg at the start of the second half, but it appears Friberg may have been suffering from the flu. Friberg and Mauro Rosales were at the center of much what was positive in the first half.
Schmid replaced Friberg with Alvaro Fernandez. As the second half slowed, it didn’t look to be one of Schmid’s more inspired decisions. In fact, the Sounders’ other substitutions, Nate Jaqua for O’Brian White and David Estrada for a fatigued Rosales, failed to make much difference. Jaqua even missed one of the few clear-cut chances for Seattle late in the game, though it deflected off a San Jose defender.
But if there was a party crasher, then Earthquakes second-half substitute Khari Stevenson was it. He ruined Seattle’s quest for its first win. With the Sounders up 2-1 early in second half, Stevenson ripped a 35-yard rocket that forced a helpless Kasey Keller into a full stretch. His shot in the 52nd minute came from nowhere and was sheer quality.
I picked up the ball, Im not sure if it came from Bobby (Convey) or Sam (Cronin),” Stevenson said. “I tried to play the ball to Wondo, made a bad pass and the ball ended up on my feet. I looked up, I had time and space. I had the shot and I took it, and it went in.
That was the last score of the night as the teams slowed the frenetic pace that had characterized a first half of rollicking soccer. Both Seattle’s goals came from splendid build-up and possession. San Jose’s goal in the 33rd minute was no less impressive. The roughly 10,276 San Jose fans got their money’s worth.
For the Sounders, defensive mistake cost both goals and nearly led to two other opportunities early when San Jose was pressing hard.
Keller’s quick reactions saved the Sounders twice in the first half. His left hand denied last year’s MLS scoring champ, Chris Wondolowski, in the 9th minute and he stopped Joey Gjertens in stoppage time.
“He (Wondo) had a couple of good chances,” Keller said. “On the first, if hed put that a little lower I wouldve had no chance to save it, but sometimes you find yourself in the right place to make the save. I think we focused so much on him that we let a couple guys run through the middle.”
Rosales, who started as a forward for the injured Montero, proved he belongs in the starting 11. He was at the fulcrum of most of Seattle’s offensive output in the first half — whipping a low cross to Brad Evans to begin the scoring. His growing understanding with Friberg was evident in the first half, as they combined to create the Evans chance.
It looked as if Seattle had control of the first half, particularly toward the end. White ended his drought, scoring a header to put Seattle up 2-1 late in the first half.
Two minutes before half, Steve Zakuani turned his defender around with a double scissors and sent a diagonal cross to a diving White, who pushed the ball past Earthquakes goalie Jon Busch.
San Jose nearly equalized before the whistle. In the 47th minute, Joey Gjertsen cracked a right footer, forcing another strong Keller save.
San Jose evened the score in the 32nd minute when Simon Dawkins scored after receiving a pass from Bobby Convey, who wasn’t picked up by a Sounder midfielder and threaded the ball through to Dawkins, who had made a dangerous bending run to beat the Seattle defenders.
“What I liked about our play tonight was that we didn’t give up,” San Jose Coach Frank Yallop said. “We dominated play in the second half, we got the goal and I felt that we were unlucky that we didn’t get the third one to win it.”
Seattle opened the scoring in the 17th minute. Friberg slipped a ball to Rosales on the right side, who sent in a low cross to a surging Evans entering into the box. He tapped it in from five yards.
In the first half, Seattle shot 11 times to 7 for San Jose. Total shots went to 13 for both teams, but San Jose led shots on goal 5-4.
Seattle –Kasey Keller, James Riley, Patrick Ianni, Jeff Parke, Leo Gonzalez, Erik Friberg, Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Steve Zakuani, Mauro Rosales, O’Brian White
San Jose — Jon Busch, Chris Leitch, Jason Hernandez, Brandon McDonald, Ramiro Corrales, Sam Cronin, Simon Dawkins, Chris Wondolowski, Joey Gjertsen, Ryan Johnson, Bobby Convey.