The Seattle Sounders “won” a hard-earned 1-1 draw against the San Jose Earthquakes Saturday night. The huge match down in NorCal was key to the playoff jockeying of both clubs and had repercussion for the whole Western Conference. With the results around the league now in the books, especially SKC’s embarrassing tumble to Orlando City, Seattle now holds sole possession of 4th place in the Conference with 42 points. The Sounders are still holding off San Jose for a playoff position.
San Jose has always been our boogieman. It looked like we’d give them all 9 points for 2015 when Fatai Alashe knocked in the go-ahead goal in the 70th minute. He did so on a set piece, making it the millionth one Seattle has conceded this year (I am a Lamar Neagle apologist. He hustles, he eats minutes and he can be very goal dangerous. However. He is single-handedly responsible for the majority of Seattle’s set piece problems. He may be playing himself onto a more permanent position on the bench.) I sunk deeper into my couch and saw our playoff chances slip, sliding away. Seattle had been in a funk offensively for most of the match, even with Oba, Clint and Valdez all on the pitch simultaneously, and I just didn’t see the equalizer coming.
But the Sounders fought back. They seemed to channel 2014 and will a result. Remember last season? It seemed Seattle would never lose. Even when they went behind, you knew they could punch their way back. You had the utmost faith in the boys in green, but that faith had been in short supply for much of the last few months. Now we have two straight results where Seattle had to stay mentally tough and fight back. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked.
Overall, it was one of those games: ugly and physical. San Jose really roughed us up (surprise!). Schmetzer had to make 3 premature subs all due to injury. First Roman Torres tweaked his left leg (knee or ankle?) chasing a sloppy corner Friberg right before the break. Evans, subbed off at half, was a piñata the entire first half, especially when he took a shot to his noggin from close range. Then Valdez, who has been a bruise magnet lately, took himself off before the hour mark. Portland started the recent hack-a-Sounder trend on Valdez. Toronto and SJ just followed suit.
We were just starting to get healthy and, with fixtures slowing down, rested but now this. Recuperating players like Dempsey shouldn’t have been asked to give the full 90, but had to due to circumstance (though you could argue he was pretty checked out for the last 15 minutes or so). Luckily we have another whole week to rest before Vancouver. The next game is just as big as the last one. Nothing is easy from here on out, but the Sounders are proving themselves tough enough for the task.