In the eighth minute, Obafemi Martins scored what almost certainly will be declared the MLS Goal of the Week as the Sounders rode his dumbfounder to a 1-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes Saturday night in front of an “open-stadium” crowd of 49,746 at CenturyLink Field.
Seattle improved to 8-3-1 and moved past Real Salt Lake (22 points) and into first place in the Western Conference.
Although the Sounders were without stars Clint Dempsey, Brad Evans and DeAndre Yedlin, all training with the U.S. Men’s National Team for the World Cup, they had too much depth for the Earthquakes, also missing a number of their best players, including leading scorer Chris Wondolowski. The Earthquakes had just five players on the bench due to injuries, suspensions and international duty.
Rebounding from a franchise-worst 5-0 drubbing in New England a week ago, the Sounders did not allow the Earthquakes (2-4-4) a shot on goal until the 90th minute in recording their first blanking in nine matches. Goalie Stefan Frei recorded his first clean sheet since a 2-0 win over the Montreal Impact March 23.
“After last week, we wanted to make sure we played better defensively. We were all committed as a group and showed that today,” said Sounders coach Sigi Schmid.
By the time San Jose took its first shot on goal, the Sounders were in full defensive mode trying to protect Martins’ dazzling goal — a left-footed, looping chip shot nearly from the end line, following a feed from Gonzalo Pineda, that hit the top right corner of the net, baffling San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch, helpless to prevent it.
The Sounders are 5-0-0 this season when Martins scores.
“i think we needed (the goal) badly because we had an embarrassing defeat,” Martins said of last week’s blowout loss to the Revolution. “When I scored, I was so excited because we needed it. I’m playing my World Cup here in Seattle and enjoying it.”
The Sounders nearly doubled up on San Jose in the 58th minute when Lamar Neagle barely missed on a volley seemingly destined for the bottom corner that Busch turned into a tremendous save.
The Sounders had two more scoring opportunities in the 84th and 85th minutes, but Busch smothered both shots in the box.
NOTES: The attendance was the largest crowd to watch a Sounders’ match this season, the largest MLS crowd of the year, and the ninth-largest in franchise history. The Sounders, averaging 40,212 at the Clink, are 9-0-3 all-time when attendance exceeds 40,000 . . . The teams meet again Aug. 2 at the new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA., also the home of the San Francisco 49ers . . . The Sounders lead MLS with 15 home points.
NEXT: The Sounders resume Cascadia Cup play at 4 p.m. Saturday at Vancouver, followed by a home match May 31 against Real Salt Lake.