The San Jose Earthquakes Chris Wondolowski jumps for joy after scoring one of his two goals against Real Salt Lake at Earthquakes Stadium in San Jose on Wed Oct 28, 2020 (@SJEarthquakes photo)
by Marko Ukalovic
SAN JOSE, Calif.- San Jose Earthquakes captain Chris Wondolowski continues to rewrite the record books in the MLS.
His two goals provided all the offense the Quakes would need in a huge 2-0 shutout victory over Real Salt Lake on Wednesday evening at Earthquakes Stadium.
The win propelled San Jose up to the 7th seed in the Western Conference playoff race with 27 points, three ahead of 8th place Vancouver, with only two matches remaining in the regular season. Real Salt Lake has gone scoreless in back-to-back games and are currently on the outside looking in at 9th place with 22 points.
“Tonight, it was the first of many playoff-esque games,” said Wondo shortly after the match. “We had that mentality coming in (to the game). It wasn’t going to be the prettiest (match) but knew it was going to be full of energy. To grind out a 2-0 victory was beautiful.”
San Jose (7-8-6) were rejoined by Marco Lopez, who was inserted into the starting 11, Vako and Guram Kashia as they returned back from international playing duty.
The Quakes controlled possession in the first half establishing their game and had Real Salt Lake (5-8-7) defending its half of the pitch for most of the first 45 minutes.
For the second game in a row, San Jose scored early in the first half. Carlos Fierro led an attack down the left side of the pitch. His cross landed on the foot of Cristan Espinoza, who fired a left-footed shot that deflected off the hand of Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Andrew Putna and in turn bounced off the left post. Wondolowski cleaned up the rebound all alone from five yards out, tapping home the ball into an empty net for his fifth goal of the season and increased his MLS record goal mark to 164.
Wondo almost had his brace 12 minutes later when he was on the receiving end of a cross by Nick Lima. His one-timer from point-blank range was stoned away by Putna who used his whole body to keep the ball out of the net.
Real Salt Lake had a chance to even the game just before halftime in the 41st minute. A corner kick sailed right on to a crashing Marcelo Silva, whose header beat Quakes goalkeeper J.T. Marcinkowski but not the left post. Marcinkowski pounced on the loose ball ending the RSL threat.
Real Salt Lake refocused in the second half and controlled possession for much of the half in its attempt to get the eqaulizer. However, the backline from San Jose consistently collasped into the middle and cleared away any crossing attempt mustered by Real Salt Lake.
San Jose played exceptional to keep Real Salt Lake’s leading goal scorer Damir Kreilach from getting any quality scoring chances. The Croatian forward came into the match leading his team in goals with eight, but was left frustrated as he was closely marked by San Jose’s defense throughout the match.
“I think we played the game well. I take away the lesson that we learned last game and also the desire and effort from each one of the players. We have recovered our system of play for a while now. We have recovered the intensity. But It’s up to the players to play each game intelligently, differently, and they have been doing that very well,” Quakes head coach Matias Almeyda said.
The Quakes received an insurance goal to put the game away in the 74th minute. Shea Salinas, who came on as a substitute for Fierro in the 70th minute, attacked from the right side and sent in a cross that found a wide open Wondolowski who deposited the ball past Putna for his second goal of the match.
Wondo’s team leading sixth goal of the season and 165th of his career gave him his 24th multi-goal game of his career, which ranks second all-time in MLS history. The assist for Salinas gave him 47th for his Quakes career, tying him with Ronald Cerritos for the most asssits in team history.
The closest Real Salt Lake came to getting on the scoreboard was in the 80th minute when Andy Rios conceded a free kick to RLS just outside the box. Albert Rusnák’s attempted shot was blocked and cleared by San Jose.
Marcinkowski didn’t register a save in earning his fourth shutout of the season. Putna made three saves on five shots in the losing effort.
GAME NOTES: San Jose had five corner kicks to only one for Real Salt Lake.
Wondo’s first goal was also his MLS record 45th game-winning goal.
San Jose now leads the all time series 12-11-11. They are now 5-1-1 in seven matches against Real Salt Lake at Earthquakes Stadium.
San Jose held RSL without a shot on target for just the second time since Aug. 2017.
Real Salt Lakes road woes continued as they are 1-4-3 away from Rio Tinto Stadium.
UP NEXT: The Quakes host LAFC in its home season finale on Sunday 11/01 at 7:30pm at Earthquakes Stadium.