'Quakes defeat Sounders 2-1, extend lead in West

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'Quakes defeat Sounders 2-1, extend lead in West

Chris Wondolowskis last season scoring surge continued Saturday night, as the San Jose Earthquakes took advantage of his 22nd goal of the season to overcome the Seattle Sounders 2-1 at CenturyLink Field. With the victory, the Earthquakes completed a three-game season sweep of the Sounders and opened up an 11 point lead in the Western Conference.

We started the game well and played a great first half to get the lead, said head coach Frank Yallop. Seattle put a lot of pressure on in the second half and we bent a little but we didnt break and got an important result. This team just has great spirit and they always push through to the end.

A goal from Simon Dawkins in the second minute, the earliest by an Earthquakes player since the franchise returned to MLS in 2008, was cancelled out 12 minutes later by Seattle midfielder Steve Zakuanis first goal of the campaign and first since returning from a horrific leg injury suffered early in the 2011 season. Wondolowski scored in the 30th minute to restore the Earthquakes lead, and the visitors hung on for the last hour of the match to post the victory.

For Wondolowski, the goal marked his 10th game winning goal of the season, setting a new MLS record and breaking his own personal best of 9 winners in the 2010 season. His goal also extended his lead atop the league scoring chart to a staggering 8 goals over second place strikers Alvaro Saborio of Real Salt Lake and Kenny Cooper of the New York Red Bulls.

I do pride myself on scoring important goals that help the team win, said Wondolowski, so it does feel good to score that many game-winning goals. This team gives me a lot of opportunities and I just need to finish them.

Playing their third game in eight days, the Earthquakes featured nearly the same line-up that faced Chivas USA a week earlier. Playing on the artificial turf of CenturyLink Field, coach Yallop deployed a starting XI that was geared toward keeping possession of the ball and transitioning from defense to offense with urgency. And with speedy wingers Shea Salinas and Marvin Chavez still mending from injuries, Dawkins and the rest of the Earthquakes midfield needed to be sharp in the face of constant pressure from their Sounders counterparts.

Seattle is a good team but we came in tonight and played well right from the start, said Dawkins. It was important to show them why we are on top of the league. It was a great result against a good team.

The Earthquakes started with aplomb, and quickly silenced the announced crowd of 38,948 primarily pro-Sounders supporters with a goal in just the 2nd minute of the match. Collecting a pass in the center of the field, forward Alan Gordon turned the ball wide for a trailing Dawkins. The English midfielder cut the ball back across the top of the area and shook loose of two defenders before unleashing a 25 yard bomb that detonated in the upper right corner of the goal to give San Jose a 1-0 lead.

The Sounders equalized in the 14th minute following a deep throw-in near the Earthquakes byline that was turned into the area by Sammy Ochoa. Shedding defender Jason Hernandez and driving toward goal, Ochoa squared the ball across the six-yard box for Zakuani to slam home at the far post to level the score at 1 goal apiece.

In the 30th minute, the Earthquakes retook the lead through a corner kick opportunity. Mehdi Ballouchys in-swinging restart was headed out of the mixer by defender Brad Evans and right to the foot of Victor Bernardez. The big defender sent a hard cross toward goal where Wondolowski redirected the ball past a helpless Sounders goalkeeper Michael Gspurning to put San Jose up 2-1.

Playing an all-hands-on-deck defense for the better part of the second half, the Earthquakes denied the Sounders at every scoring chance. With the final whistle, San Jose stretched their unbeaten streak to 5 games and pushed their season points total to 60. Coupled with a draw by Sporting Kansas City earlier in the day, the Earthquakes widened their lead in the MLS Supporters Shield race to 5 points. San Jose returns to Buck Shaw Stadium next Saturday night to host FC Dallas.

Dempsey hat trick lifts US over Honduras in statement win

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AP

Dempsey hat trick lifts US over Honduras in statement win

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE — Bruce Arena's return as U.S. coach reignited American confidence, and his players responded with an emphatic rebound in World Cup qualifying.

