Having closed out one 49ers venue, Candlestick Park, with a spirited performance that held Spanish La Liga champions Atletico Madrid to a 0-0 tie in 93 minutes of open play, San Jose Earthquakes opened the new 49ers $1.3 billion Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara with a stellar performance against the Seattle Sounders.
With a finely struck goal by Djalo San Jose won 1-0 in a feisty, fast paced game on Saturday night.
San Jose enjoyed the almost unique luxury so far this season of fielding an unchanged team from the one that beat Chicago Fire last week 5-1. Djalo and Wondolowski up front ahead of Salinas, Pierrzi, Cronin and Harris in a 4-4-2 formation.
Seattle, anxious to put last week’s 3-0 loss to LA Galaxy behind them, started Martins and Dempsey at the front with a defense that boasted USMNT defender DeAndre Yedlin, but for a second game without key defender Chad Marshall whose slot was taken by Zach Scott.
San Jose started out moving the ball well and in the 4th minute Djalo had a strong shot fly just wide of the post. Seattle were passing the ball every bit as efficiently and on 6 minutes Busch made a great save from a shot by Clint Dempsey set up by an incisive ball into the area.
When Seattle held a high line they restricted San Jose to chasing possession in midfield and this allowed the Sounders to penetrate the area. But the San Jose defense held firm and managed their own forays into Sounders territory. With 15 minutes gone the game was finely balanced with both teams playing at the top of their game.
On 18 minutes, Bernardez booked for foul on Martins but the resultant free kick was easily cleared. After 20 minutes Seattle’s passing was a little crisper and San Jose looked a tad less hungry than last week to chase down the ball.
On 23 minutes Harris went one on one with Sounders keeper to force a corner but without the big Lenhart target the ball flew over everyone to result in a rescued ball that Cronin shot woefully high and wide. Lenhart who had knee surgery yesterday is expected to be out 4-6 weeks.
On 27 minutes Harris went down clutching his knee after a tangle of players collided on the edge of the Sounders area. Harris limped off the field for a couple of minutes but came back on intent on running off the knock. On 30 minutes the Quakes gave the ball away carelessly that resulted in Pineda having a great shot fly just wide of Busch’s dive and the far post.
Into the last 15 minutes of the first half Seattle stepped up the pace and with Quakes too often giving the ball away San Jose were forced into some frantic defending.
On 42 minutes Wondolowski played a superb long chipped ball from the halfway line right into the path of Djalo who shrugged off his defender and coolly side-footed the ball past advancing Seattle keeper Frei to put San Jose 1-0 up.
Halftime: San Jose Earthquakes 1 Seattle Sounders 0
In a halftime NBC interview behind a slightly surreal background of gigantic helium filled inflatable footballs and soccer balls, San Jose head coach Mark Watson said that his team needed to limit the Sounders chances while keeping enough of their own players forward. He added he felt his team needed to use the ball a little better and not give up possession as much as they had.
In the first 5 minutes San Jose enjoyed more possession but were still prone to carelessly giving up the ball which led to some dangerous counters by Seattle.
On 55 minutes a patient build up by the Quakes saw Salinas have a shot on goal held by Frei. On 58 minutes Stewart hit a shot high over the Seattle goal. Just 2 minutes later Harris skied a volley from 10 yards out over the bar.
In the 61st minute Djalo was again played through by Wondo and in the resultant collision Djalo went down and was forced off injured leaving the Quakes playing with 10 men. Djalo went to the bench grimacing in pain as Stephenson came on for San Jose and Cooper came on for Poppa for Seattle.
After a half-cleared free kick in 68th minute Cooper forced a great one handed save from Busch who tipped the ball over the bar. A minute later Dempsey made a spectacular bicycle kick attempt but fired the ball over the bar from a half cleared corner kick.
Maybe the fact that they were playing in a football stadium had something to do with the number of shots being fired high over the bar by both teams.
In end-to-end stuff Salinas hit the side netting with a shot on 70 minutes and Cooper had a shot saved by Busch on 71 minutes. On 78 minutes San Jose’s Harris was yellow carded for a foul on Dempsey. A great shot from the Pineda free kick was saved by Bush who plucked the ball out of the air from the resultant corner.
On 83 minutes Seattle bought Barrett on for Gonzalez. In the last 5 minutes of regulation time Seattle pressed and had a number of corners, one of which had Wondo heading a goal bound header by Barrett off the line.
Stephenson came close with a header from a Salinas corner before San Jose brought on Cato for Salinas.
In the 90th minute Dempsey had a powerful shot from distance saved by Busch.
Five additional minutes were announced and, with fireworks inappropriately erupting over the stadium from the amusement park next door, San Jose endured 5 minutes of solid pressure from the Sounders. Busch recorded his ninth big save of the game before the referee blew for time and San Jose emerged 1-0 winners of the Levi’s Stadium debut thriller.