By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
The Seattle Sounders ended the first half of its MLS regular season with a loss that could be felt deep into the second half.
The Sounders left San Jose on Sunday with a 1-0 defeat and with four key players either certainly or possibly unavailable for their next MLS game and beyond.
Certainly out is midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, who was issued a straight red card in the closing minutes of the Earthquakes match, which was typically rough and chippy from the start.
Meanwhile, three Sounders left with injuries: goalkeeper Michael Gspurning (forearm), midfielder Brad Evans (ribs) and defender Djimi Traore (hamstring). No prognosis has been given for the availability of any of those players for Saturday, when Seattle begins a three-game homestand against the Colorado Rapids.
“We’ve got to see who’s healthy,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “We can try to figure out who can play, but we’re obviously short midfielders now with Ozzie out; (Andy) Rose is out; (Alex) Caskey just had surgery, he’s out. We’ve got a lot of guys missing. We don’t know where we are in goal right now. (Marcus) Hahnemann’s out already, I don’t know how long Gspurning’s out — we have to see if it’s fractured or not fractured. It’s not displaced, but it’s definitely possibly fractured.”
The Sounders went into the San Jose game already barring what seemed their fair share of key injuries. Designated players Obafemi Martins and Shalrie Joseph were out due to calf problems, and reserve keeper Hahnemann suffered a hamstring injury that was expected to keep him out three or four weeks.
That’s what forced the acquisition of Andrew Weber on loan from third-division Phoenix FC.
Then he was rushed into action Saturday, when Gspurning couldn’t make it into the second half after being kicked by Steven Lenhart when both went down for a ball in front of the Sounders’ goal.
“It’s nothing new,” Weber said. “I’ve been in this situation before with Seattle. You always have to be ready when your name is called. It’s unfortunate that (Gspurning) picked up the knock, but you have to stay focused and do your job.”
Weber was on the pitch less than three minutes before Walter Martinez struck his game-winning goal. But that was the only goal he allowed while making two saves.
“I thought Weber did all right,” Schmid said. “(Defender DeAndre Yedlin) has to get tighter to (Martinez), turn the guy outside. (Yedlin) can’t let him cut back and get inside, it leaves Weber out to dry. That’s something that we’re going to talk about and need to improve upon.”
The result brought San Jose even with Seattle (7-7-3) in a tie for seventh place in the MLS Western Conference. Both teams have 24 points, although the Sounders have played four fewer games.
Seattle became the final Western Conference team to reach the midpoint of its 34-game regular season, and has at least one game in hand on all of the clubs it is racing for one of the five playoff spots in the West. But even at that, five teams average more standings points per game than Seattle (1.41), and the Sounders have fallen below the 1.5-points-per-game mark that Schmid regularly sees as the ticket to playoff qualification. The Sounders also lost the season series to San Jose, 1-2 – another goal Schmid stresses as important for playoff safety.