Battle of the Backups: Seattle Sounders beat San Jose Earthquakes

The Seattle Sounders “bounced back” on Saturday winning 1-0 against a depleted San Jose Earthquakes side.

It was an odd game in many ways. San Jose fielded a MASH unit. Not only were they missing their best starters, but they only activated 16 players, not the typically 18. Can you imagine the Seahawks flying to San Francisco without a full roster? That said, San Jose held the advantage in possession and had quality build up, but lacked quality on the final pass. Their inability to find that pass limited their scoring chances. They took just eight shots all game, and only one of those was on-goal. San Jose was plucky at times, but I’d wager Cal FC could’ve beaten these Earthquakes.

The Sounders didn’t exactly drape themselves in glory, or dispel any trauma of last week’s collapse. 50,000 fans made the pilgrimage to the XBOX Pitch on a lovely mid-May evening, and I’m a little disappointed the game wasn’t more of a show for the extra fans. Obafemi Martins scored in the 8th minute, giving Seattle a rare treat in an early lead. And yet that was only the only tally on the day. The Sounders had great scoring chances, especially late in the game, but we didn’t finish a single one. All sixteen of our chances, some fat and juicy and ripe, were missed except for Oba’s strike. That chip shot, taken at an acute angle, with a first touch at full speed had something like a .001% chance of going in. Bananas. San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch played brilliantly in stonewalling everything else (there is something about Seattle inspiring opposition goalkeeper greatness). If I was picking nits, I’d say we should’ve put more balls between the pipes to help our goal differential. Ahhhh, exhale. We got the three points and solidified our place atop the table.

The big positive take-away is that we kept a clean sheet. It was refreshing to see the new-look backline stay stout. Zach Scott again played brilliantly and was honored by the captain’s armband. Right back was the biggest question mark, as both DeAndre Yedlin and Brad Evans are away at USMNT camp. No one but Sigi Schmid knew who’d start the position: Michael Azira, Jalil Anibaba or Zach Scott. Azira was hyped as a right back possibility earlier in the week, but I am still haunted by his performances in the Columbus and Portland games. Thankfully Anibaba got the nod and acquitted himself well. With Chad Marshall as the one constant of the back four, we got our third clean sheet of the season. Hopefully this makes us greedy for more.

The Sounders have many hungry bench players looking at this stretch of games to prove they deserve more minutes. Kenny Cooper started up top with Oba and moved well, but didn’t distinguish himself. Chad Barrett came on for him in the 70th minute and may have

made a case to start. He completed 89% of his passes to Cooper’s 56%, and only took one less shot in less than half an hour. Andy Rose saw the pitch for the first time since Montreal, albeit for mere moments. I think Sigi just wanted to blood him a bit in preparation for more minutes down the stretch. These subs played well, as did the regular starters.

After a week’s rest, the starters who remained reminded many why they are in the eleven. Gonzalo Pineda had some turnovers, but also made brilliant plays all over the field. He was more of a creator with Dempsey and Evans off the pitch and his assist to Oba was perfectly weighted. Marco Pappa looked liked our best player at times, but disappeared for stretches of the second half. Lastly, again, that strike from Oba was insane. We’ll need more of that from our left-behind and aspiring starters if we want to get a result at red-hot Vancouver.

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