Sounders face must-win against San Jose possibly without their best player and the next three out of four games on the road.
Fredy Montero, the Sounders’ star striker, suffered a slight fracture to his wrist that makes him uncertain for Saturday’s clash against San Jose Earthquakes, officials said Thursday.
Montero, who has yet to score a goal this season, was hoping to change that against the Quakes, but the fracture required outpatient surgery. He apparently had been carrying the knock for several matches and had it examined when the pain persisted. Sounders officials say his status for this weekend remains a question mark.
Meanwhile, the Sounders are going on the road to find salvation — or at least its first victory of the young Major League Soccer season.
Is that a good thing?
It appears so.
Seattle will be playing three of the next four matches on the road in less-than-friendly environments, beginning Saturday night against the San Jose Earthquakes. First kick is 7:30 p.m. PT at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. and the game will be broadcast live on KING 5.
The road has yielded big payoffs in the past. Three times, Seattle has kick-started a healthy unbeaten run with an away victory. Consecutive road wins against D.C. United — first in the U.S. Open Cup final — then later in league play led to the 2009 playoffs. Those victories began a stretch that saw Seattle go 5-1-1 in all competitions.
Last year, it was yet another visit to Washington, D.C. that proved to be a catalyst. Winless in its previous four games (0-3-1), Seattle beat United to start a four-game win streak. Two months later in Columbus, the first of five consecutive wins came at the expense of the Crew.
It doesn’t mean things will happen the same way this time. San Jose is proving to be a surprise team–one that defied expectations and knocked out the Thierry Henry-led New York Red Bulls last year in the playoffs.
Last year, the Earthquakes squeaked into the playoffs — against the better judgment of most observers, finishing the season at 13-10-7 and going 7-5-3 at home. The 46 points got them the final spot playoff spot. After toppling New York, San Jose fell to Colorado.
The Earthquakes surprised everyone last year because they had two players who turned in unexpected career-defining seasons. Bobby Convey, former U.S. National Team and Reading FC player, who literally came back from the dead, several knee surgeries and the insufferable burden of being hailed a teenage star, found his mojo finally and showed that there was substance behind the hype. His two goals and assist eviscerated the Red Bulls in the playoffs.
Then, of course, there is Chris Wondonlowski, who came from nowhere to capture the 2010 MLS Golden Boot for scoring the most goals. “Wondo,” as he is called, has no intention of being a one-foot wonder. He’s already scored his first goals of 2010, tallying both in San Jose’s 2-0 win against FC Dallas. Wondolowski has scored San Joses last 12 regular season goals, extending his MLS record to Sept. 15, 2010.
So, how has the series gone?
The 2010 series could be a good omen for the Sounders. Seattle is 3-2-0 all-time against San Jose. Last year, interestingly, the road team each won its away match, 1-0. The last meeting took place on July 31 when Montero netted a first-half game-winner. Jeff Parke left the game with a head injury and Alvaro Fernandez made his club debut just two days after signing.
But it wasn’t so good for the Sounders when the Quakes played at Qwest Fied. San Jose secured the three road points in the first meeting of 2010, beating Seattle 1-0 on May 22. Wondolowski scored the early game-winner despite Seattle’s advantage in shots (18-3) and corner kicks (11-3).
Defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado suffered a knee injury in the final minutes of the match that kept him out of the remainder of the 2010 season.
Sounders, now 0-2-1, collected their first point by coming back to tie Houston, 1-1, at home last week. Seattle dominated most of the match, establishing records for shots in a half (15) and a game (26) and tying the mark for corner kicks (12).
Coach Sigi Schmid has featured 15 different players in the starting XI. The biggest shakeup occurred for the Houston match. Schmid made four changes following the loss at New York, with injuries factoring in two of the moves. It was Schmid’s boldest personnel move in the last 10 MLS regular season games. New to the lineup were Patrick Ianni and Zach Scott on defense and Steve Zakuani and Brad Evans in midfield.
San Jose, so far, has won and lost one (1-1-0), dropping its season opener at home to Real Salt Lake, 1-0, and winning on the road at Dallas last Saturday, 2-0. Despite being outshot by FC Dallas 19-6 (6-2 on goal), Wondolowski netted two first-half goals to capture the three road points. With the shutout, San Jose improved to third in the league with a goals against average of 0.50 and have currently not allowed a goal in 116 minutes of game action.
San Jose Coach Frank Yallop says the team’s success late last season can be attributed to the players buying into his team concept and then gelling at the right time. While it’s early, he senses that the team is carrying this momentum into the new season.
“We’ve got more togetherness as a unit,” Yallop said. “We havent added as many new guys this year. Weve not got one person pulling in a funny direction. Whatever Ive decided to do, theyve bought in 100 percent. This group will go out together and get along together. We’ve got no egos whatsoever.”
A good example of the team-first ethos is Wondonlowski, Yallop said. If anyone could make the cast for being difficult, it could be “Wondo,” But he’s humble and knows his success comes from good service, Yallop said.
And he’s lethal.
“If you watch him in training, he’s an unbelievable finisher and striker of the ball,” Yallop said. “He can finish with both feet and with his head. He usually hits it with power. We’ve done well to incorporate him into our team.”
As for Seattle, Yallop expects a formidable challenge. He said he’s impressed with their style of play and their firepower. He concedes they’ve been unlucky not to win yet.
“They are a good team,” Yallop said. “Im very impressed by their style of play. They’re very energetic and very fluid. Montero is one of the best players in the league. Zakuani is the best wide player in the league. They’ve got good players and a good coach in Sigi. They look dangerous in attack and they’ll keep you on your toes. Theyre a good side.”
The Sounders reserve team will play first reserve-league match on Sunday against the San Jose reserve team.