The Seattle Sounders were on the ropes Saturday night against the San Jose Earthquakes, in a 1-0 hole courtesy of a 70th-minute set-piece header from Quakes rookie Fatai Alashe.
Had the scoreline held, it would have been a significant setback to their Western Conference playoff hopes.
Obafemi Martins made sure it didn’t.
Seattle’s star striker bagged a huge equalizer in the 82nd minute, giving the Sounders a 1-1 draw at Avaya Stadium that allowed them to pick up a necessary point in the middle of a tight playoff race.
“[Andreas] Ivanschitz plays in a good ball, we fight to keep it alive and it drops to Oba and he does what he does,” Seattle assistant Brian Schmetzer, who filled in for head coach Sigi Schmid, said after the game. “He’s a natural finisher, and it was a very, very good, world-class finish.”
Ivanschitz, the Austrian midfielder signed earlier this summer, made his MLS debut Saturday, getting his first taste of the type of weapons he’ll have at his disposal as he figures to assume a large portion of the set-piece duty for the Sounders going forward.
“[Martins] is a fantastic striker,” Ivanschitz said. “He’s waiting for those opportunities. He’s very experienced, and he scores many goals for us. He’s a key player for us, so I’m very happy that he was there to make the goal.”
The draw didn’t exactly give the Sounders any separation in the conference. They tentatively moved into fourth place with 42 points from 29 games, a point ahead of both Sporting Kansas City and the Portland Timbers, who sit in the final two postseason spots. Sporting play Orlando City SC at the Citrus Bowl on Sunday (7 pm ET, FS1 and FOX Deportes).
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Schmetzer, who was on the sidelines for the second straight game as Schmid continues to deal with a health issue, said his side was gunning for a victory, but will take the draw considering the tough road environment against a San Jose side that has had Seattle’s number more than any other opponent in recent seasons. The Quakes beat the Sounders in their first two meetings this year and three of their last four meetings dating back to last year.
“A draw on the road is certainly OK,” Schmetzer said. “We certainly play to win in all competitions, so for us it’s a good result because San Jose was a little bit our bogey team. But at the end of the game, our players were looking for the forwards. They were looking for the ball more to try and win the game.”
Ari Liljenwall covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com.