If there’s a lesson to be learned from the Earthquakes’ season so far, it’s that whatever happens in the early minutes – say, the first 90 or so – doesn’t necessarily indicate how things are going to resolve.
San Jose leads MLS with a 4-4-5 record when conceding the first goal. The Quakes average 1.31 goals in the second half of games, and they lead MLS with 19 goals in the final 15 minutes of matches. They already have set an MLS record with eight goals in stoppage time. The club has won or equalized 10 times in the 82nd minute or later – including five game-winners in stoppage time.
“Statistics like this always show something, and I have to admit that this shows that the team – San Jose – is mentally very strong,” Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning said. “They make big points this season in the last minutes. That’s their strength, too. But I also think we are good in shape; we can fight until the last minute.
“The best, of course … is that we’re leading 2-0 before the last minutes so we don’t have to worry about the last minutes so much.”
The Sounders know about that firsthand, as they already have suffered a pair of one-goal losses to the Quakes this season. In the Aug. 11 meeting at San Jose, Calif., Seattle to appeared to have salvaged a draw with a Fredy Montero goal in the first minute of stoppage time, only to watch Steven Lenhart steal the victory about a minute later.
Similarly, San Jose fell behind Portland, 2-0, on Wednesday before rallying for a draw when MLS goals leader Chris Wondolowski came off the bench to score twice, including the equalizer two minutes into stoppage time.
“As a team, you develop a belief over the course of a season,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “They’ve developed that belief. They’re a good team. They knock the ball around. But sometimes when it gets late into a game, sometimes they go with the two targets up front – Lenhart and (Alan) Gordon, the two spearheads. They become very direct in their play. They’re good and quick at trying to get onto the second ball, winning knockdowns and creating havoc in your box. And so there’s an energy that they bring into the game in the last 15 minutes. Now there’s a belief that they have now, and a confidence that they have, which comes from winning games like that.”
What can his team do to prevent it?
“You certainly match their energy,” Schmid said. “It’s also a matter of just being patient and holding onto the ball. We just have to make sure that we bring the same amount of energy, but at the same token, keep our heads about ourselves.”
Some of the Sounders’ hopes for this season could depend on it, as they come into the game nine points behind San Jose in the races for Supporters’ Shield and top seeding in the Western Conference playoff race.
“I think for us to make any run at Supporters’ Shield we need to win this game,” Schmid said. “More than anything, it’s a good measuring stick for us – a measuring stick for them as well. It should be a great game for the fans and for the league.”
Montero’s goal at Portland last week was honored Friday as MLS goal of the week. ... The Sounders and Quakes will meet in an MLS Reserve League match at 2 p.m. Sunday at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila. Schmid said the club hasn’t decided if newly acquired goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann will play in that game.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (17-6-6; 57 POINTS) AT SOUNDERS FC (13-6-9; 48)
7:30 p.m., CenturyLink Field
TV: Ch. 6/16. RADIO: 97.3-FM, 99.3-FM (Spanish).
CLUB LEADERS: For San Jose – G 21, Chris Wondolowski; A 9, Marvin Chavez; S 100, Wondolowski; SOG 43, Wondolowski; GAA 1.21, Jon Busch. For Seattle – G 13, Eddie Johnson; A 13, Mauro Rosales; S 103, Fredy Montero; SOG 38, Montero; GAA 0.76, Michael Gspurning.
HEAD TO HEAD: The MLS series is even 4-4-1. Seattle leads 3-2 at home. This season in MLS, San Jose won 1-0 in Seattle and 2-1 at home. Only that second match counts toward this season’s Heritage Cup competition, which will resolve today.
NOTES: This is a pairing of the top two teams in the Western Conference. San Jose also leads the Supporters’ Shield race, while Seattle is fifth. ... The Quakes lead MLS in goals (60), average goals scored (2.07), assists (62), shots on goal (162) and goal differential (plus 25). ... Individually, Wondolowski leads the league in goals, Gspurning leads in goals-against average, and Busch leads in wins (16). ... Seattle is 3-0-2 over its last five league games, while San Jose is 3-1-1. ... San Jose already has clinched a playoff spot. Seattle would clinch with a win or draw today. ... San Jose’s Ramiro Corrales is the lone remaining active player who participated in MLS’ 1996 inaugural season. ... Quakes midfielder Joey Gjertsen (knee) of Tacoma is out. Sounders’ midfielders Rosales (quadriceps) and Christian Tiffert (ankle) are probable, and forward David Estrada (foot) is questionable. ... Johnson will miss this game due to yellow-card accumulation. Montero is one caution away from the same one-game suspension. ... The referee is Hilario Grajeda.
QUOTABLE: “(This) is a six-point game, but we are all looking forward and we are all excited because it’s getting close to the playoffs, and we want to succeed this year in the playoffs.” – Gspurning.
NEXT: 6 p.m. Sept. 29, at Vancouver.email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer firstname.lastname@example.org