Needing a win to make a push for the Supporters' Shield and to hold ground in the playoff push, the Seattle Sounders instead came out of the gates with a rather flat first half. Although the scoreline indicated the game was close after the frist 45 minutes, it was clear that the Sounders had not started the game with the kind of energy they needed.
Sure, they were missing two of their best players. But as head coach Sigi Schmid said, "I don't think that it was one individual that resulted in our play today." Might Mauro Rosales and Eddie Johnson have made a difference? In the second half, that's entirely possible, but it's still a concern as the guys that were available had plenty of talent.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about this game was how quickly the Sounders turned to lofting balls over the top of the defense. There's no question that was partly about taking what the defense was giving them and it did look like the Earthquakes were potentially vulnerable to those kinds of passes. At the same time, they were almost entirely unable to create any kind of danger from wide positions and seemed to almost give up on trying do so after struggling with wing pressure in the first half.
It was a frustrating thing to watch, especially in light of the Sounders talking about their desire to keep the ball on the ground because of how good the Earthquakes are in the air. Yet we repeatedly saw the Sounders in position to be fighting for headers in and around the penalty area, and losing that battle more often than not.
The best thing we can hope is that the Sounders learned from this experience. They've still got five regular-season games and can still finish with one of the best records in the league. Sooner or later, they are probably going to have to go through the Earthquakes if they are to win the MLS Cup. Hopefully, this is not a harbinger of what's to come.
SJ - Simon Dawkins (Alan Gordon) 2'
SEA - Steve Zakuani (Sammy Ochoa) 14'
SJ - Chris Wondolowski (Victor Bernardez) 30'
Seattle Sounders FC - Michael Gspurning, Adam Johansson (Mario Martinez 82), Jeff Parke, Patrick Ianni (Jhon Kennedy Hurtado 49), Leo Gonzalez, Christian Tiffert, Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Steve Zakuani (David Estrada 71), Sammy Ochoa, Fredy Montero.
Substitutes Not Used: Andrew Weber, Zach Scott, Marc Burch, Andy Rose.
TOTAL SHOTS: 13; SHOTS ON GOAL: 1; FOULS: 13; OFFSIDE: 0; CORNER KICKS: 10; SAVES: 3.
San Jose Earthquakes - Jon Busch, Steven Beitashour, Jason Hernandez, Victor Bernardez, Justin Morrow, Mehdi Ballouchy (Steven Lenhart 65), Rafael Baca (Ike Opara 88), Sam Cronin, Simon Dawkins (Ramiro Corrales 60'), Chris Wondolowski, Alan Gordon.
Substitutes Not Used: David Bingham, Brad Ring, Khari Stephenson, Jed Zayner.
TOTAL SHOTS: 17; SHOTS ON GOAL: 5; FOULS: 13; OFFSIDE: 0; CORNER KICKS: 5; SAVES: 0.
SJ - Victor Bernardez (caution) 53'
SEA - Christian Tiffert (caution) 79'
SEA - Osvaldo Alonso (caution) 90'
Referee: Hilario Grajeda
Referee's Assistants: Frank Anderson, Fabio Tovar
4th Official: Mark Declouet
Time of Game: 1:50
Weather: Partly cloudy and 64 degrees
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial
POSTGAME QUOTES - Sounders FC vs. San Jose Earthquakes
Sigi Schmid - Sounders FC Head Coach
(On the game...) "It was a tale of two halves. In the first half, they were the superior team. I though they killed us in the first half, to be quite honest. We did well to pull a goal back, but then we gave the goal up and I think it's a game tonight that we really lost in the first 20 minutes of the game because they were able to press us and disrupt our rhythm and they were just more aggressive and quicker than we were. The second half, then, was a complete turnaround. I think the second half was our game. I thought we turned the pressure up on them. We started creating turnovers from them, we started winning the ball back, and then we started creating chances, but now you're down a goal. We couldn't find the goal to equalize. We got close a couple times, we tried to put shots through to a bunch of people off corners and things, got deflections, but nothing really fell for us. But I was pleased with our response in the second half and our attitude in the second half and that's the way we have to play. If we play like we played in the first half, we won't go very far, but if we come out and we play like we played in the second half, we'll be okay."
