Shorthanded San Jose shocked Seattle 3-2 Saturday night, as the Earthquakes played through a red card ejection of defender Victor Bernardez early in the second half against the Sounders to snap the club's 16-game winless streak.
Two goals from Chris Wondolowski, the 94th and 95th of his MLS career, and a game winning goal from Innocent Emeghara, his first MLS goal on his first MLS start, paced the Earthquakes against the defending Supporters' Shield winners. Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins scored for the Sounders, the second straight game in which they have done so, but Seattle couldn't overcome the spirited effort of San Jose.
Man of the match performances from Wondo and Emeghara, as well as Sanna Nyassi and Marvell Wynne, carried the Earthquakes to their first MLS victory since beating the Sounders 1-0 on August 2 of last season. Goalkeeper David Bingham was also a significant factor in the victory, commanding the Quakes back line for the more than 40 minutes the team played a man down, more than atoning for his mistake a week earlier at FC Dallas that had cost San Jose a point.
It only took until week two of the MLS season for head coach Dominic Kinnear to have all three of his designated players at his disposal, and he made sure to get them all onto the field together in the starting lineup. Wondolowski started up top, with Matias Perez Garcia right behind him, while Emeghara replaced Shea Salinas as a winger on the left side of the formation.
But the euphoria of the seeing the Quakes DP trio together was quickly quelled when the hosts scored less than a minute after the opening whistle.
Despite the effort of rookie midfielder Fatai Alashe, who was making his first MLS start, to shield Clint Dempsey off the ball in the center of the field, the Sounders star striker gained possession and drove the ball into the attacking third. Lamar Neagle picked it up from there, as his cross into the area was deflected, but his second effort found defender Tyrone Mears following the play.
Mears lashed a long-range effort that David Bingham did well to slow down, but the rebound bounced right to Dempsey and he headed home from close range to send the CenturyLink Field crowd into delirium.
The Earthquakes quickly regrouped and focused on their strategy of exploiting the speed of Wynne and Nyassi on the right side of the formation. In the 13th minute, after some clever interplay between the two Re-Entry Draft selections, Wynne chased down a pass to the endline and delivered a point-perfect cross to Wondolowski at the penalty spot. The Quakes all-time leading goal scorer calmly controlled the cross and sent a low left-footed shot into the net to draw San Jose even.
The goal shocked the Sounders and restored a sense that a Seattle win would not be a foregone outcome. And for spells throughout the first half, it looked more as if San Jose would break the deadlock. In the first minute of stoppage time, Perez Garcia nearly did so, as some hard work from Nyassi to collect possession of the ball and feed the Argentine gave the designated player license to shake and shimmy into the Sounders area and unleash a shot that missed just wide of the far post. The effort from MPG, and that of the entire Earthquakes team throughout the opening stanza, put Seattle on notice.
Part of Kinnear's strategy was for the Earthquakes forwards to press the Sounders in the defensive third and make it difficult for the home side to build possession out of the back. With all-star midfielder Osvaldo Alonso not available for Seattle, the effectiveness of the expended effort was excellent. And the payoff came just a few minutes into the second half.
Following a back pass from Seattle to defender Brad Evans, the U.S. international attempted to head the ball back to his goalkeeper Stefan Frei. However, with little power delivered, the ball bounced harmlessly into no-man's land in the area, and Wondolowski sprinted in to take advantage. His left-footed rocket beat Frei into the upper reaches of the goal, and the Quakes celebrated a lead that was as unlikely as it was earned.
It was Wondolowski's ninth career goal against the Sounders, more than any Seattle opponent has scored since they entered MLS in 2009, and the charge it gave the Earthquakes was palpable. But the home side was not about to give up, not with 39,175 in attendance willing their team to a comeback. And when Bernardez was shown a straight red card for a cleat into the leg of Michael Azira in the 52nd minute, it appeared that the Sounders had been thrown a lifeline.
