Playing with a short-handed squad the San Jose Earthquakes fell to the Seattle Sounders 1-0 Saturday evening, remaining winless on the road despite a valiant effort.
Sounders forward Obefemi Martins was without strike partner Clint Dempsey due to US World Cup preparations, but still managed to score the game’s only goal in the 7th minute on a cheeky lob from an extremely difficult angle.
The performance from the Quakes (2-4-4, 10 pts.) wasn’t necessarily impressive, but San Jose competed well despite being without seven top players due to international absence, suspension and injury.
The Quakes were without four of their top scoring threats, including leading scorer Chris Wondolowski and Portuguese spark plug Yannick Djalo. Wondo remained in the Bay Area training with the US national team, while Djalo missed his third straight game due to injury.
The forward tandem of Atiba Harris and Billy Schuler did not show any potency going forward for the Quakes, who managed only one shot on goal.
A makeshift back line saw left-back Jordan Stewart fill in at center-back to join Ty Harden for the first time this season.
The game consisted of a series of near chances for Western Conference-leading Seattle, and it took another fine goalkeeping effort from Jon Busch to keep the scoreline reasonable.
Busch had his second consecutive man of the match performance tallying five saves after having four last week against FC Dallas.
Shortly after the opening whistle, Gonzalo Pineda put Martins through with a perfect chip over the strikers shoulder left of the six-yard box. The Nigerian took it in stride and Jon Busch could only stand in shock when the ball looped over his head inside the far post, despite the goalkeeper’s proper positioning.
In the 27th minute, a Khari Stephenson turnover almost led to a second goal for the Sounders, but Kenny Cooper failed to direct Lamar Neagle’s lovely cross on target.
Cooper took the volley with his right foot in the center of the box directly in front of Busch after beating replacement left-back Shaun Francis, but scuffed the shot wide left.
Seattle was content in ceding half of the possession to San Jose, looking for counter-attacking opportunities to score.
It took a great reaction save from Busch to thwart a Sounders counter in the 58th minute. Martins, who leads the MLS in assists with six, almost added to his tally when another cross into the box found an unmarked Lamar Neagle.
Neagle’s volley hit the turf and bounced up at Busch who showed his terrific reflexes by parrying away the point blank opportunity.
Busch denied Neagle yet again with an even more impressive save in the 65th minute, getting a hand on the low strike with a quick dive to his right.
Chad Barrett replaced Kenny Cooper in the 70th minute and almost scored two minutes later after being set up by another perfect Matins through ball. Barrett sprinted past Busch who collided with a retreating Jordan Stewart, but completely missed the ball when attempting to shoot.
The Sounders nearly put the game to bed in the 84th when Marco Pappa squared a ball across the box for another point blank chance this time from Osvaldo Alonso. Alonso was thwarted by another terrific diving stop by Busch.