By Ivan Makarov
At this point in the MLS season, and given their position in the standings, San Jose Earthquakes could not afford to lose any points in the remaining four games to still have a chance to make playoffs.
Sunday night game in Los Angeles against Chivas USA proved to be a thriller, as it took the Quakes 87 minutes to break through and keep their playoffs chance alive going into the final stretch of the season. They won the match 1-0, thanks to the late game heroics from their top goalscorer Chris Wondolowski.
After largely uneventful first half, with the only memorable moment being a yellow card to Stephen Lenhart, as he injured Steve Purdy in an airial challenge, things started to pick up in the second. Lenhart was in the middle of the action again after a corner kick taken by Shea Salinas. Lenhart ran into the box toward the cross, and put the header into the net. However, a quick whistle from the referee negated an apparent goal, as he indicated that Lenhart fouled on the play. A video replay did not show any point of contact or where the foul was committed, but the score remained 0-0.
Quakes continued to push the ball forward, and looking like a better team, but could not find that final touch they needed to put the ball into the net.
The earlier booking on Lenhart proved to be pricy later on the 81st minute as the Quakes forward went to challenge the high ball against Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, and instead of reaching the ball, he ran into the keeper. Referee showed no hesitation in booking Lenhart again with the second yellow, followed by the red card. That left the Quakes with one man down for the rest of the game. But it didn’t stop them from pushing forward, with their season on the line.
With only six minutes remaining in the regulation, the fortune finally turned to the Quakes. Alan Gordon had the ball just outside the Chivas box, and took a long shot. It wasn’t the strongest of kicks, but it dipped down, bounced off the grass and went up when it reached Dan Kennedy. Up to this point, Kennedy was nothing short of spectacular for his team, but he made a mistake this time, as the ball rebounded off his chest and back into the field. Quakes’ most dangerous man Chris Wondolowski was the first to the rebound, and he flicked the ball above Kennedy and into the net, breathing life into Quakes playoffs chances this season.
Quakes went on to defend their lead in the remaining minutes in the game, and improved their standing to 44 points with three games remaining and just one point outside the playoffs spot in the West. Their chances for post season keep improving, but the task is still hard, as they likely need at least two more victories in the remaining three games to qualify for playoffs.
The Quakes next host Colorado Rapids at home at Buck Shaw Stadium on Wednesday, October 9.