Quakes Survive the Battle of SeattleSan Jose hold on to sweep Seattle Sounders
by Luke James | Monday, September 24, 2012
Major League Soccer needs more referees like Hilario Grajeda. He has a reputation for letting plays continue, after all.
Saturday night at CenturyLink Field, a crowd of 38,948 saw what letting the play run can mean. The San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders were allowed to play at a frantic, literally breathtaking pace. And it was great.
At stake was a playoff spot for Seattle with a win or a tie. San Jose have already made the playoffs, but needed a win to stay ahead of Sporting Kansas City in the race for the Supporters Shield.
And the Earthquakes got that needed result with a 2-1 win over the Sounders.
The Earthquakes came out of the gate hard and fast with a blistering goal two minutes into the contest when Simon Dawkins fired from 25 yards out. Dawkins is a young player in the second year of his loan spell from English Premier League side, Tottenham Hotspur.
Last week, I spoke to Dawkins after Earthquakes training and asked him about the pace of MLS soccer compared to EPL soccer.
“Back in England it’s a lot faster,” he said. “Played at a higher tempo, but I can play at this tempo. This is a good tempo for me to play at.”
Maybe there was something about cloudy, rainy Seattle that made Dawkins feel a little homesick because he definitely decided to play EPL tempo Saturday night.
And he wasn’t alone.
The entire Earthquakes team moved the ball with one-touch passing and ran at a speed that totally threw Seattle for a loop.
In the 14th minute, Sam Ochoa got the ball to the back post, where Steve Zakuani waited to slot his first goal since breaking his leg last year.
He scored. Game on.
San Jose seemed unaffected by the equalizer as it continued to dominate and push forward. When you have one tackle defenders of the caliber of Steven Beitashour, Justin Morrow and Victor Bernardez at the back, it gives strikers the confidence to push forward and pressure the opposition’s penalty area.
A 29th minute Earthquakes corner was hit back into the area, hard and low by Victor Bernardez and Chris Wondolowski, yet again in the right place at the right time, guided the ball into the net with a backwards flick.
With his 22nd goal of this season, Wondolowski moved one step closer to breaking Roy Lassiter’s MLS record of 27 regular-season goals.
Whatever Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said to his team at halftime worked.
In the second half, it was the Sounders turn to dictate a furious pace and take the majority of possession.
San Jose was forced to survive long periods of intense offensive pressure, the last 20 minutes being played almost exclusively in the Earthquakes' half of the field.
But with balls raining into their penalty area like Seattle weather, San Jose somehow managed to have the right man in the right spot at the right time to keep the ball out of the net.
The win completed a season sweep for the Earthquakes, who went 3-0-0 this season against the Sounders despite playing two of those games at CenturyLink Field.
San Jose all but clinched home-field advantage for the playoffs and now sit atop the Western Conference with 60 points, which is five points clear of Sporting Kansas City in the Supporters Shield race.
NEXT UP: San Jose Earthquakes are at home to Dallas FC Sept 29 at 7:30 p.m. PST at Buck Shaw stadium.