SEATTLE - Obafemi Martins made a bid for Goal of the Year and the Seattle Sounders registered the first shutout in their last nine games to beat the shorthanded San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 on Saturday in front of the largest crowd of the MLS season.
The Sounders wasted little time putting the Earthquakes on their back heels with Martins' eighth-minute goal. Martins - who earlier in the week said he'd be treating this run of MLS games like his World Cup after being snubbed by Nigeria - ran down a pass from Gonzalo Pineda deep on the left side of the penalty area and shielded the ball from Jordan Stewart. About eight yards from the end line, Martins let the ball bounce once and then clipped it to the far post on his first touch past Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch, who could only watch as the shot nestled into the side netting for Martins' fifth goal of the season.
Martins has now scored four goals and has two assists in his past six matches.
The Sounders had no shortage of chances to extend their lead, but poor finishing and some big saves kept it close all the way through the end. Lamar Neagle had two golden opportunities, but Busch made a pair of sprawling saves.
The first saw Neagle with a clean look off a Marco Pappa feed at the far post, but the shot back across the middle was stopped. Neagle got another open look a few minutes later when he worked himself free in the penalty area, but Busch was again up for to the task.
As good as those saves were, it was defender Shaun Francis who had the biggest. The left back stopped Osvaldo Alonso's open attempt from the edge of the six-yard box by clearing a ball off the line in the 84th minute.
The Earthquakes' chances were few and far between. Their last opportunity to salvage a point came in the 90th minute when Khari Stephenson had a free kick from about 30 yards out, but Stefan Frei was able to make a relatively easy save to preserve his third shutout of the season.
The deck was pretty well stacked against the Earthquakes even before kickoff. Injuries, international call-ups and suspensions limited the Earthquakes to just 16 available bodies. San Jose's starting lineup featured five new players and six total changes from their previous match.
Among the missing Earthquakes were the forward trio of Chris Wondolowski (US national team camp), Steven Lenhart (injury) and Alan Gordon (injury), the starting center back pairing of Clarence Goodson (US national team camp) and Victor Bernardez (suspension) and leading assist man Shea Salinas (suspension). That left Cordell Cato as the only player on the Earthquakes' game-day roster to score a goal this season and Busch as the only one with an assist.
The Sounders stayed atop the Supporters' Shield standings and now have 25 points. The Earthquakes dropped to 2-4-4.
Seattle next visit the Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place on May 24. San Jose, meanwhile, host the Houston Dynamo a day later.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Obafemi Martins||The veteran forward scored a must-see goal early on that set the tone, and was also the catalyst for the Sounders attack throughout the match.|
|2||Osvaldo Alonso||He didn’t allow the Earthquakes to build through the middle and almost had a goal, but his late second-half shot was just deflected away.|
|3||Jon Busch||Did his best to keep the Earthquakes from tasting defeat, but it wasn't enough. He could do nothing about Martins' stunning opener.|