SEATTLE – A Chris Wondolowski penalty proved the difference on Saturday night as the San Jose Earthquakes fired off a warning shot to the rest of the Western Conference, taking a 1-0 victory from the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field.
In what was a scrappy affair, Quakes forward Steven Lenhart drew the penalty that set up the game’s only goal – Wondolowski’s fourth of the season – and generally caused all sorts of havoc.
The key moment came in the 24th minute. With San Jose on the attack, Lenhart backed past Marc Burch in the box while preparing for a cross from Marvin Chávez. Burch nudged the big striker, who made the most of it and drew a whistle from referee Mark Kadlecik.
It amounted to a chance for two-time MLS leading-scorer Wondolowski to line one up from 12 yards out. The 2010 Golden Boot winner made good on the opportunity, putting it past Michael Gspurning for what would prove to be the game-winner. The goal moved Wondolowski into a tie for second on the league’s goal scoring charts with David Estrada, one back of New York's Thierry Henry.
Lenhart eventually came out in the 67th minute, shortly after picking up a yellow card, but both sides had picked up the mood from him and Seattle’s Osvaldo Alonso, who put in a series of tackles – both before and after the whistle – to turn a contest that was back-and-forth early into one that was repeatedly interrupted by Kadlecik’s whistle.
That suited the Earthquakes just fine, as they were mostly content to defend and play for the counterattack over the last half-hour. They almost got their wish late, when Wondolowski found a gap between the Seattle central defense, but fired directly at Gspurning from 18 yards.
The Sounders, meanwhile, were able to create some good chances in the second half, beginning with an Estrada look that Jon Busch kept out in the 49th minute.
As Seattle pushed harder and harder for the equalizer, Busch seemed to loom larger and larger. The veteran saved his best for late in the game, pushing Fredy Montero’s left-footed attempt just wide in spectacular fashion in the 84th minute.
In so doing, Busch picked up his third clean sheet in four games, and also handed Seattle – who were playing without talismanic playmaker Mauro Rosales once again – their first shutout of the year in any competition.
On the other end, Gspurning had to make a season-high four saves.
San Jose now have nine points from four contests (3-1-0). They take the field again on April 7 when they host fellow surprise package Vancouver at Buck Shaw Stadium.
Seattle fall to 2-1-0 from their three-game home stand to open the season. They’ll hit the road for a match at D.C. United, also on April 7.
HIGHLIGHTS: SEA vs SJ