Martins scored his team-high 12th goal in the 82nd minute Saturday to salvage a 1-1 road draw for the Sounders against the San Jose Earthquakes at Avaya Stadium, moving them one point ahead of fellow Western Conference playoff contenders Sporting Kansas City and Portland Timbers and preventing the Quakes from forming an absolute log jam around the West’s red line.
Martins’ strike canceled out Alashe’s second career MLS goal, a glancing header in the 70th minute that happened to fall on Fatai Alashe Inaugural Goal Bobblehead Night and put the Quakes in position to force a four-way tie on 41 points. Instead, seventh-place San Jose (11-11-6 overall, 39pts) failed to make up much ground on their nearest targets for a second straight home game and remain two points behind SKC and the Timbers for the sixth and final spot in the West.
Seattle (13-13-3, 42pts), who drew for the first time in 18 matches, survived the absences of head coach Sigi Schmid, who stayed in Seattle due to health problems, and influential midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, sidelined by yellow-card accumulation.
Sounders assistant Brian Schmetzer, handed the reins for a second straight match, started the club’s high-octane Designated Player trio of Martins, Clint Dempsey and Nelson Valdez for the first time since Seattle signed the Paraguayan international Valdez last month.
San Jose, meanwhile, replaced injured defensive stalwart Victor Bernardez by moving rookie midfielder Alashe to center back. Coach Dominic Kinnear reunited Anibal Godoy and Marc Pelosi, both returning from international duty, as a central midfield pivot, making DP Matias Perez Garcia the odd man out of the starting lineup.
Seattle had an early heart-stopping moment when captain Brad Evans was briefly felled by the aftereffects of taking a fierce Clarence Goodson delivery off his face at close range barely 10 minutes in. Evans was replaced at halftime by Andreas Ivanschitz.
More trouble came just before intermission, as new Sounders defender Roman Torres landed awkwardly on his left knee after leaping for a Seattle corner kick and could only gingerly limp off the field with assistance. Zach Scott immediately came on in his stead.
Neither team put a shot on goal in a taut first half, although Chris Wondolowski came achingly close in the 37th minute. The Quakes’ captain used his right foot to trap Godoy’s chipped pass, then turned smartly to lash a left-footed shot that beat goalkeeper Stefan Frei but bounced harmlessly off the far post.
Perez Garcia came on in the 70th minute, and his first kick of the match lead to Alashe’s tally. After San Jose’s Cordell Cato drew a free kick just outside the Sounders’ area deep on the right wing, the left-footed Perez Garcia – coming on as a substitute for only the second time this season – bent an in-swinging delivery around Seattle’s two-man wall. Alashe, whose first MLS goal christened brand-new Avaya Stadium back in March, beat his marker Lamar Neagle soundly and put his header past Frei.
Seattle equalized 12 minutes later thanks to multiple efforts from Martins, who first drew the foul from Alashe deep on the left wing, then capitalized when Scott forced a brilliant reaction save by San Jose goalkeeper David Bingham on the ensuing free kick. Martins swung his left foot and beat Goodson’s desperate clearance attempt to deny the Quakes a badly needed victory.
Both teams had late chances for a winner.
San Jose’s Adam Jahn missed an 84th-minute header off a Perez Garcia corner kick, and Seattle’s Ivanschitz – making his MLS debut – banged a shot off the post a minute later after play had been whistled dead for a handball.
San Jose are back in action Wednesday when they play host to the Montreal Impact (10:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE). Seattle next play at Cascadia rival Vancouver Whitecaps next Saturday (7 pm ET, TSN, RDS2 and MLS LIVE in USA).