Chris Wondolowskis last season scoring surge continued Saturday night, as the San Jose Earthquakes took advantage of his 22nd goal of the season to overcome the Seattle Sounders 2-1 at CenturyLink Field. With the victory, the Earthquakes completed a three-game season sweep of the Sounders and opened up an 11 point lead in the Western Conference.
We started the game well and played a great first half to get the lead, said head coach Frank Yallop. Seattle put a lot of pressure on in the second half and we bent a little but we didnt break and got an important result. This team just has great spirit and they always push through to the end.
A goal from Simon Dawkins in the second minute, the earliest by an Earthquakes player since the franchise returned to MLS in 2008, was cancelled out 12 minutes later by Seattle midfielder Steve Zakuanis first goal of the campaign and first since returning from a horrific leg injury suffered early in the 2011 season. Wondolowski scored in the 30th minute to restore the Earthquakes lead, and the visitors hung on for the last hour of the match to post the victory.
For Wondolowski, the goal marked his 10th game winning goal of the season, setting a new MLS record and breaking his own personal best of 9 winners in the 2010 season. His goal also extended his lead atop the league scoring chart to a staggering 8 goals over second place strikers Alvaro Saborio of Real Salt Lake and Kenny Cooper of the New York Red Bulls.
I do pride myself on scoring important goals that help the team win, said Wondolowski, so it does feel good to score that many game-winning goals. This team gives me a lot of opportunities and I just need to finish them.
Playing their third game in eight days, the Earthquakes featured nearly the same line-up that faced Chivas USA a week earlier. Playing on the artificial turf of CenturyLink Field, coach Yallop deployed a starting XI that was geared toward keeping possession of the ball and transitioning from defense to offense with urgency. And with speedy wingers Shea Salinas and Marvin Chavez still mending from injuries, Dawkins and the rest of the Earthquakes midfield needed to be sharp in the face of constant pressure from their Sounders counterparts.
Seattle is a good team but we came in tonight and played well right from the start, said Dawkins. It was important to show them why we are on top of the league. It was a great result against a good team.
The Earthquakes started with aplomb, and quickly silenced the announced crowd of 38,948 primarily pro-Sounders supporters with a goal in just the 2nd minute of the match. Collecting a pass in the center of the field, forward Alan Gordon turned the ball wide for a trailing Dawkins. The English midfielder cut the ball back across the top of the area and shook loose of two defenders before unleashing a 25 yard bomb that detonated in the upper right corner of the goal to give San Jose a 1-0 lead.
The Sounders equalized in the 14th minute following a deep throw-in near the Earthquakes byline that was turned into the area by Sammy Ochoa. Shedding defender Jason Hernandez and driving toward goal, Ochoa squared the ball across the six-yard box for Zakuani to slam home at the far post to level the score at 1 goal apiece.
In the 30th minute, the Earthquakes retook the lead through a corner kick opportunity. Mehdi Ballouchys in-swinging restart was headed out of the mixer by defender Brad Evans and right to the foot of Victor Bernardez. The big defender sent a hard cross toward goal where Wondolowski redirected the ball past a helpless Sounders goalkeeper Michael Gspurning to put San Jose up 2-1.
Playing an all-hands-on-deck defense for the better part of the second half, the Earthquakes denied the Sounders at every scoring chance. With the final whistle, San Jose stretched their unbeaten streak to 5 games and pushed their season points total to 60. Coupled with a draw by Sporting Kansas City earlier in the day, the Earthquakes widened their lead in the MLS Supporters Shield race to 5 points. San Jose returns to Buck Shaw Stadium next Saturday night to host FC Dallas.