MLS Soccer

Obafemi Martins’ goal earns Sounders a 1-1 draw at San Jose

San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Cordell Cato, left, and Seattle Sounders forward Obafemi Martins chase the ball during the first half Saturday in San Jose.
San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Cordell Cato, left, and Seattle Sounders forward Obafemi Martins chase the ball during the first half Saturday in San Jose. The Associated Press

For the Seattle Sounders, the good news was that they started a game fairly healthy — but the bad news was they didn’t end it that way.

Then the bad news was that they went down a goal — on yet another set piece — but the final good news was that Obafemi Martins managed to find the equalizer in what ended as a 1-1 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday at sold-out Avaya Stadium.

“It’s never easy in this league to go down a goal,” acting coach Brian Schmetzer said. “I think the statistics prove that once teams go up in our league it’s very difficult for teams to come back. It was another team effort.”

The result keeps Seattle (13-13-3) three points ahead of the Earthquakes (11-11-6) in the MLS Western Conference standings. It also marked their first point in San Jose since 2011.

“A draw on the road is certainly OK,” Schmetzer said. “… It’s a good result because San Jose was a little bit of our bogey team. But at the end of the game, our players — the forwards — they were looking for the ball more to try and win the game. That’s another sign of a committed team, and that’s what I appreciate about the group.”

Seattle opened with one of its fullest, healthiest rosters in months. But that changed in less than an hour, as three Sounders starters left with injuries.

The Sounders’ task became tougher when the Earthquakes went ahead in the 70th minute. But the visitors got back on level terms in the 81st minute, when Obafemi Martins sent in the equalizing goal, his team-high 12th of the season.

Seattle’s three designated players — Martins, Clint Dempsey and Nelson Valdez — all shared the starting lineup for the first time.

Late in the first half, however, newly acquired central defender Nelson Torres took an awkward fall and limped off the pitch with an apparent leg or knee injury. He was replaced by Zach Scott, making his 100th appearance for the Sounders.

At the start of the second half, midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz made his first appearance, checking in for Brad Evans, who had been struck in the face by the ball early in the match. Ivanschitz had signed with the Sounders on Aug. 4, but his debut was delayed due to a quadriceps injury.

In the 59th minute, Valdez waived himself off after struggling up the pitch.

Schmetzer had no immediate prognosis for any of them.

“They’ve all got ice bags on,” he said, “and we’ll assess that in the next coming few days.”

San Jose’s goal came about 10 minutes after Valdez’s departure. It began with a foul called on Seattle defender Oniel Fisher. Earthquakes assists leader Matias Perez Garcia sent his free kick in front of the Seattle goal, where Fatai Alashe headed it home.

Seattle’s goal equalized on a play that began with a free kick from Ivanschitz. Scott was first to the ball and almost headed in the goal himself, but Martins was there to finish the rebound.

“The coach told me when I came in that I should take all the set pieces,” Ivanschitz said. “That’s one of my qualities, and of course I wanted to help the team, to push the team. I was still fresh, so I want to try something, and I was very happy that we scored and that we have now, what I think, is one very good point for us. (Martins) is a fantastic striker. He is waiting for those opportunities.”

Schmetzer presided over the match after coach Sigi Schmid stayed home on doctor’s orders after an undisclosed health problem.

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com

SATURDAY, SEPT. 19: Seattle at Vancouver, 4 p.m., JOEtv, 97.3-FM

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