Sounders FC and the San Jose Earthquakes went at each other tonight with many of their top players missing.
However, Quakes forward Chris Wondolowski was very much present at sold-out Buck Shaw Stadium, and that was what mattered in the end.
The 2012 league MVP recorded his second goal of the season just before halftime, and that was all San Jose (2-1-1) needed on its way to a 1-0 win.
The result dropped Seattle to 0-2-1, matching their franchise-worst three-game start of 2011.
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One of the Sounders’ problems so far has been their inability to get their first-choice 11 onto the pitch, due to a combination of injuries and international duty.
That was the case again tonight as would-be starting forwards Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins away with their national teams, causing coach Sigi Schmid paired 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 still the Sounders could not light the scoreboard.
That doomed them early in the lone minute of first-half stoppage time, when San Jose midfielder Ramiro Corrales found MLS 2012 Golden Boot-winner 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 goalkeeper Michael Gspurning.
It was Wondolowski’s second goal of the new season after matching the MLS record with 27.
Wondolowski and other Quakes had several additional good chances, but Gspurning acrobatically turned those away.
Down the stretch, Seattle had several chances to equalize came. 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.
The Sounders return to MLS action Saturday at Real Salt Lake.
81st minute: Caskey and Neagle on for Rosales and Ochoa.
76th minute: Sounders best chances by Rosales and Estrada turned aside with back-to-back saves by Busch.
60-62nd minutes: Quakes swarming with good chances. Gspurning keeping Sounders in it for now.
Through 60: Wondolowski has had a couple of good chances. Sounders also had a good one, with Gonzalez cross to Ochoa in the box. He heads it down and back to Rosales, who strikes just wide. Still Quakes, 1-0.
Second half: ... is under way.
Stoppage time: GOAL San Jose. Wondolowski hits the far netting after finding space just outside penalty area. Quakes, 1-0.
First half hour: Scoreless.
First 10 minutes: Mostly feeling out. Both teams passing well -- Quakes more direct. But no real chances, and scoreless.
First kick: ... has been struck. We're under way. Sounders in rave/rave, Earthquakes in black/black.
Lineups: For Seattle: G Gspurning; D Yedlin, Hurtado, Traore, Gonzalez; M Rosales, Alonso, Rose, Zakuani; F Estrada, Ochoa. Reserves Hahnemann, Burch, Carrasco, Caskey, Neagle, Scott, Zavaleta.
For San Jose: G Busch; D Harden Attakora, Hernandez, Gargan; M Salinas, Baca, Cronin, Corrales; F Jahn, Wondolowski. Reserves Bingham, Cato, Garza, Martinez, Ring, Tommy, Tracy.
Pregame: It is pretty much a perfect day in Santa Clara, Calif., where the Sounders and Earthquakes will meet at 7:30 tonight.
The game will be shown on KING 5, heard on the usual radio outlets. I'll also blog the highlights here, along with more in-game comments @donruiztnt.I'll be back as news breaks, maybe first and most interestingly whatever lineup coach Sigi Schmid settles on between injuries and the international call ins.