First impressions from the Sounders’ 1-0 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday night at Levi’s Stadium:
– The Wondo/Djalo combo proved decisive.
Unlike Monday’s first half, in which the Sounders were overrun by a rampant Galaxy attack for long stretches, Seattle actually had more of the ball in the opening 45 minutes against the last-place Earthquakes on Saturday night. But it took a halftime deficit into the locker room again anyway.
That’s because while the Sounders struggled to find the vital pass to unlock the San Jose defense, Chris Wondolowski’s lofted 42nd-minute chip into Yannick Djalo’s path was good enough to win any match. It was certainly enough to decide a half in which the Sounders had 55 percent of the possession but were out-shot 6 to 4.
Forwards Wondolowski and Djalo combined well all night long for the new-look ‘Quakes, giving the center-back pairing of Zach Scott and Jalil Anibaba fits from the opening goal to Djalo’s injury substitution just moments after he hit the crossbar in the 61st minute. Wondolowski even provided some heroics at the other end, heading Chad Barrett’s potential equalizer off the line with five minutes remaining in normal time.
– The Sounders are still regaining their rhythm.
This was just Clint Dempsey’s third MLS match since missing six of them on national team duty — same for DeAndre Yedlin. Brad Evans was back in the lineup after missing a pair of matches with a ligament injury.
The rust is still showing.
Passing moves would end with an abrupt misfire toward the sideline. Evans gave away a ball at the top of the box late in the first half and was fortunate to have escaped a frustration yellow card for the tackle that followed. Marco Pappa combined with Obafemi Martins to craft one of Seattle’s best chances of the first half, but Yedlin was too late to get onto his low cross back through the box. Yedlin stormed down the right flank in the 73rd minute and shrugged his shoulders at the lack of options in the box.
It got better in the second half, but regaining their earlier fluency is going to take the Sounders some time.
– The gap at the top of the Western Conference is shrinking quickly.
They had better not wait too long, because their fellow contenders are closing fast. Real Salt Lake is now just two points back with 36, though Seattle does have a pair of games in hand. The L.A. Galaxy picked up their second straight multi-goal victory of the week with a 3-1 takedown of Portland on Saturday afternoon to close within five points of the top spot.
And that’s not even mentioning the Supporter’s Shield race, which Kansas City now leads by a point despite Seattle’s two extra games to play.
Some of Seattle’s problems are likely to solve themselves as players return from injury — Chad Marshall at the back, Lamar Neagle in the midfield.
But last season’s final-stretch collapse is still in the back of most supporters’ minds. Weeks like this past one are unlikely to erase it any time soon.