(On playing more balls over the top in the second half...) "They put a lot of pressure at midfield, so it's a little bit of what they were giving us, but we were just doing a better job of running off the ball. When those spaces are there, we still got some balls onto the flanks-I think we still could have gotten a few more onto the flank at times-but we still were whipping in a good amount of crosses. We were getting balls into dangerous positions. The big change was just our aggression and our attitude in the second half."
(On the disappointment of the result...) "I think it's a great game from the standpoint that it happened now, and not six weeks from now. We need to take a lesson from this game, that we cannot play like played in the first half, that we need to play like we played in the second half. If we get that out of this game-fine. They win the Supporter's Shield, they finish first or whatever-it doesn't matter. The playoffs, once we get there-we need to avoid, obviously, fourth or fifth-once we're in the playoffs it's a home game and an away game. We got to win our home game and we got to get a result on the away game, and we advance. It doesn't matter whether that game is first or whether that game is second. What matters is our attitude and if we learned something tonight in terms of how we need to approach that and what attitude we need to have, then tonight was a very successful game for us."
(On Sammy Ochoa's play tonight...) "I thought Sammy played well. We talk about the guys that are on the field and I thought Sammy, on the field, did well. He was obviously integral in terms of getting the assist on our first goal and I think he did a good job of trying to hold up the ball. He was dangerous on a number of occasions. I thought he fought and battled for the team."
(On Steve Zakuani scoring his first goal this season...) "Great for Steve to get a goal. All those things, those little things as they keep happening-getting an assist, getting a goal-all those things continue to build his confidence and will help propel him as he continues to improve, get forward, get fitter, and get used to the intensity of the game again."
(On Michael Gspurning's position on the second goal...) "He needs to move off the post. He kept them onside, but it was a bad corner to give away. You cannot give away soft corners and a soft corner resulted in the goal. If you don't give away the corner then the goal doesn't happen, but once it does happen then you need to play it correctly. If Michael [Gspurning] steps off the post then they are offside, and maybe that changes things."
(On if substituting Mario Martinez in the 80th minute was too late...) "Well, we made some changes before that. We thought that [David] Estrada could give us something with his energy and he came close with a couple of chances. [Mario] Martinez played 90 minutes [on Wednesday], so we made the change when we thought it was right. You look back on it and maybe you think that you should have done it earlier, but those are the things that I will always evaluate the next day."
(On the play of David Estrada in his first game back...) "I thought it was good. David [Estrada] always comes out with energy. I thought he did a good job. I thought his touch was good. He connected with some good passes and he was dangerous."
(On the difference between the first and second half...) "We need to play like we did in the second half. I think it was pretty obvious. I don't think that San Jose went out in the second half and said lets change how we need to play. I think they came out with the same attitude in the second half, especially in the first ten minutes they wanted to do the same things that they did in the first half, but I think we counteracted it because our energy was better. We pressured them, and we reacted better to the turnovers, because this is a turnover sport. We didn't react well in the first half, but I think we did better in the second half."
(On the first goal by Simon Dawkins...) "I thought we should not have gotten stuck with the ball right in front of our bench. We had talked about not letting [Simon] Dawkins get the ball to his right foot, but we gave him a chance to run and he hit a great shot. It was a goal that should not have happened, because we shouldn't have gotten stuck with the ball and lost it, but we should have reacted better once we did."
(On the Sounders chances against San Jose in the playoffs...) "Everything is relative, and all that matters is how you do in the playoff games. In all of my years of coaching there have been times when a team gives you a hard time, and then all of the sudden you are able to turn it around in the playoffs. They are a very confident team right now. They are full of energy, they are playing well, and they believe in what they are doing. The playoffs are a different animal and we will see what happens there."
(On the health of Mauro Rosales, and if he would have played if it was a playoff game...) "We have to play the guys that are healthy. I don't think that it was one individual that resulted in our play today. I think that it was a team effort in the first and second half, and one or two players aren't going to make a difference. We would have been overrun in the first half if we played the way we played even if we had Eddie Johnson and [Mauro] Rosales on the field. Even if those two guys had played with energy we still didn't get enough from the rest of our team."
