By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — A 1-0 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday dropped the Seattle Sounders’ record to 0-2-1, matching the worst start in their five seasons.
Afterward club leaders said confidence remains — after all, the 2011 club endured the same start and went on to a club-record 18 wins. But they’re also well aware that they wake up this morning in last place in the MLS Western Conference.
“It’s just you need a result to help your team get confidence,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “We’ve got guys who are pretty ambitious and driven, and when they don’t get results they get a little ornery I guess is the best word. We’ve got to continue to have that hunger and turn that hunger into wins.”
That, goalkeeper Michael Gspurning said, is on the veterans.
“The leaders, we know what to do,” he said. “It’s important that we know, of course, that our quality is better than one point out of three games.”
The Sounders’ latest disappointment unfolded at sold-out Buck Shaw Stadium with many of the top players missing from both sides.
However, Quakes star forward Chris Wondolowski was very much present, and that turned out to be the difference.
The 2012 league MVP recorded his second goal of the season just before halftime, and that was all San Jose (2-1-1) needed.
For Seattle, would-be starting forwards Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins were away with their national teams, causing coach Sigi Schmid to pair David Estrada up top alongside Sammy Ochoa. It was Estrada’s first start of the season after recovering from an ankle sprain. Ochoa got his first start of the season the week before against Portland.
They were attacking a San Jose defense missing Justin Morrow and Victor Bernardez due to international duty, but the Sounders still could not light the scoreboard.
That proved fatal in the lone minute of first-half stoppage time, when San Jose midfielder Ramiro Corrales found Wondolowski in space just outside the penalty area. He took a touch toward the middle and unleashed a shot into the netting to the far side of Gspurning.
“We have to fix the problem that we concede late goals,” Gspurning said. “If you go 0-0 into halftime it is of course a completely different game.”
It was Wondolowski’s second goal of the new season after matching the MLS record with 27 last season.
Wondolowski and other Quakes had several additional good chances, but Gspurning turned those away and ended the night with four saves.
Seattle had several late chances to equalize. Two of the best came in the 75th minute when a shot by Mauro Rosales and rebound attempt by Estrada were turned aside with back-to-back saves by Jon Busch. In the 89th minute, Osvaldo Alonso put a free kick on goal, but Busch handed it cleanly, sealing the result.
“We feel disappointed,” Alonso said. “One point, three games, always bad. But we have to look forward. We have more games coming up. We have to prepare more — physically, mentally — to play again.”
The Sounders return to MLS action Saturday at Real Salt Lake. Schmid said his national team members might be back by then and some injured players could be available.
“We’ll have more people to choose from,” Schmid said. “We expect (midfielders Brad Evans and Shalrie Joseph) to be in full training beginning next week, as well. So that gives us two more options also. I think with that, it enhances what we can do.”