SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The San Jose Earthquakes stood toe to toe with defending MLS Cup champions Seattle Sounders FC Saturday night, earning a well-earned point with a 1-1 draw.
Nicolas Lodeiro put Seattle ahead in the 84th minute with a well placed shot following a blocked free kick, but hometown hero Chris Wondolowski equalized six minutes later the keep the Earthquakes undefeated at Avaya Stadium to start the season. It was his second goal of the season and his 11th goal all-time against Seattle — the most among all players in MLS history.
"It was a great goal because you are stopping them from getting three [points] and you are giving yourself one,” said head coach Dominic Kinnear. “We got something out of the game, which I think we deserved. I would have been heartbroken if we walked out of here with zero points considering the way we played.”
The Seattle goal came after Clint Dempsey’s free kick from 20 yards out caromed off the wall and fell to Lodeiro unmarked on the right side of the penalty area. The Uruguayan international and 2016 MLS Newcomer of the Year expertly guided a shot to the far corner to put the Sounders ahead.
"A bit frustrating,” said Wondolowski. “I thought we played well at times but we cannot have mental lapses. I gave credit to Seattle. Great goal by Lodeiro and great finish but I think it was kind of more of the build up that led to free kick that we can prevent.”
Still, the result was fair for the Quakes on the night, as both team’s played solid defense, limiting scoring chances on either side. And getting the late goal from Wondolowski ensures that San Jose goes into a week where it will prepare for another Western Conference power — FC Dallas — with some added confidence.
"It lifts us,” said Kinnear. “Like I said, if you walk off the field and haven't scored and Seattle's walking off the field with three points, I think you're definitely down. We would be having a different conversation.”
Both teams were left wanting for chances during a energetic but empty first half. In the 37th minute, Seattle original Osvaldo Alonso sent a screamer towards the LOBINA, drawing gasps from the sellout crowd, but only air above his intended target. The Quakes best opportunity of the opening stanza came in the 42nd minute, as a scissors-kick from Marco Urena required an acrobatic save from goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
The second half didn’t disappoint, as first the Sounders grasped momentum and the Quakes countered with spells of their own impressive possession. But as the clock ticked to the final 10 minutes, it looked like a nil-nil draw would be the result, as neither side could capitalize on its opportunities. That all changed, quickly.
In the 83rd minute, an untimely foul by Fatai Alashe on Clint Dempsey just outside the box earned the emergency Quakes center back a yellow card, and the Sounders their best scoring chance of the half. Dempsey smashed his free kick right into the defensive wall, but Lodeiro scooped up the rebound and guided a shot to the far post that eluded David Bingham, breaking the deadlock in style.
San Jose didn’t falter, and for the next five minutes pressed Seattle with abandon. In the 90th minute a perfectly weighted ball to the wing from second half sub Cordell Cato found Urena streaking to the endline. The Costa Rican turned a cross through the box that none other than Wondolowski smacked into the net, drawing the home side level.
The Quakes had a chance to win the game in stoppage time, as Urena got loose behind the Seattle defense, but his strong shot in the box was parried away by Frei. A minute later, the game was whistled dead, and both Heritage Cup rivals shared the spoils on the evening.
The Earthquakes return to action this Friday night when they take on the 2016 Supporters’ Shield winners FC Dallas at Avaya Stadium. The Quakes will look to extend their season-opening home undefeated streak in that match.