Sounders fall to Earthquakes for third time this year
Chris Wondolowski's 30th-minute goal gave San Jose a 2-1 lead that Seattle couldn't overcome at CenturyLink Field.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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Three games. Three losses.
Call it a San Jose sweep.
Sounders FC met the MLS-leading Earthquakes in a battle of Western Conference leaders Saturday at CenturyLink Field, and once again high-powered San Jose emerged victorious, this time by a 2-1 score.
Seattle's defeat in front of 38,948 featured Steve Zakuani's first goal in 17 months but snapped a four-game home winning streak, dropped the Sounders to fourth place in the conference and marked a second failed attempt in as many weeks to clinch a playoff berth for the Sounders (13-7-9).
"We can sit here and say, 'The sky is falling,' but I don't think it's falling yet," said coach Sigi Schmid, who was encouraged by his team's comeback efforts in the second half.
The Earthquakes, who improved to 18-6-6, were led by a familiar hero: Chris Wondolowski.
The star forward broke a 1-1 tie in the 30th minute when he cleverly redirected a pass from Victor Bernardez past goalkeeper Michael Gspurning for his 10th game-winner this season, an MLS record. Wondolowski has more goals overall (22) than the entire Chivas USA team (21) heading into Sunday and has scored in his past four matches in Seattle.
The Sounders' best chance at an equalizer came in the 86th minute, but Fredy Montero's header in front of the goal went high. A chance also came to David Estrada, a second-half substitute, in stoppage time, but he couldn't connect on a cross.
"The second half, I think, we were a lot better," said Estrada, who had two of the team's nine shots after halftime. "Hopefully the team learns from this experience."
The Earthquakes, who boast a league-leading 62 goals, had taken a 1-0 lead in the second minute when midfielder Simon Dawkins scored on a rocket from 23 yards. He became San Jose's fourth player this season with eight or more goals.
It was the earliest goal the Sounders have conceded this season and second-earliest in team history — Colorado's Wells Thompson scored in the first minute of Seattle's 4-3 victory on July 16, 2011.
The Sounders tied the score at 1-1 in the 14th minute when Zakuani finished into an open net on the far post after a cross from forward Sammy Ochoa.
It was Zakuani's first MLS goal since April 9, 2011, after having been out for more than a year with a broken leg and related complications. Emotions were conflicted, however, as he also played a role giving up both San Jose goals.
"I'm not happy to be contributing to two of their goals, so that doesn't make me very happy," Zakuani said. "I wish (my goal) came in a win, but obviously I'm happy to do it, and you could see my emotions."
The Sounders couldn't find a second equalizer, but Schmid saw some encouraging signs later in the game.
"If we play like we play in the first half, then we won't go very far," he said. "But if we come out and play like we did in the second half, we'll be OK."
• Sounders FC's next game is at Vancouver at 6 p.m. on Sept. 29. Seattle plays host to San Jose in a Reserve League game at 2 p.m. Sunday.
• Midfielder Mauro Rosales missed his third consecutive game with a quad strain. Defender Patrick Ianni left the game early in the second half with a groin injury. Midfielder Christian Tiffert played through an ankle injury that was aggravated on a first-half tackle. "He gutted through it," Schmid said. "A lot of guys would've probably come off."
• Ochoa earned his first assist of the season as a replacement for forward Eddie Johnson, who leads the Sounders with 13 goals but was suspended Saturday due to yellow-card accumulation.
• Estrada came off the bench in 71st minute for his first MLS action since breaking his left foot in June.
• The Sounders fielded their 28th different lineup in 29 MLS games Saturday.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
|San Jose||2 0 — 2|
|Seattle||1 0 — 1|
San Jose — Jon Busch, Victor Bernardez, Steven Beitashour, Justin Morrow, Jason Hernandez, Rafael Baca (Ike Opara, 88th), Simon Dawkins (Ramiro Corrales, 60th), Mehdi Ballouchy (Steven Lenhart, 64th), Sam Cronin, Chris Wondolowski, Alan Gordon.
Seattle — Michael Gspurning, Patrick Ianni (Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, 49th), Jeff Parke, Leo Gonzalez, Adam Johansson (Mario Martinez, 81st), Steve Zakuani (David Estrada, 71st), Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso, Christian Tiffert, Sammy Ochoa, Fredy Montero.