santa clara, calif. – Sounders FC played at San Jose on Saturday without franchise-leading scorer Fredy Montero, who didn’t travel after undergoing wrist surgery Thursday.
In his place, coach Sigi Schmid moved midfielder Mauro Rosales up top alongside O’Brian White.
Each of the newcomers contributed to Seattle’s two goals as the Sounders and Earthquakes played to a free-flowing draw before a crowd of 10,276 at Buck Shaw Stadium.
And while the Sounders (0-2-2) saw good signs in their play, afterward they sounded mostly frustrated that they couldn’t hold either of two leads and are still looking for their first win four games into the season.
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“If you score two goals on the road you expect to win the game,” midfielder Steve Zakuani said. “It’s tough to score away on the road in MLS, but we got two of them, took the lead twice, and we gave it away.”
Seattle moved ahead in the ninth minute, as Rosales made a strong move into the penalty area and crossed a low pass in front of the goal, where Brad Evans banged it in from about two yards.
“I think Mauro just got the ball, beat a couple of guys, and I just saw him coming in late,” Evans said. “I think somebody dragged a couple of defenders away, and I was able to get my right foot on it and push it past.”
San Jose (1-1-1) pulled even in the 33rd minute, as Simon Dawkins made a curling run into the area, took a Bobby Convey pass and beat Kasey Keller to the far post. It was Dawkins’ first MLS goal, and it broke an MLS-record streak of 12 consecutive San Jose goals provided by Chris Wondolowski.
In the 42nd minute, Zakuani got past defender Chris Leitch and launched a pass in front of the goal, where White’s diving header put Seattle back ahead, 2-1.
“It was good for Steve to get an assist – and the combination,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “It was good to see (White) get one – he said he was going to get one tonight, so that was good. I’m pleased and two goals ought to be enough when you’re on the road.”
It wasn’t, perhaps in part because of Zakuani’s work on Leitch, who was the only San Jose starter who didn’t take the pitch in the second half, being replaced by Khari Stephenson.
And it was Stephenson who evened the game again in the 52nd minute, making Seattle pay for a turnover in the middle third and then taking advantage of space in the Seattle defense to wind up and sizzle one from 35 yards to the top, far corner past the diving Keller.
“I think we let ourselves down a little bit defensively,” Schmid said. “Obviously, Khari Stephenson hits a great shot, but we let ourselves down just from the standpoint of the balls we turned over in midfield. And I thought we created some turnovers that always put us in trouble, and that’s something that we need to eliminate.”
The game became less fluid and more physical through its final minutes. And though each team had additional chances, the score stuck.
“We want to get three points,” Schmid said. “A lot of other teams tied (Saturday), and it would have been a good chance for us to jump up. … At times we’re playing good soccer. I didn’t think the second half was particularly good soccer from us. I think we played better soccer in the other three games. I thought the first half at times we played some very good stuff. We just got to be sure we can put 90 minutes together on the field.”
It is uncertain if Montero will be available when the Sounders return to league action Saturday when the Chicago Fire visits Qwest Field. Montero’s surgery was apparently more significant than originally planned, and Schmid said his status will be day to day.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org twitter/donruiztnt blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer