The San Jose Earthquakes had the room to lose one more game this season without it costing them the campaign, and it’s a good thing, because they dropped their Decision Day clash against the Sounders 4-1 on Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
The Quakes were terrific defensively in the 1st half, but Seattle raising the intensity and the Earthquakes making mistakes, the game got away from the visitors in the 2nd half. On the bright side, since San Jose had previously qualified for the playoffs this season, this regular season finale was not ultimately a costly loss in the grand scheme of things.
Matias Almeyda made three changes to the XI, with Luis Felipe replacing the suspended Jackson Yueill, Cade Cowell replacing the injured Carlos Fierro and Shea Salinas in for the suspended Andy Rios.
The first half was really pretty quiet, with Seattle controlling play but San Jose defending well. On a rare foray forward, Cristian Espinoza intercepted a lazy Seattle pass in the back and went on a three-man counterattack in the 36th minute, only for Cowell’s shot on the buildup slicing wide of goal.
Just before halftime, Seattle had a shot that clanged off the inside of the post and bounced away, giving San Jose a real break, with the teams going into the break tied 0-0.
The game really opened up in the second half with the Sounders taking a quick 2-0 lead. First, Nicolas Lodeiro hit a free kick that was blocked, then he followed up the play and ended up scoring through traffic, somehow, in the 52nd minute. Two minutes later, Raul Ruidiaz added a second goal to make it 2-0 for the home side.
But San Jose didn’t give up, of course, and they scored in the 57th minute, with Marcos Lopez hitting a mini-olimpico goal with a free kick from the endline catching out Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei, narrowing the deficit for the Quakes to a goal.
After the goal, Almeyda made three substitutions, and some unusual ones, bringing on Tommy Thompson, Eric Calvillo and Siad Haji for Nick Lima, Luis Felipe and Espinoza.
Lopez made a goal-saving stop about 10 minutes later, with a ball floating into the goal and JT Marcinkowski nowhere near it, but Lopez managed to head it away before it crossed the line.
But Jordan Morris got a goal in the 74th minute to make 3-1 for the Sounders. Florian Jungwirth whiffed on a ball just above his own 18-yard box and it was recovered by the Sounders, with Lodeiro setting up Morris. Unfortunately, Lopez scored an own goal in the 80th minute, a cross bouncing off him on its way into the goal with Seattle going ahead 4-1 on the night.
The performance was not terrible for the Earthquakes but a loss here has to be a wakeup call for them heading into the playoffs. San Jose will be on the road, they’ll be playing a higher quality of team, and while the Sounders were fantastic, the Earthquakes will take on a higher caliber of teams in the playoffs. This was a game they could afford to lose, but hopefully this serves as a lesson ahead of the business end of the campaign.
The Earthquakes get a couple weeks off before they start the playoffs, and we’ll find out the matchups and schedule very soon. But now they get a chance to regroup, prepare and get some rest before the elimination games begin.
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