SANTA CLARA, Calif. — There’s only one thing Chris Wondolowski can do to force himself back onto the rosters of US national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann: Score more goals.
So he did exactly that.
Wondolowski tallied just before halftime as the San Jose Earthquakes extended their mastery over the Seattle Sounders with a 1-0 victory Saturday at Buck Shaw Stadium. The Quakes (2-1-1) extended their winning streak against Seattle to four consecutive MLS regular-season matches, building on a sweep of all three hotly contested games last season to move into a tie for second place in the Western Conference. The Sounders remained winless at 0-2-1.
The 2012 MLS MVP spent his Saturday night making life miserable for Seattle, against whom he now has six goals, including three game-winners in the last two seasons. Wondolowski had a number of near-misses in the first half, but grew increasingly menacing as time wore on; his 43rd-minute header to the near post from Shea Salinas’ long-range free kick went inches wide.
Wondolowski broke through seconds into first-half stoppage time via two impressive pieces of skill. As Jon Busch’s long boot from the edge of the Quakes’ area skidded off the head of Seattle defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Wondolowski brought the ball down with the outside of his right foot, gently enough that he could set himself for a ripped shot from 22 yards. The ball curled around sliding Sounders center back Djimi Traoré and barely beat goalkeeper Michael Gspurning with a ricochet off the far post.
The Quakes nearly found an insurance goal with a flurry of attacks just after the hour mark. Gspurning turned aside Salinas’ redirection of a Ramiro Corrales header in the 61st. A minute later, after a San Jose corner tumbled to the ground, Ty Harden’s attempt slammed off teammate Nana Attakora for an inadvertent clearance. San Jose midfielder Rafael Baca saw his 70th-minute attempt skim the crossbar from 14 yards.
Seattle felt vaguely dangerous for much of the second half, even without the services of Eddie Johnson (US), Mario Martínez (Honduras) and Obafemi Martins (Nigeria), all away on national-team duty. Steve Zakuani often ran rampant on the left flank, and his pass into Sammy Ochoa in the 75th minute set the Sounders in motion. Mauro Rosales stung a half-volley off Ochoa’s knockdown, forcing Busch to make a diving stop. The San Jose 'keeper scrambled and used his left arm to block David Estrada’s rebound attempt on the Quakes’ doorstep.
The Quakes narrowly avoided disaster in the 84th minute when Ty Harden left a back-pass well short. Estrada appeared to have a play on the ball some 35 yards from goal, but eventually overran it, perhaps spooked by an onrushing Busch.
Busch plucked a swerving long-range free kick from Osvaldo Alonso in the 89th minute to stifle Seattle’s last chance.
Each side was hit hard by national-team duty. San Jose recast its back line in the absence of defenders Víctor Bernárdez (Honduras) and Justin Morrow (US), slotting Dan Gargan in at left back for his Quakes debut and giving Attakora his first MLS appearance since returning from a 2012 stint in Finland.
Seattle hunted for offense without its trio of internationals. Estrada, who grew up in nearby Salinas, partnered Sammy Ochoa up front for his first 2013 appearance and first start in nearly 10 months. Mauro Rosales came on for Martínez, while coach Sigi Schmid preferred Leo González to Marc Burch at left back.
Both teams hit the road next weekend, with San Jose facing Houston and Seattle up against Real Salt Lake.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Chris Wondolowski (SJ)||Reigning MVP finally got one from the run of play, and it was a beauty of a finish.|
|2||Michael Gspurning (SEA)||Big Austrian made four huge stops to keep the score line from looking more like a Quakes blowout.|
|3||Nana Attakora (SJ)||Canadian international was stellar in his first start of 2013, especially his work on Sammy Ochoa.|