The San Jose Earthquakes opened up their preseason slate of friendlies with a 2-1 loss against the Seattle Sounders at Kino Sports Complex in Arizona.
Obafemi Martins tallied twice in two minutes midway through the first half to stake the Sounders to a lead they would not relinquish. Second half substitute Mike Fucito pulled one back for the Quakes with five minutes left in the match, but San Jose could not make up the deficit and dropped their first match of the 2014 preseason.
"We mixed our teams up today," said head coach Mark Watson on a conference call following the game. "Young and old, getting guys playing with different guys."
Watson used 22 players against Seattle, 11 in each half as part of a complete lineup, and the unfamiliarity that some players had for one another was certainly on display. However, for Watson, it is still too early in the preseason to be concerned about results. A head coach to start a season for the first time in his career, Watson instead stressed that shaping the first team is a task that will come closer to the Earthquakes season opener on March 15.
"Once you get closer to the end of the preseason, you narrow it down to your starting eleven," said Watson. "But right now we want to let guys get to know each other and develop partnerships and a little understanding. If that times comes when they do have to play next to each other, this will have a bit more familiarity."
The match kicked off under sunny skies in Tucson as both teams faced MLS competition for the first time in the 2014 MLS preseason.
The Earthquakes created the first scoring opportunity of the match as new midfielder Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi flicked a free kick delivery in the 24th minute toward the upper corner of the target, but goalkeeper Stephen Frei, formerly of Toronto FC, made an acrobatic stretch save to keep the ball out of the net.
The Sounders made their first chance count, and a clever flick-pass from Lamar Neagle on a long throw-in by Jalil Anibaba found Martins for the easy goal in the 27th minute.
Two minutes later, with the Earthquakes defense looking a bit disjointed, Martins struck again, this time finishing off a crossing header from Andy Rose to push the Sounders lead to 2-0.
A minute from halftime, Seattle should have made it three goals, as Tristan Bowen wrong-footed defender Shau Francis on the right side of the area and dribbled in for a one-on-one against goalkeeper David Bingham, but the former Chivas USA forward pulled his shot just wide of the far post.
With the game winding down, the Quakes finally got on the scoreboard. Some scrappy play in the box in the 85th minute allowed Atiba Harris to collect a loose ball and feed Fucito in on goal. The former Sounders forward took a touch and directed the ball inside the far post to halve Seattle's lead.
The Quakes continued to press for an equalizer over the last five minutes of the match, but Seattle held firm on defense to take the 2-1 victory.
The Earthquakes play their second match of the Desert Diamond Friendlies on Saturday, February 8, against the Houston Dynamo. Kick-off at the Kino Sports Complex is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. Pacific time.
- The starting lineup for the Quakes featured a mixture of veterans, rookies, and trialists: David Bingham, Jon Otsemobor, Victor Bernardez, Joe Sofia, Shaun Francis, Cordell Cato, Walter Martinez, Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi, Sam Garza, Billy Schuler, Steven Lenhart.
- Otsemobor is a 30-year old English right back who started his professional career with Liverpool in 2002. He has played in England for a number of teams in his 12-year career, most recently as a regular with MK Dons. He was released from his contract in early January and is currently a free agent.
- Joe Sofia, the starting center back at UCLA during his four year collegiate career, made his first match appearance for the Quakes after his selection in the second round of the 2014 MLS SuperDraft.
- The Quakes put out a whole new eleven to start the second half: Bryan Meredith, Andreas Gorlitz, Daniel Welsh, Ty Harden, Jordan Stewart, Atiba Harris, Juan Baena, JJ Koval, A.J. Corrado, Mike Fucito, Adam Jahn.
- Gorlitz celebrated his 32nd birthday last Friday and has been training with the Quakes since the start of preseason camp. The German right back has spent his entire 12-year career playing in Germany, including a long stint with Bayern Munich. His last club was FC Ingolstadt, also a previous home for Colorado Rapids forward Edson Buddle.
- Welsh, a Scotland native and former star at UC Santa Barbara, and Baena, a Colombian midfielder who played most recently in that nation's second division with Fortaleza, joined the team ahead of its Tucson leg of the preseason.
- Koval and Corrado, two 2014 MLS SuperDraft selections by San Jose, are competing for a spot on the Quakes roster at central midfield.
- Chris Wondolowski and Clarence Goodson, who both appeared in the U.S. men's national team's 2-0 victory over South Korea last Saturday, will join the team in Tucson later this week. Coach Watson expects that both players will be available and play a role in Saturday's friendly against the Dynamo.