Almost ten minutes after the red card and playing a man down against a relentless Seattle attack, it was Bingham who stood taller than anyone else on the field and kept the Earthquakes a goal ahead. A point-blank save on a Dempsey header followed by a smart save on a Mears effort were just the beginning. Taking full advantage of his 6'2" frame, Bingham punched away two consecutive crosses into the six-yard box, restoring order when the Sounders were threatening to equalize. The entire sequence was enough to make Kinnear's decision to start the year with Bingham look like prescient preseason perfection.
The series of scintillating saves setup Swiss international Emeghara's 70th minute superb skill-check shot that extended the San Jose lead to 3-1. Following a Shaun Francis takeaway near the center line, the Quakes were off to the races along the left sideline, with Wondolowski getting in a touch as Emeghara showed off his skill on the ball. A clever give-and-go with Adam Jahn allowed Emeghara passage into the area, and after juking past Evans and shifting the ball to his right foot, the designated player curls a shot into the far side netting, eluding a desperation dive by Frei.
A man down, but now two goals up, the Quakes retreated further into a defensive stand that showed very little porosity in the match's final 20 minutes and 5 minutes of added time. Yes, the Sounders did pull a goal back after Andy Rose snuck behind the defense and received a pass that he squared through the goal box for a simple Martins tap in, but San Jose did not give Seattle much more than that. And on the Sounders 10th corner kick of the night, a driving delivery that Wondolowski headed away from danger, the last of Seattle's chances went wanting. Referee Baldomero Toledo whistled the match over, and the Earthquakes celebrated the end of the club's record 16-game winless streak.
Up next for the Quakes is their season home opener and the first regular season game at Avaya Stadium, next Sunday afternoon against the Chicago Fire. The match has been sold out for months, and the over 18,000 fans that are expected to attend will certainly be ready to welcome back their conquering heroes from Seattle.
- Center back Paulo Renato left the match in the 64th minute with an apparent hamstring injury. He stretched out awkwardly in an attempt to prevent a cross through the six-yard box that nearly found Dempsey at the far post. Jahn entered for Renato, and JJ Koval shifted to center back.
- Seeing Ty Harden and Koval together on the Earthquakes back line was not a first. The two played pivotal roles as defenders for the Quakes in last year's CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal tie against Toluca. Harden even scored for San Jose in the second leg in Mexico.
- The MLS Disciplinary Committee will certainly take another look at Bernardez's high tackle on Azira and make a decision as to whether or not to tack on any additional penalties besides the normal one-game suspension the Honduran will receive for earning a red card. Bernardez will miss at the very least the Quakes home opener against Chicago on Sunday.
San Jose Earthquakes 3 -- Seattle Sounders FC 2
March 14, 2015 - CenturyLink Field
Scoring Summary: SEA -- Clint Dempsey (unassisted) 1; SJ -- Chris Wondolowsi (Marvell Wynne) 13; SJ -- Chris Wondolowski (unassisted) 48; SJ -- Innocent Emeghara (Adam Jahn) 70; SEA -- Obafemi Martins (Andy Rose, Gonzalo Pineda) 84.
Misconduct Summary: SJ -- Victor Bernardez (ejection) 52, Innocent Emeghara (caution) 85; SEA -- Micheal Azira (caution) 56, Cristian Roldan (caution) 90+4.
San Jose Earthquakes: David Bingham, Marvell Wynne, Victor Bernardez, Paulo Renato (Adam Jahn 64), Shaun Francis, JJ Koval, Fatai Alashe, Matias Perez Garcia (Ty Harden 57), Sanna Nyassi (Shea Salinas 72), Chris Wondolowski, Innocent Emeghara.
Statistics: Shots: 10; Shots on goal: 4; Saves: 7; Fouls: 13; Corner kicks: 1; Offside: 1.
Seattle Sounders FC: Stefan Frei, Tyrone Mears (Cristian Roldan 80), Brad Evans, Chad Marshall, Leo Gonzalez, Marco Pappa, Micheal Azira (Andy Rose 67), Gonzalo Pineda, Lamar Neagle (Chad Barrett 72), Obafemi Martins, Clint Dempsey.
Statistics: Shots: 10; Shots on goal: 9; Saves: 1; Fouls: 12; Corner kicks: 10; Offside: 0.