In front of the largest crowd in MLS this season, the San Jose Earthquakes took an early lead against the Seattle Sounders, but gave up two late goals to walk away 2-1 losers. The 64,140 fans in attendance at CenturyLink Field in Seattle fell silent after Chris Wondolowski’s 24th minute strike opened the scoring on the pleasant Northwestern Saturday evening, but a pair of goals in the match’s last 10 minutes ensured that they went home happy.
“We have to play as mentally strong as we can in those late stages,” said head coach Frank Yallop after the match. “It is frustrating to play well and to get nothing out of the game.”
Wondolowski notched his fifth goal in the last four Earthquakes games courtesy of some astute play from right winger Rafael Baca. When a Sounders clearance attempt following a long Jon Busch goal kick failed to break through the Quakes midfield, Baca stepped in to intercept the ball and immediately send it back behind the Seattle defensive line. Wondolowski, making his move just as Baca touched the ball, finished a one-on-one with goalkeeper Kasey Keller to put the Earthquakes up 1-0. The goal moved the defending MLS Golden Boot winner back into a tie at the top of the league scoring chart with DC United’s Dwayne De Rosario.
Later in the first half, as the game entered the 43rd minute, Wondolowski nearly doubled the Earthquakes lead as he met a Steven Beitashour cross at the top of the six yard box and sent a header low and to Keller’s right. However, the veteran goalkeeper, who was playing his final regular season home game Saturday evening before his impending retirement at season’s end, made a brilliant save on the header and pushed the ball from danger.
In the second half, with the Earthquakes struggling to find a second goal, the chance to double their lead came in the 65th minute, as a careless back pass from James Riley was intercepted by Khari Stephenson. The Jamaican had a chance to go for goal, but Keller rushed off his line to prevent a quality shot on goal from happening. The ball bounced to Wondolowski, who took a touch toward the byline to try and find space around Keller, but his shot was parried away by the 41-year old ‘keeper. Simon Dawkins gathered the rebound, but his shot was saved, and Wondolowski could not convert the spilled ball just inside the six-yard box. Keller was credited with four saves on the play, and showed the form of a man decades younger.
“He made some really good saves and that is something he has done for a number of years now,” assessed Wondolowski. “He is a great goalkeeper.”
As the second half continued, the Earthquakes failed to find a second goal, and their attacking momentum stalled out as the match entered the final third. Meanwhile, Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid went to his bench to bring in his Argentine playmaker Mauro Rosales. Arguably Seattle’s — and perhaps MLS’s — 2011 MVP, Rosales changed the complexion of the game with his clean work on the ball and timely distribution in the attacking third. The Earthquakes, with little available on the bench to counter the introduction of Rosales, could only work with what they already had on the pitch. Unfortunately, it would not prove to be enough.
“I’m not sure we could play any better and not be two up,” exclaimed Yallop after the match. “We didn’t get the second goal and that changed everything. It is the story of our season; we had good ball movement and created some chances to score the second one.”
When the Earthquakes failed to double their lead, the Sounders soon found an opening in the San Jose back line and earned an equalizer through the sublime vision of Rosales. Spotting second half substitute Sammy Ochoa flirting with the offside line, he lifted a ball right into the rookie’s path and all that was left to do was elude the efforts of Busch in goal in placing the ball off the left upright and into the back of the net.
The delirious crowd had little time to return to their seats before the Sounders scored their second goal in only five minutes through the clinical finishing of Fredy Montero. Following a turnover by Brad Ring, which debatably could have been a foul call on a rash challenge from Seattle, the ball swung around the Colombian striker, and he sent a shot out of the reach of Busch to the far post. The huge CenturyLink Field crowd erupted as the game winner tucked inside the goal, and all that was left to do was fete the retiring Keller on an evening that was all about the twenty year professional.
(Photo: Joe Nuxoll, centerlinesoccer.com)
San Jose Earthquakes (7-12-14) vs. Seattle Sounders FC (17-7-9)
October 15, 2011 — CenturyLink Field
Scoring Summary: SJ — Chris Wondolowski (Rafael Baca) 24; SEA — Sammy Ochoa (Mauro Rosales) 82; SEA — Fredy Montero (Lamar Neagle, Brad Evans) 87.
Misconduct Summary: SJ — Justin Morrow (caution) 6; SJ — Brad Ring (caution) 40; SEA — Patrick Ianni (caution) 48; SJ — Jason Hernandez (caution) 57.
Seattle Sounders FC — Kasey Keller, James Riley, Patrick Ianni, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Tyson Wahl, Alvaro Fernandez (Sammy Ochoa 68), Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Lamar Neagle (Zach Scott 90), Mike Fucito (Mauro Rosales 64), Fredy Montero.
Total Shots: 13; Shots on Goal: 3; Saves: 7; Fouls: 10; Offside: 3; Corner Kicks: 3.
San Jose Earthquakes — Jon Busch, Steven Beitashour, Jason Hernandez, Bobby Burling, Justin Morrow, Rafael Baca, Sam Cronin, Brad Ring, Simon Dawkins, Khari Stephenson, Chris Wondolowski.
Total Shots: 14; Shots on Goal: 8; Saves: 1; Fouls: 19; Offside: 0; Corner Kicks: 5.