Of the San Jose Earthquakes’ starting 11 in Seattle on Saturday night, only five were around to suffer through the club’s franchise-record winless streak to end 2014. And none bore the brunt of that 0-8-7 stretch more deeply than team captain Chris Wondolowski.
So it was perfectly fitting that when the Quakes finally secured their first win in more than seven months, it was Wondolowski who played the biggest part in getting them there, scoring twice as 10-man San Jose held on for a 3-2 victory against the Sounders at CenturyLink Field.
There was a little bit of symmetry at work: San Jose’s last previous MLS win, on Aug. 2, came at Seattle’s expense, a 1-0 result delivered by Yannick Djalo off a Wondolowski assist.
The victory not only gives San Jose three critical points in a Western Conference playoff race that promises to be tight all season, but also means the Quakes can concentrate on the positives of opening Avaya Stadium next weekend, rather than facing pesky questions about their winless skid. If San Jose hadn’t survived Seattle’s final burst, they would have been threatening to tie Real Salt Lake’s mark of 18 straight matches without a victory from August 2005 to May 2006.
“It’s huge,” Wondolowski told reporters. “It’s been a while for us since we got a win. It’s really nice, especially up here. It gives us confidence to take on this year. If we start 0-2 after losing one late against Dallas, I think … you start second-guessing yourself a bit. I kind of feel that we’re on the front foot now. We get to open our new stadium. That’s another big test for us. Hopefully, we can keep that ball rolling.”
Wondolowski’s brace was the first by an Earthquakes player against the Sounders in league play since they joined MLS in 2009, and extended his mastery over Seattle. The US international now has nine goals in 14 matches versus the Sounders.
“There’s no real rhyme or reason, [it’s] just one of those things where I’ve been able to finish some chances here and there against them,” Wondolowski said. “They’re a very good team, especially very organized defensively. They do attack really well, and sometimes when you attack, you can leave little gaps here and there.”
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Wondolowski victimized US teammate Brad Evans on both scores. Marvell Wynne’s 13th-minute cross left Evans reaching unsuccessfully to get a head on the ball, which allowed Wondolowski to settle and fire past Stefan Frei from just next to the penalty spot. And Evans’ attempted back-pass header in the 48th came up woefully short; Wondolowski pounced to slot home past a helpless Frei.
“Two goals is what you want from your forward, and two different kinds of goals,” Quakes head coach Dominic Kinnear said. “The one good thing about Chris, and everyone knows that, is that he’s very consistent in hitting the target. Lucky for us, he got a couple for us tonight.”
Combined with Innocent Emeghara opening his MLS account 70 minutes into his first start as a Quake, it allowed San Jose to withstand both the allowing of a Clint Dempsey goal just 18 seconds from the opening whistle and the loss of center back Victor Bernardez to a straight red in the 52nd minute.
“At 1-0 after whatever it was, 20 seconds, you could definitely hang your head a little bit,” Kinnear said. “I don’t think we showed fear tonight, which was good. We had a pretty young group out there, and I thought it was good for their confidence.”