Steve Zakuani - Sounders FC Midfielder
(On scoring a goal...) "It was a great feeling. You could see my emotion and to do it here in front of the fans who supported me was great. I wish it would have come in a win-it was a poor game for us-but I'm also disappointed because I feel I played Wondolowski onside for that goal. I told Mike [Gspurning] I should have stepped up and I've big enough shoulders to take that blame, and I just hope we can bounce back from this. Happy to score, disappointed to have that mental lapse that led to the second goal."
(On their strong play in the second half...) "I agree in terms of effort. I don't think it was our best, most fluid offensive performance. I don't think we moved the ball and completed a significant amount of passes. I think our attitude and effort in the second half was a lot better. In the first half, San Jose beat us to every ball, every second ball, every loose ball they were first. They wanted it more. In the second half we came out and really competed, and we had them on the back foot, and on another day if we find a goal, I think it's one of those games where you just need one to go in, and you can go in and get the win. Effort-second half was good, first half wasn't good enough. That's not the standard that we've set at this club and it needs to be better."
(On the positives he can take from this game...) "This is a rarity for us. It's not every week that we're losing games and we're not putting forth our best effort. It doesn't happen often, that's why it hurts so much. Again, like I said, the goals were errors-our own errors. I don't think they broke us down with their play. That's the positive we take. If we can cut out the errors and improve our offensive game, we're going to be where we need to be. These next five games are all playoff games, and the intensity needs to be there. We need to start getting ready for the postseason, and we need to get some good results because Salt Lake's around, LA's around, San Jose's there. These are all good teams and we need to show that we belong and that we can surpass what they're doing."
David Estrada - Seattle Sounders FC Midfielder
(On the performance...) "It wasn't good enough, especially I think in the first half we gave two early goals. When you give a team like San Jose those chances, they are going to most likely convert. The second half I think we were a lot better but hopefully the team learns from this experience."
(On his shots in traffic near the end...) "One of the things, when you get rebounds like that you try to put it on frame. Hopefully there have been a few occasions where you know it they hit off a defender and it goes in, and this time it just goes for a corner kick, but if you get a corner kick I think that's good, too, because it gives a chance to maybe get another shot on goal."
(On returning to MLS play...) "That's one of the things that I kind of came into being off the bench. Hopefully I was given the opportunity and luckily I was. I think I had an opportunity or two that I could have done a little better. I just have to work on it and hopefully get better.
Brad Evans - Seattle Sounders FC Midfielder
(On start of match...) "Obviously when a team scores on you in the first minute it's not the way you want to start a game but let's take away that goal and we find yourself one up in 10 minutes and I think things are completely different. So they score within a minute or something like that, a minute and change, it changes the complexion of the game. It's one little mistake, a turn over and then they come down and obviously it's a phenomenal goal, credit to him and his strike, but we fight back and we tie it up 1-1 but I think they had the better play in the first half. Both of their forwards were dropping off the front line and they were using their midfielders really well they didn't really get behind us though in the first half. They may have had more possession, but I don't think they were really that dangerous. I think that's what their game plan was. We didn't win second balls, and we didn't pressure fast enough. So in the second half we came out and we had better of the game, we pressured balls, we had more turnovers, they were kicking the ball out of bounds. We had a couple long throw ins and were able to get behind. And I think we were unlucky in a couple occasions when they made good defensive stops, but any time you go down on nothing in the first two minutes it's always going to be a whole to climb out of and it sets the tone for the rest of the game."
(On set piece battles at the end...) "It's just mind set, it's just who wants it more than you and we didn't do that in the first half well enough. Second half I think we can play these guys more physical. That was the mind-set going into the second half that we'll get away with some extra bumps here and there because they're a bigger team and they kind of look down on us with that in stature. We can get away with that extra bump. And you know, any time you're back is up against the wall in front of 35 thousand people you're going to give that extra little bit. It's just a mind-set, it's nothing physical it's just who wants it."
