Seattle Sounders slim chance at winning the Supporter’s Shield was crushed Saturday evening in Seattle when the San Jose Earthquakes put on an offensive display that shows that they truly belong at the top of the MLS Table. The two sides have been building some bad blood recently, a couple of close matches, a couple of physical altercations, the same mutually exclusive prize in an unbalanced schedule and you’ve got a budding rivalry.
It didn’t take long for the Quakes to get started, in the 2nd minute Simon Dawkins was given space to shoot from a yard beyond the penalty box semi-circle. It was a horrible start for Sounders at home, all Michael Gspurning could do was watch it sail into the top corner and voice his displeasure at his defenders. Although it is not uncommon to give a midfield player space that far away from goal, it was too much space and the shot was not challenged by a defender.
Sammy Ochoa starting in place of Eddie Johnson, suspended for yellow card accumulation, was given his first real opportunity to start in MLS action and made an important contribution when he was able to beat his defender with a flick and then crossed the ball, Fredy Montero tried for it near the middle of the goal, but it was just out of reach. Steve Zakuani was ready for the ball when the cross went past the Colombian, and finished unmarked to draw the Sounders level.
San Jose Earthquakes were the dominant team in the first half, they were able to pass the ball with more ease, get forward in dangerous positions, create crosses, and get shots on goal. Their winner came on a corner kick that was conceded by Adam Johansson & Michael Gspurning in an awkward fashion. The corner kick went over the goal frame and was sent back in by Victor Bernardez and flicked past Gspurning by Chris Wondolowski, who stayed on pace with Roy Lassiter’s record 27 goals from 1996. Wondowlowski has 22 goals now with 4 matches left in the season to catch Lassiter.
Zakuani, who had been the hero moments earlier, was caught on the back post after the ball had been played out initially, he stayed on the post for the second cross into the box by Bernardez. A player can’t be offside on a corner because of where the ball is on the end line, when a player is stuck on the post defending you can’t be offside then either. Wondowlowski would have been offside had Zakuani stepped off the post, Ianni gave space, and tried to close when he realized he was onside, but it was too late.
As much as San Jose came out screaming in the first half, their enthusiasm was considereably muted in the second half. Scoring opportunities, crosses, were all down in the second half as the Quakes looked to defend their lead in Seattle. Sounders looked better and did have a better second half, but when the opposing team is bunkering down to defend a lead you can’t help but look better than you did before.
Sounders only managed one shot on target the entire night, Zakuani’s goal. Jon Busch didn’t have a single save.
Usually rivalries are give and take, but it’s been all San Jose this season and the Sounders have been taking it. San Jose had always been a good offensive side that defended poorly, Frank Yallop has gotten his side organized and kept the goal differential on the positive side by 26 goals after tonight’s match. Sounders fans would probably start a rivalry with any team that Steven Lenhart is on.