By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
SANTA CLARA, CALIF. – The stadium and the home team came through fine Saturday as the San Jose Earthquakes took a 1-0 win over Seattle Sounders FC in the first event at new Levi’s Stadium.
A crowd of 48,765 turned out for the debut of the new $1.2 billion home of the San Francisco 49ers. The building seats approximately 68,500 fans, but the upper deck was closed to give the inaugural event a relatively soft opening.
“The atmosphere was good, the stadium was good, the field was good,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said.
And despite his team’s first back-to-back losses of the season, he had a similar assessment of his team’s play.
“I can’t be displeased,” Schmid said. “I thought we played much better than we played on Monday (in a 3-0 home loss to Los Angeles). I thought we created some chances. We gave up a bad goal because it was a counter against the run of play, and we could never get one back.”
The Quakes got the first score in the new stadium when Chris Wondolowski lofted a chipped pass over defender Zach Scott and to sprinting Yannick Djalo who touched the ball wide of onrushing goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
Wondolowski later came up big on the other end, blocking a Chad Barrett header in the 85th minute as the Sounders failed to score for the second consecutive match.
That was just the best of several opportunities in the second half when the Sounders threatened the Quakes without quite breaking through. Seattle outshot San Jose, 19-13, and put nine of those shots on target, compared to four by the Quakes.
“We created some chances and we got forward and our forwards were moving their defenders out of position and we got some guys behind,” said midfielder Brad Evans, who returned after missing two games with a calf injury. “We just couldn’t catch that little last pass to finally be completed.”
Schmid agreed that his team had chances, and he also felt referee Ismail Elfath should have done more about repetitive fouls on forwards Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins.
Seattle played without central defender Chad Marshall, who missed his second match due to a back injury, and midfielder Lamar Neagle, who hurt his ankle Monday against Los Angeles.
This second consecutive loss dropped the Sounders to 12-6-2, while a second consecutive win lifted San Jose to 6-8-5.
“It’s a streaky league,” Schmid said. “We’ve been on pretty good streaks. We really haven’t had a bad streak yet. So for us, right now, maybe this is our bad streak and we’ve just got to make sure we get out of it quickly. And I think we have the talent and the ability to get out of it.”
The Sounders return to MLS play Aug. 10 when the Houston Dynamo visit CenturyLink Field.
However, five players could be active before then. Rookie Sean Okoli has been named to the MLS Homegrown Team, which will play the Portland Timbers U-23s at 7 p.m. Monday at Providence Park in Portland. Meanwhile, Dempsey, Martins, Osvaldo Alonso and DeAndre Yedlin are part of the MLS All-Star team, which will face German power Bayern Munich at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in Portland.
“I hope they don’t have to play more than 45 minutes, because starting Sunday we start a string of five games in 14 days,” Schmid said. “So I don’t need them to start that string now; I don’t need them to play seven games in 20 days. Hopefully they’ll all play a half and they’ve got enough offensive subs where that should be possible. It’s an All-Star game, it’s not a game to determine whether our league is better than Bayern Munich. It’s an All-Star game.”