Photo by Jane Gershovich/Jane G Photography
By LEE PRINDLE
SEATTLE – After last week’s humiliating 5-0 defeat to the New England Revolution, the Seattle Sounders were eager to return to their winning ways. They faced a San Jose Earthquakes side coming off a hard-fought win against FC Dallas, and the Quakes were desperate to get another result as their difficult start to the season continues.
It was the Sounders who finished on top, as they rode Obafemi Martins eighth-minute wonder goal to a 1-0 victory in front of 49,746 fans at CenturyLink Field.
Seattle controlled the game and could have scored more if not for some great goalkeeping from Jon Busch, and San Jose was unable to produce much in the offensive third. The win propels the Sounders back to the top spot in the West, while San Jose sits in sixth place with 10 points in 10 matches.
Seattle came into Saturday’s match shorthanded as Brad Evans, Clint Dempsey, and DeAndre Yedlin were included in Jurgen Klinsmann’s 30-man camp to battle for a spot on the World Cup roster. Joining them were San Jose’s World Cup hopefuls Clarence Goodson and Chris Wondolowski, while centerback Victor Bernardez and midfielder Shea Salinas were forced to sit out due to suspension.
Between national team call ups, injuries, and suspensions, San Jose was unable to field a full bench, settling for 16 players rather than the customary 18.
San Jose head coach Mark Watson was pleased in his side’s performance despite missing several key players. “Obviously we’re disappointed to lose. I was proud of our guys tonight. I thought they performed pretty well,” he said. “We’re chasing the game from pretty early on after a wonder goal, but a lot of positives in the performance.”
A combination of Nigeria’s lack of scoring options and Obafemi Martins impressive form led to speculation that he might earn himself a call up to Stephen Keshi’s side, but his name was omitted from the provisional 30-man World Cup roster.
Schmid has been pleased with Martins’ reaction to not being called up. “I thought he was really motivated and played well. In his disappointment in not being selected, he’s not walking around moping,” said Schmid. “He is going out there and showing, ‘Hey, you made a mistake.’”
“If they’re going to a World Cup, I’ll play my own World Cup with the Seattle Sounders,” he told reporters last week. “I’m happy to be here and to play games.” He looked quite happy Saturday night as his fifth goal of the season led the Sounders to a 1-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes.
The scoring opened in the eighth minute as Obafemi Martins got the Sounders on the board in exquisite fashion on the end of a lofted pass from Gonzalo Pineda. With his back to goal, the Nigerian unleashed a no-look chipped volley from the corner of the six yard box. A helpless Jon Busch could do nothing but watch as the ball sailed over his head, kissing the far post and rolling into the net.
“You can’t teach that,” said Sigi Schmid. “It’s definitely as good a goal as has been scored here.”
Busch gave Martins his plaudits; “You tip your hat to him because there’s nothing you can do,”he said. “Doesn’t matter who you are or where you play, that’s a good goal.”
Despite a handful of opportunities to increase their lead, Seattle settled with a 1-0 lead heading into halftime.
The second half followed suit, as Seattle applied consistent pressure and came close to doubling their lead on a variety of occasions, but Busch frequently stepped up to keep his side in the match. Busch made crucial saves on Osvaldo Alonso, Lamar Neagle, and Chad Barrett all from close range, while looking confident on crosses and set pieces.
“Jon Busch came up with some big saves in the second half to keep it at one,” said Schmid.
San Jose coach Mark Watson agreed.
“Jon was good tonight. He’s been good for us for a long time so I wasn’t surprised,” Watson said. “Once again, he made some really crucial saves that kept us in the game.”
Seattle’s much-maligned defense, statistically one of the leakiest in the league, recovered from last weekend’s calamitous performance to record a much-needed shutout, their first since the third week of the season. In truth, Stefan Frei was hardly troubled by a toothless San Jose attack that mustered only one shot on target, and Chad Marshall was on hand to sweep up all signs of danger.
“They were fantastic. I had pretty much nothing to do,” said Frei. “I thought we were very, very determined to keep that clean sheet today, so our organization was spot on.”
San Jose has struggled offensively this season as stand-in forwards Atiba Harris and Billy Schuler were unable to effectively fill in for Chris Wondolowski, but there were some encouraging signs as their makeshift backline did well to quell an illustrious Seattle offense. Busch was pleased with his backline as Ty Harden and Jordan Stewart helped solidify a makeshift backline that limited Seattle to one goal. “I thought they did great. We’ve got seasoned pros on this team and I thought they did a tremendous job,” he said.
The Sounders will hope to continue winning without Dempsey, Yedlin, and Evans next weekend in a Cascadia Cup match in Vancouver, while San Jose will try to rebound at home against Houston.