Before you continue reading this recap, please watch this GIF of Obafemi Martins’ game-winning golazo at least 100 times.
OK, good. Now let’s discuss the Sounders’ 1-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes.
With both sides depleted due to national team call-ups and, in San Jose’s case, injury, the match was set up to be a test of adjustments and depth.
On the Sounders’ side, the big questions were two-fold:
First, could the midfield and back line figure out the defensive lapses that allowed the New England Revolution to roll over them the previous week?
Second, with Clint Dempsey (and Brad Evan and DeAndre Yedlin) out, what would the attack look like?
The latter question proved to be less of a concern, given that Lamar Neagle and Martins had a memorable rapport sans Dempsey last season, and Kenny Cooper is no slouch in the attack either.
That trio proved to be a factor throughout the match, along with Marco Pappa, who set up Martins for his stunning one-touch goal just before the 9th minute. For all his early season lapses, Pappa has recovered well of late, and is set up to be a creative linchpin during Dempsey’s absence, and perhaps upon his return as well.
Even in an unlikely worst-case scenario that sees Dempsey, Evans and Yedlin all make the trip to Brazil, the Sounders will score goals. Let’s not worry about that.
But the defense has been something to worry about, even before getting throttled by the Revs to the tune of five goals. Looking back on that match, starting two attack-minded backs and a midfield that seemingly didn’t care about helping them out was a doomed strategy. Hindsight is 20/20, blah, blah, blah.
The defense needed a morale-boost, and got one in the form of a clean sheet, the team’s first since its opening match on March 23 against the Montreal impact. Granted that clean sheet was against an impotent and Wondo-less Quakes team, but still.
Coach Sigi Schmid’s dilemma was helped by left back Leo Gonzalez returning to full health, though the back line was still a bit patchwork: Leo at his usual spot on the left, Zach Scott (in for Djimi Traore) pairing with Chad Marshall in the center, and Jalil Anibaba starting for the first time at right back.
Plus, Ozzie Alonso seemed like his old self, after finally recovering from the nagging leg injury that had been hobbling him all season, and the Neagle/Pappa/Pineda portion of the midfield recovered well defensively all game long, enough to secure a shutout in front of nearly 50,000 fans.
Next up: The first of two trips north to Vancouver to face the Whitecaps, matches that will prove important both in the playoff race and the hunt to return the Cascadia Cup to Seattle.