Clint Dempsey returned from an irregular heartbeat to score his second international hat trick, 18-year-old phenom Christian Pulisic had one goal and set up three others, and the U.S. routed Honduras 6-0 Friday night to get right back in contention for an eighth straight World Cup berth.

Surprise starter Sebastian Lletget got his first international goal in the fifth minute after Pulisic's shot deflected off the goalkeeper, Michael Bradley doubled the lead in the 27th and Dempsey scored off Pulisic's perfectly weighted chip in the 32nd.

Finding room to maneuver in a central midfield role, Pulisic made it 4-0 just 12 seconds into the second half with his fourth international goal, Dempsey rounded the keeper to score following a Pulisic feed in the 49th, and Dempsey got another on a 23-yard free kick in the 54th. With 55 international goals, Dempsey moved within two of Landon Donovan's American record.

In its first competitive match since Arena replaced Jurgen Klinsmann, the U.S. moved from last to fourth in the final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region, tied at three points with Honduras but ahead on goal difference, Mexico leads with seven points, followed by Costa Rica with six and Panama with four.

The top three nations qualify for next year's tournament in Russia, and the fourth-place nation advances to a playoff. With a victory at Panama on Tuesday, the Americans could move into the top three.

The U.S. had never before won a hexagonal game by more than three goals.

And oh how the American Outlaws and others among the lively home crowd loved every second of this long-awaited showing, chanting "Michael Bradley!" and "Demp-sey! Demp-sey!" through the Bay Area rain and cool March air.

Then, it was "Bruce Arena! Bruce Arena!"

Gloom descended upon the Americans in November when they opened the hexagonal with a 2-1 home loss to Mexico and a 4-0 wipeout at Costa Rica. The defeats caused the U.S. Soccer Federation to fire Klinsmann, who had coached the Americans since 2011, and bring back Arena, who lead the team from 1998-2006.

Dempsey, 34 and hoping to reach a fourth World Cup, was sidelined from August until this month by an irregular heartbeat and likely was starting only because of injuries to Bobby Wood and Jordan Morris. Tim Howard, the Americans' 38-year-old goalkeeper, got the shutout after returning only two weeks ago from a leg injury sustained in the loss to Mexico.

Geoff Cameron, back from a knee strain that had sidelined him for fourth months, was shifted to right back from central defense because of injuries to others, and Jorge Villafana was inserted on the left.

But there were yet more injuries. Lletget hurt his left ankle on Ever Alvarado's tackle and was replaced in the 18th minute, and defender John Brooks was stretchered off the field, hand over his face, in the 69th due to dehydration.

From the opening whistle, the U.S. played more aggressively than in the latter years of Klinsmann's reign. Arena revamped the midfield, giving a prominent role to Pulisic, who last week became the youngest American to score in the Champions League. He inserted Lletget and Nagbe, who were largely overlooked by Klinsmann last year, on the flanks.

The U.S. went ahead when Jozy Altidore picked up a loose ball and on his second try poked the ball ahead to Pulisic. His left-footed shot that went off goalkeeper Donis Escobar, and Lletget tapped in the ball with his right foot from 2 yards.

Bradley, given his debut by Arena in 2006, doubled the lead when he took a pass from Alejando Bedoya, cut to his left, took four touches and cut the ball back to beat Escobar with one-hopper from about 25 yards.

Showing poise beyond his years, Pulisic created the third goal when he lofted a pass to Dempsey, who allowed the ball of bounce off his right shoulder. Dempsey held off Henry Figueroa and while falling scored with his right foot from 8 yards.

What they’re saying: Let’s go USMNT against Honduras

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USATSI

What they’re saying: Let’s go USMNT against Honduras

The United States Men's National Team faces a critical match against Honduras. 

With an 0-2 record, and currently in last place, the USMNT is on the brink of not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

Motivation across the sports world is pouring in for the Red, White and Blue.