It’s the ninetieth minute, the San Jose Earthquakes are down by one to the Seattle Sounders. Quakes forward Marco Ureña drives down the wing, opening space to drill a low cross across the face of goal. There’s no man you want on the end of it more than Chris Wondolowski.
The Quakes forward has now netted one-hundred-and-twenty-three goals in his MLS career, his latest an archetypal finish to salvage a point for the home side. “I think I was trying to get out of the [ball’s] way and it hit me and went in,” Wondo joked after the match.
Intentional or not, they all count, and late equalizers like these seem to count more than others. The draw halted the club’s two-match losing streak with a well-deserved and hard-fought performance against one of the league’s most offensively potent teams, lending Dominic Kinnear’s men the opportunity to rebuild their momentum heading into a meeting with FC Dallas on Friday.
Although Victor Bernardez’s absence due to suspension forced Fatai Alashe to drop into center-back alongside Florian Jungwirth, the Quakes defense adapted well and mitigated the danger of Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris up top for all of eighty-five minutes.
However, Nicolas Lodiero’s stunning volley from a rebounded free-kick put Seattle ahead with five minutes to go, setting the stage for Wondo’s heroics.
Seattle, as expected, sought to exploit the Quakes’ vulnerability to a high press and pressed incessantly from the get-go. Yet they were met by an equally aggressive Quakes side, who avoided the pitfalls of their previous defeats and played quick and direct through the middle to evade the pressure, which heightened the physicality of the contest to a hostile degree.
The Quakes were dangerous on the breakaway, and Anibal Godoy registered the first shot of the game with a deflected effort bobbling wide from twenty yards. Simon Dawkins dragged a low effort wide on the counter-attack in the fifteenth minute, and the home side should have had the lead when Hyka pounced on Oniel Fisher’s slip a few minutes later. The Albanian international bore in on goal three-versus-two, but his low pass led Marco Ureña wide of the target and the Costa Rican forward fired wide under pressure.
Seattle, however, were also dynamic up top, with Osvaldo Alonso smashing a twenty-five-yard strike narrowly over in the thirty-sixth minute and Christian Roldan heading at Bingham from a corner three minutes later.
Ureña so nearly netted a spectacular go-ahead goal five minutes from the half, forcing Stefan Frei into a finger-tip save with an acrobatic scissor-kick from Chris Wondolowski’s headed lay-off. Ureña came close again on the other side of the half, blazing a bulleted effort inches over long range, and substitute Cordell Cato, who replaced Dawkins, also curled wide from the edge of the box.
The second-half was an even tighter, pot-boiling affair, a grappling contest to assert dominance. Lodeiro whipped a dangerous free-kick over from twenty yards and Alonso volleyed over from distance, but Seattle left it late to take the lead as Lodeiro volleyed a sublime finish into the bottom corner from twenty yards.
Not too late for the Quakes, though. The home side thew everything forward in the dying seconds, introducing Danny Hoesen for Francis, and Chris Wondolowski netted their reward just as the clock struck ninety minutes. The forward was unmarked in the box to bury Ureña’s driven cross into the back of the net with a lovely finish on the breakaway.
Ureña nearly completed the comeback on the counter-attack moments later, but Frei made a smart stop to keep the game level and save face for the visitors.
HEADER PHOTO CREDIT: ISI PHOTOS