By Matthew T.F. Harrington
AP photo: The San Jose Earthquakes Simon Dawkins who earned the penalty that set up Chris Wondolowski for the penalty kick for the game’s only goal on Sunday at Avaya Stadium
SAN JOSE, Calif. – The home cooking continues to taste so sweet for the San Jose Earthquakes as they ran their home undefeated streak to 5 straight games Saturday at Avaya Stadium. Chris Wondolowski scored his 116th career MLS goal on a penalty kick and David Bingham had a 5-save shutout to defeat Sporting Kansas City 1-0.
“It was a grind,” said Wondolowski. “Kansas City is a great team. We knew it was going to be a tough battle. It was a little windy too. That always makes it a little more difficult. I thought our defense did a great job shutting down a very potent attack.”
The win moves San Jose (4-2-2) into a tie for third place on the Western Conference table, leapfrogging 5th place Kansas City (4-4-0). The shutout marks the 20th time the Quakes have blanked Kansas City, the most times any team has shutout Sporting KC. It is also Bingham’s 3rd clean sheet of the season, putting him in a tie for the league lead.
“When you get a shutout there are a couple things that go into it,” said Earthquakes coach Dominic Kinnear. Maybe the other team is missing their chances or you’re defending well. David snuffed out some crosses and relieved pressure. I think we did a good job limiting their movement through the middle and push them to the outside where it’s easier to defend.”
The two teams battled to a nil-nil first half, with each team managing a number of dangerous opportunities. The Earthquakes held the corner kick advantage 5-2 while Sporting KC outshot its host 11-5.
“Those shots were really from like 30-35 yards,” said Kinnear. “It wasn’t like we were giving them great chances. We were sloppy with our passing, which led into those chances.”
5 of Kansas City’s double-digit shot total was on target, while San Jose didn’t force keeper Tim Melia to make a save in the half. At the other end Bingham was stellar for the Quakes, nabbing all 5 shots he faced.
“We’ve had games like this where we’ve gotten behind,” said Bingham. “It’s great, when you’re under pressure, to survive the storm.”
A bit of luck played into the game’s lone goal, and lack of another goal in the 2nd half. Kansas City’s leading scorer, Dom Dwyer, was racing towards the Quakes net unimpeded in the 55th minute. Bingham challenged him, coming into contact with Sporting KC’s striker. Referee Jair Marrufo signaled for play to continue.
“100 percent a penalty and a red card,” said Kansas City coach Peter Vermes. “That changes the game. It doesn’t get called. Other things are going to happen in the game.”
“From where I was sitting, it would have been a penalty to me,” agreed Kinnear. “Red card, I would have to make a decision after watching a replay.”
After getting away with a similar penalty at the other end, the Earthquakes drew a penalty shot in the 58th minute. Midfielder Simon Dawkins was in the penalty box unguarded trying to work around Melia’s right. The keeper came off his line to contest Dawkins, dragging the San Jose midfielder to the turf. Marrufo awarded the Quakes the penalty kick.
The choice of shooter was elementary for the Quakes, as they sent the 4th highest goal scorer in MLS history to the line. Just as elementary was Chris Wondolowski’s shot, beating Melia to his right for the strikers’ 7th goal of the season in 8 games for a 1-0 lead. The game-winner is Wondolowski’s 8th career goal against KC.
“It’s a 12 yard shot, one-on-one with the keeper,” said Wondolowski. “You should make them. You’re not going to always make them. I remember the ones I miss. I work on them every day at practice, but you have to have different philosophies.”
The Earthquakes will hit the road for their next two games, facing the Philadelphia Union and the Seattle Sounders over the next two Saturdays. San Jose had a three-game unbeaten streak snapped in its last home game against Portland and has yet to pick up a win on the road (0-2-1). They have not lost back-to-back games all season.
“Anytime you can follow up a loss with a win shows good character,” said Kinnear. “It means guys are going into a shell. They’re trying to get better the next time around. That, for me, is a huge thing.”