A plucky San Jose team ruined all of the Sounders’ plans for Saturday.
Quakes midfielder Cristian Espinoza nailed a second-half stoppage-time penalty kick for a hat trick to give his side a 4-3 win at PayPal Park. The result was San Jose’s first MLS victory of the season.
“The game felt too easy at times and that’s when we let our guard down,” Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan said. “It’s really uncharacteristic of us to let this game slip. But we have to learn from these moments, keep it positive because going into (the CONCACAF Champions League final) it’s not going to be easy and these moments in a final could put you down bad.”
Seattle (2-4-1) wanted to use Saturday as a tune-up headed into Wednesday’s CCL final series and work some injured players back. Midway through the second half, however, the Sounders were battling to not lose a second consecutive MLS match.
Nouhou was called for the foul in the box that erased what the sides thought would end in a 3-3 draw before 12,467 people. The Sounders appeared to have the game settled in the 57th minute when forward Jordan Morris tapped in a cross from midfielder Nico Lodeiro. The close-range goal gave Seattle a 3-1 lead.
But San Jose (1-4-3) wasn’t deterred. Espinoza curled a shot into goal in the 64th minute and teammate Jackson Yueill had the equalizer one minute later.
“Everybody kind of breathed and just relaxed,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said of how comfortable the team was after Morris’ score. “That’s the lesson. You can never, ever, ever let your guard down. Certainly not in MLS.”
Schmetzer did make a defensive substitution in the 62nd minute when he subbed on center back Yeimar Gomez Andrade for Xavier Arreaga. But the goals that followed for San Jose didn’t appear to be miscommunication.
Yeimar missed the team’s past six matches due to an ankle injury.
“Yeimar did well, won some balls to lead counterattacks,” Roldan said. “It’s really good to see him out there again and regain a little bit of fitness.”
San Jose defender Nathan was shown a yellow card in the 10th minute that created Seattle’s opening score. Nathan slid with his studs up for a tackle in the penalty box, hitting Sounders forward Raul Ruidiaz’s right knee. Referee Ted Unkel contemplated upgrading the card to a red, which would’ve forced San Jose to play one man down the remainder of the match.
Lodeiro took the penalty kick in the 14th minute, easily scoring the goal.
Lodeiro followed the textbook penalty with a textbook service on a free kick in the 20th minute. Roldan kept pace with the shot, using a header at the near post to redirect the ball into goal for a 2-0 lead.
The goal was Roldan’s first of the season in MLS competitions. Lodeiro has three assists in MLS play.
San Jose’s defensive missteps masked Seattle’s errors to open the match. The Quakes were unlucky in their ability to finish and Sounders keeper Stefan Frei collected one for a save in the 18th minute. But that changed after Nouhou deflected and cleared three close calls in the waning minutes of the half.
Espinoza hustled to volley a blocked shot back at goal in first-half stoppage time to trim the deficit to 2-1 headed into halftime. San Jose outshot the Sounders 12-5 in the half overall.
“This is almost like a wake-up call,” Roldan said. “But it’s uncharacteristic of us to get scored on before halftime and then an errant cross that Stef usually deals with and then off a kickoff. That stuff doesn’t happen.”
The Quakes played their first match without coach Matias Almeyda, who was fired earlier this week. Almeyda was known for his man-marking defensive tactics no matter the opponent or situation. San Jose only advanced to the MLS postseason once since Almeyda took over in 2018.
Alex Covelo, who led San Jose’s MLS NEXT Pro team, was named interim head coach with legend Chris Wondolowski serving as an interim assistant.
Schmetzer made 10 lineup changes from the one that lost 1-0 to Inter Miami CF at Lumen Field last week. Saturday’s first-choice starters were the same that faced New York City FC in the CCL semifinals earlier this month.
The Sounders will make a brief return to Washington before traveling to Mexico City for the opening leg of the CCL final series. The club will face Liga MX side Pumas UNAM on Wednesday at Estadio Olimpico Universitario. The second and decisive match is at Lumen Field on May 4.
“(San Jose) took advantage of the moments and the opportunities that they had, and we need to learn from this. We need to learn from this quick,” Arreaga said as translated from Spanish. “If there’s something that we can take advantage of it’s that it’s better this is happening now and not later when it’s more difficult to react.”