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Late-game heroics are specialty of Sounders' next opponent

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By Don Ruiz
The News Tribune
You might want to stick around for the final whistle of the Sounders-San Jose game tonight.
If there's a lesson to be learned from the Earthquakes' season so far, it's that whatever happens in the early minutes -- say, the first 90 or so -- doesn't necessarily indicate how things are going to end up.
San Jose leads Major League Soccer with a 4-4-5 record when conceding the first goal. The Quakes average 1.31 goals in the second half of games, and they lead MLS with 19 goals in the final 15 minutes of matches. They already have set an MLS record with eight goals in stoppage time. The club has won or equalized 10 times in the 82nd minute or later -- including five game-winners in stoppage time.
"Statistics like this always show something, and I have to admit that this shows that ... San Jose is mentally very strong," Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning said. "... They make big points this season in the last minutes. That's their strength, too. But I also think we are good in shape; we can fight until the last minute. ... The best, of course, always for goalkeepers is that we're leading 2-0 before the last minutes so we don't have to worry about the last minutes so much."
The Sounders already have suffered a pair of one-goal losses to the Quakes this season. In the Aug. 11 meeting at San Jose, Seattle seemed to salvage a draw with a Fredy Montero goal in the first minute of stoppage time, only to watch Steven Lenhart steal the victory about a minute later.
Something similar happened against Portland on Wednesday, when San Jose fell behind 2-0 before rallying for a draw when MLS goals leader Chris Wondolowski came off the bench to score twice, including the equalizer two minutes into stoppage time.
"As a team, you develop a belief over the course of a season," Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. "They've developed that belief. They're a good team. They knock the ball around. But sometimes when it gets late into a game, sometimes they go with the two targets up front: Lenhart and (Alan) Gordon, the two spearheads. They become very direct in their play. They're good and quick at trying to get onto the second ball, winning knockdowns and creating havoc in your box. And so there's an energy that they bring into the game in the last 15 minutes. Now there's a belief that they have now, and a confidence that they have, which comes from winning games like that."
What can Seattle do to prevent it?
"You certainly match their energy," Schmid said. "... It's also a matter of just being patient and holding onto the ball. We just have to make sure that we bring the same amount of energy, but at the same token, keep our heads about ourselves."
Some of the Sounders' hopes for this season could depend on it. They come into the game nine points behind San Jose in the races for the Supporters Shield (best record in MLS) and the top seeding in the Western Conference playoff race.
"I think for us to make any run at (the) Supporters Shield we need to win this game," Schmid said. "More than anything, it's a good measuring stick for us -- a measuring stick for them as well."
Added time
Fredy Montero's goal at Portland last week was honored Friday as MLS goal of the week. ... The Sounders and Quakes meet in an MLS Reserve League match at 2 p.m. Sunday at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila. Schmid said the club hasn't decided if newly acquired goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann will play in that game.
Story tags » Sounders FC

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