Seattle Sounders Vs. San Jose Earthquakes: Khari Stephenson Wonder-Goal Costs Sounders Win

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Seattle Sounders Vs. San Jose Earthquakes: Khari Stephenson Wonder-Goal Secures Draw for San Jose

The Seattle Sounders had a great chance to earn their first win of the season at San Jose's Buck Shaw Stadium but twice blew the lead and ultimately could only manage a 2-2 tie. Four games into the 2011 season and the Sounders are 0-2-2, but they came much closer against the Earthquakes than they have against their previous opponents after first Brad Evans then O'Brian White gave them the lead over their hosts. Unfortunately, their goals were cancelled out by a sweet finish from Simon Dawkins then a long-range wonder strike by Khari Stephenson.

The match didn't start particularly well - basically the first thing the Sounders managed to do was blow an offside trap and let Chris Wondolowski through for a one on one against Kasey Keller. He managed the stop, fortunately, and Seattle managed to overcome their jitters to get on the lead shortly thereafter when Brad Evans finished from point-blank range after being fed by Mauro Rosales on a low cross.

San Jose replied with a slick goal from Simon Dawkins, who took a 25 yard diagonal pass from Bobby Convey in his stride before slotting brilliantly past Keller, but the hosts couldn't make it through to half time without conceding again, this time standing around slack-jawed while an entirely unmarked O'Brian White rose to power home a cross from left winger Steve Zakuani.

The Sounders lead didn't last long past the interval, although when the equalizer came there wasn't a whole lot anbody could have done about it. Out of nothing, Khari Stephenson provided San Jose with a goal, letting lose a magnificent strike from 35 yards that Keller had no right to come near saving. The veteran goalkeeper somehow managed to get a touch on the shot, but couldn't manage to keep it out, and the game was level at 2-2.

2-2 is how it would ultimately end, with the game slowly petering out after the fourth goal of the contest. The result doesn't do the Sounders a whole lot of good - they might have double their points total but they're still languishing in the bottom of the Western Conference standings. They need a win, and fast. Their next shot at getting one will be against the Chicago Fire at Qwest Field.

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Seattle Sounders Vs. San Jose Earthquakes: Sounders Take 2-1 Lead Into Half Time

The Seattle Sounders managed their first lead of the season thanks to a 17th minute Brad Evans goal and traded goals with the hosts to bring a 2-1 lead into half time. With the back and forth nature of the game so far, nobody thought that one goal would be enough, and Simon Dawkins' 32nd minute strike for the San Jose Earthquake put the game back to square one. However, O'Brian White's goal shortly before the break has given the Sounders the lead once again.

The Sounders could have gone behind as early as the tenth minute after Kasey Keller was forced into pulling off a great save to deny Chris Wondolowski after the dangerman was put clean through by a long ball over the top of the defence. Mauro Rosales also had an early chance, but the ersatz forward couldn't manage to beat Jon Busch from a narrow angle. He made up for it minutes later, however, working his way to the touchline and sending in a low cross that found Brad Evans right in front of the goal. Evans couldn't miss - and didn't, putting the Sounders 1-0 up and giving them their first lead of the season.

Despite the lead, the margin wasn't enough, and the Sounders had plenty of reminders of that before Dawkins equalized shortly after the half hour mark following a fantastic 25 yard pass from Bobby Convey. Dawkins still had it all to do, though and his finish past Keller was outstanding. Seattle were undeterred by being pegged back, however, and White took advantage of some awful defending to head the visitors back into the lead from a Steve Zakuani cross. Keller denied Joey Gjertsen right before the half time whistle to ensure that the Sounders headed into the break with the lead intact.

So, the Sounders are halfway to their first win of the 2011 season. Can they close it out?

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Seattle Sounders Vs. San Jose Earthquakes, Lineups: White And Rosales Up Top For Seattle

Sigi Schmid doesn't do that 'tailor your shape to the available personnel' thing. That would be silly. Instead, we get players stuck into the same shape game after game. Don't have any forwards fit and ready to play? No problem. That's what our friend Mauro Rosales is for. He'll be joined by another player most would hesitate to define as a striker in O'Brian White. Frankly, this is ugly.

But don't worry! Brad Evans is here to save the day for the Sounders! Between him and Osvaldo Alonso, the center of the midfield should have a pretty easy time controlling the game, which means that Seattle should dominate without ever scoring. That sounds pretty familiar, doesn't it? This is going to be fun!

Sounders (4-1-3-2): Kasey Keller; Leo Gonzalez, Jeff Parke, Patrick Ianni, James Riley; Osvaldo Alonso; Steve Zakuani, Brad Evans, Eric Friberg; Mauro Rosales, O'Brian White.

Substitutes: Terry Boss, Jhon K. Hurtado, Zach Scott, Alvaro Fernandez, Servando Carrasco, David Estrada, Nate Jaqua

Earthquakes (4-4-2): Jon Busch, Chris Leitch, Ramiro Corrales, Brandon McDonald, Jason Hernandez, Sam Cronin, Simon Dawkins, Bobby Convey, Joey Gjertsen, Chris Wondolowski, Ryan Johnson.

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Seattle Sounders Vs. San Jose Earthquakes, Preview: Sounders Consider Life Without Fredy Montero

The Seattle Sounders play San Jose Earthquakes at 7:30 PM PT on Saturday -- but they have traveled without Fredy Montero, who is recovering from surgery on his wrist. It may not seem as though the Sounders would miss much without Montero, seeing as they've scored one goal in three matches, and that goal was scored by Steve Zakuani. But looking beyond the simple goals (or lack thereof) it's almost impossible for anyone to ignore the fact that Montero is the backbone of the club, the creative force. Playing Nate Jaqua up front with O'Brian White just isn't going to provide the same thrill.

There are other possibilities, of course. Sigi Schmid could change up his formation, but that would come as quite a shot. After seeing White put a couple shots on target last Friday against Houston Dynamo, it's entirely plausible that he could play as the target man up front, in something more like a 4-2-3-1, with Zakuani, Erik Friberg and Alvaro Fernandez stretched out behind. But no, if anything of that sort happens, it'll somehow end up be Zak moving up front and playing as a striker. It's absurd, but when the laws of the game say you must have two up front, you must have two up front.

As for the Quakes, well, they're all about their star Chris Wondolowski. He's scored the last twelve regular season goals for San Jose, which seems quite impressive until you realize that if he goes down with an injury, the team is dead in the water. For now, though, with him getting into space and causing trouble, the Seattle centerbacks will be spending much of their time simply making sure Wondolowski doesn't have a chance at goal. James Riley, fully recovered from a concussion will be tasked with keeping Bobby Convey and his speed under control. Perhaps the little knock has reminded Riley that he's meant to have defensive duties, not just offensive ones? Fingers crossed.

Perhaps this preview is a little negative, but until the Sounders manage to find a way to actually get the ball inside the net -- as opposed to sending it off the post or the crossbar or watching the keeper block the shot something like 27 times -- it's hard to feel any sort of optimism about this team. That being said, part of being a fan is enduring the frustrations and then giving your full 90 anyway. Scarves up Seattle -- it's time to turn this season around.

Previews, match threads, lineup cards and more can be found at Sounder at Heart, SB Nation's Sounders blog

Preview, questions with S@H, and likely more (it's their first week, so am a little unsure, but go say hi) on Quake, Rattle and Goal, SB Nation's Earthquakes blog.

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