Photo by USA Today Sports Images
By JASON MITCHELL
SEATTLE – The San Jose Earthquakes were coming off the worst defeat in club history. Earlier in the day, they announced the loss of Designated Player Matias Perez Garcia for four-to-six weeks.
Their fans needed some good news Wednesday night, and they got it in the form of a 1-1 come-from-behind draw with the Seattle Sounders in front of 38,909 at CenturyLink Field.
No surprise that Chris Wondolowski delivered the equalizer.
In the 66th minute, halftime substitute and former Sounder Cordell Cato sent in a low cross that scooted between goalkeeper Stefan Frei and Andy Rose before finding Wondolowski at the far post. The World Cup veteran redirected the cross into an empty net for his ninth goal of the season and the 1-1 tie.
“That’s what he does,” said Earthquakes head coach Mark Watson. “He has such an instinct for the goal. He makes something out of nothing and knows exactly where to be. It was a goal we really needed.”
The Sounders, knocking on the door late in the first half, opened the scoring just moments into the second half. In the 46th minute, Obafemi Martins fed Chad Barrett a through ball that split defenders Victor Bernardez and Ty Harden. Barrett then slipped a left-footed shot past charging goalkeeper Jon Busch for the 1-0 lead.
It was Martins’ team-leading seventh assist and Barrett’s fifth goal of the season. It was also the 50th goal of Barrett’s career.
“He’s quick, he’s strong, he’s fast,” Barrett said about Martins. “He creates a lot. He draws a lot of attention, which leaves me open. He played a great through ball.”
Seattle looked like the team most to likely to score a second goal down the stretch, but never found it.
In the 75th minute, Marco Pappa earned a clean look at the top of the penalty area, but sent his shot just over the crossbar.
Clint Dempsey, a second-half substitute, got his head on a cross just yards from goal in the waning moments of stoppage time, but couldn’t beat Busch.
For the Earthquakes (6-9-7, 25 points), the tie keeps slim playoff hopes alive for an injury-ravaged team. It also at least partially assuages the pain of a franchise-worst 5-0 loss to FC Dallas on Saturday.
“Any time you lose at home like that,” said Wondolowski, “you have a bit of a chip on your shoulder, so you know, it was one of those things where I’m grateful that we didn’t have all week to dwell on it. We had a game to try to right the ship, but to be honest, this was a very tough place to play and to get a point. We’ll take it. It’s getting too late in the season, though, right now. We need to start picking up more (points).”
With a rivalry match against the Portland Timbers this weekend, the Sounders (13-7-3, 42 points) fielded a mixed lineup that saw Dempsey, Brad Evans, Lamar Neagle, and Leo Gonzalez start the match on the bench. Gonzalo Pineda missed the match with an ankle injury picked up in practice.
Seattle is now 1-3-1 in its last five matches, although Wednesday’s result did move the Sounders into a three-way tie with Real Salt Lake and Sporting KC in the Supporters’ Shield race.
The Sounders piled up 24 shots and earned nine corners, but struggled to solve a San Jose defense that stuffed the box full of red jerseys.
“We knew we would be under pressure here,” said Watson, “and we were. It’s just a collective effort and desire to keep your shape and continue to run. It was real committed effort from everyone.”
“We’re creating pressure,” said Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid, “but we’re not creating clean chances.”
Schmid also blamed the team’s recent performances on poor midfield service.
“Finding those gaps, and playing through those gaps quickly, is something that we’re not doing well right now,” Schmid said.
Looking forward, both teams are back in action on Sunday against teams trying to claw their way into the playoff picture. The Sounders visit the Portland Timbers (7-7-10, 31 points), while the Earthquakes travel to face the Philadelphia Union (6-9-9, 27 points).
Here are the match highlights: