The Earthquakes set out to make a bold statement of intent in a crucial playoff meeting with the Seattle Sounders, hoping the three points could be a turning point in an increasingly dour season. Having gone three matches without a win at home, they wanted to win back their turf and “Silence the Sounders.”
This initiative and intensity were evident in a thoroughly dominant opening half-hour for the home side, in which Chris Wondolowski rediscovered his golden touch to give the Quakes an early lead.
Yet the Quakes switched off after taking the lead. Dominic Kinnear’s men struggled to control the final forty-five minutes with as much conviction as they did the first and, though the order of the goals might have been reversed, they were once again frustrated as Nicolás Lodeiro netted a late equalizer for Seattle. As the Quakes have all too often this summer, they had to settle for a draw.
A Wondo-Ful Start
Unusually, the Quakes began the first half attacking towards the supporters’ groups at the southwest end of the stadium. Although they have scored just four previous first-half goals at home this season, the extra boost from the supporters seemed to propel the Quakes forward to scoring an early opener.
The Sounders opted for the same counter-attacking tactics that had yielded success for the New England Revolution and Houston Dynamo at Avaya in recent weeks, sitting deep and attempting to launch on the break.
Yet the Quakes took the initiative and pushed Seattle high up the pitch. Fullbacks Jordan Stewart and Marvell Wynne seared down the wings on the overlap and their service into the penalty area caused Seattle plenty of problems early on. Both Fatai Alashe and Stewart saw lofted headers acrobatically cleared off the line early on and Chris Wondolowski also tested goalkeeper Stefan Frei with a low effort from twenty yards out.
“They kept possession at our end of the field, they came wave after wave,” said Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer. “We defended, defended, defended and then gave the ball away. We were never able to break any of their pressure and you could sense something bad was going to happen.”
Indeed, the opener came on twenty minutes as Stewart broke in down the left on the end of a long, lofted ball over the top. Naturally, Wondo was already two steps ahead of his defenders to convert the simplest of tap-ins from the fullback’s low cross, becoming the first Major League Soccer player in history to score ten goals against the Sounders and, even more impressively, the first to score ten or more goals for seven consecutive seasons.
Silenced by the Sounders
There was, of course, a flip side to attacking the Ultras in the first half: the Quakes lost that burst of momentum in the second period. They seemed to switch off after scoring and were caught napping as the Sounders equalized from a fluky late free-kick ten minutes from time.
Nicolás Lodeiro was instrumental in unlocking the Quakes in the middle and helped launch quick breaks from which Seattle nearly caught out the home side early in the second half. Jordan Morris burst in behind in the fiftieth minute, but David Bingham was quick off his line to stall the danger and Andreas Ivanschitz lifted a fifteen-yard effort over the crossbar when Morris eventually got the ball off his feet. Álvaro Fernández also came close from a near-post cross in the seventy-seventh minute and the equalizer finally came when Nicolás Lodeiro’s free-kick flew over everybody in the box and into the back of the net at the far post.
The goal jolted the Quakes back to life and it took a fantastic tackle from Fernández to deny substitute Chad Barrett in stoppage time. However, Seattle held on to salvage a point.
The draw didn’t particularly suit either team in their playoff pushes and Seattle boss Schmetzer summarized the mutual feeling of disappointment. “Draws are like vanilla,” he said. “It’s better than a loss, but it’s certainly not what we were looking for.”
The Quakes felt particularly short-changed by the nature of giving up a late lead and goalkeeper David Bingham didn’t parse his words in his post-match analysis. “It’s very frustrating,” he said, per Chris Reiko. “I don’t want to come here to tie f****ing games, that sucks. We want wins.”
He added: “Defensively, we were fantastic. We outplayed them tonight. We were the better team. It’s extremely frustrating at home especially those couple of games and now this one. We’ve outplayed those opponents. We are finding ways to not pick up points at home.”
Especially after such a promising first half, coach Kinnear echoed similar thoughts, saying: “It hurts. The New England game at home I don’t think we played particularly well. You look at New York, Houston and tonight, to walk off the field with two points out of those three games hurts you in the standings. It hurts because you think we should’ve had more.”
What went wrong in the second period? “We weren’t switching the ball as much as we were,” Kinnear said. “In the beginning, I thought our passing was really good. The better possession you have, it allows you to get further up the field, especially your outside backs. At times we were sitting too deep and looking for one pass rather than two or three to get pressure.”