Frank Yallop - San Jose Earthquakes Head Coach
(On the game...) "Great few points for us, obviously. Big, big game. The buildup to it wasn't the whole week, but it felt like it was, so it was a big game for both clubs, I thought. We played pretty well first half especially, and then at the end Seattle put us in a lot of pressure and it was great that we might have bent a little bit, but we didn't break. I think that was important to see the game out."
(On whether "bend, but don't break" is an accurate description of his team...) "I think so. They have great spirit. We put our head in where it hurts. I think that, again, Seattle put us in a lot of pressure at the end, with a lot of balls into the box, and we defended that well."
(On whether he saw San Jose winning all three contests against the Sounders this season...) "No. I mean, if you look at the games, they're close. The game at our place was a 2-1 win for us, the middle game, real close; it could have gone either way. The game here was 1-nil, wasn't it? They were close games. Tonight was a close game. We got the rob of the green, if you like, in those games, but what I'd like to say is that we didn't deserve to lose the games and we were lucky enough to come out with the victories."
(On forward Chris Wondolowski's ability to score goals in Seattle...) "It's not just Seattle. He scores goals. He had a bit of a... well, not a dip, but about seven-odd games, he hadn't scored in general play. I rested him, put him on the field and he scores two goals. Then he scores tonight, so he's off again. He's at 22 now, and I expect more goals from him. I think Chris has a natural knack of scoring, whether it's Seattle or it's anywhere. He loves being in the right spots and he gets something on the ball, usually."
(On things San Jose is doing better than other teams in the league...) "We're outscoring opponents. We've scored a lot of goals. I think that's 62 goals. That's a good tally for any club, so that's important. Our work-rate and energy is fantastic. We pride ourselves on working hard, and trying to do our best to stop the opposition playing. And I think our ball movement is excellent, especially with [Rafael] Baca and Sam Cronin in the middle of the field. I think they're excellent. They really are clean and crisp on the ball and that's our springboard for the way we play."
(On their weaknesses...) "I'm not going to tell you. It seems that most parts of our game are pretty good. We're not great at anything. I just think we're pretty good at most things. We're good on set plays defensively, pretty dangerous. Obviously we scored today on a set play. It's just the little parts of the game. The spirit in that dressing room is unbelievable. It goes back to when I first arrived in San Jose in '01. It feels exactly the same, if not better, than that group, for spirit and fight and I think that that's the reason we're doing well."
Chris Wondolowski - San Jose Earthquakes Forward
(On personal success in Seattle...) "We love our fans; they're some of the most passionate but they have great fans up here and it creates a great atmosphere. When you have a great atmosphere it helps raise my level, and makes me want to raise my level up a notch. Seattle's a great team but I thought we did well, especially in the first half. In the second half we had more of a defensive approach, which we talked about a little bit but Seattle's a good team."
(On playing with the lead...) "Definitely, it's always nice to play with a lead. Seattle came right back; Zakuani had a good goal. It was a good buildup and a great play across. They were pushing, especially late in the game. They had guys in the box. Our defense played really well though. I thought Victor had a great game playing balls out. Jason Hernandez was unbelievable as well so when you have two big center backs like that it's tough for them to serve balls in and that was our game plan."
(On if resting Wednesday helped...) "Yeah hopefully. It was one of those things where I kept working hard and goals come, and they don't sometime. You just try to work as hard as possible, and kept working on finishing. I appreciate Ian Russell and John Busch and all the other goalkeepers staying after because I was pressing a little too hard I think and I appreciate them helping me work it out."
Simon Dawkins - San Jose Earthquakes Midfielder
(On the goal...) "It was a good assist from Adam Gordon. I decided to take the guy on and he didn't close me down. I decided to hit it and thankfully it went in."
(On shooting early...) "No, you've got ninety minutes. The chance just happened to come to me. I just took it and it went in so I'm happy about it."
(On the crowd...) "Yeah, I think it was important for us to come out here and show them that we're at the top of the league and playing very well. We know Seattle's a good team but we showed them we can play and we did that tonight."