It’s one thing to lose to the Los Angeles Galaxy, which the Sounders did Monday at home. But the San Jose Earthquakes (6-8-5), basement dwellers in the Western Conference? The Sounders followed up the Galaxy debacle with another embarrassment, a 1-0 loss in the first event in the new, $1.3 billion Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA.
GK Jon Busch made seven saves in the second half to repel a desperate onslaught by Sounders to avoid a second consecutive shutout. The Sounders talked before the game about their ability to bounce back, but for a second game in a row, could get no clean looks.
Their once-robust lead in the West shrunk from 10 points to 38-36 after a win Saturday by runner-up Real Salt Lake.
The difference came in the 42nd minute on a Seattle defensive breakdown. San Jose’s World Cup participant Chris Wondolowski lofted a beautiful pass straight ahead to Yannick Djalo, who ran past Zach Scott and saw an open goal. GK Stefan Frei over-committed to play the ball and Djalo sidefooted a little grounder from the top of the box that rolled leisurely into the net.
The Sounders again in the first half had trouble organizing, managing just a single shot on goal despite possessing 55 percent. Pressure improved in the second half, but Busch and his defensive mates thwarted the Sounders every time.
Wondolowski, a great scorer, showed his defensive chops in the 86th minute when he manned the near post and saved a certain goal by heading away a bullet of a shot during a Sounders frenzy.
In the 69th minute, a curiously wide open Clint Dempsey sized up a high carom and attempted a bicycle kick from 15 yards that sailed just over the crossbar.
The Sounders welcomed back Brad Evans to the starting lineup after missing two games with a strained leg ligament, but top defender Chad Marshall missed his second in a row with a sore back.
The new home for the Earthquakes and 49ers drew about 45,000 fans, but those who stayed to end were surprised to see a fireworks show erupt in the 88th minute. The pyrotechnics belonged to the Great America theme park next door, which does fireworks nightly, but looked to be a major gaffe with a sports event underway.