By Shawn Whelchel
photo credit: San Jose Mercury News– San Jose Earthquakes goalkeeper David Bingham (1) dives to make a save grabbing the ball away from Shkelzen Gashi (11) of the Colorado Rapids on Sunday
SAN JOSE–Chris Wondolowski’s header was all the San Jose Earthquakes would need to secure a win on opening day of the 2016 MLS season, as a strong defensive effort from David Bingham would keep the Colorado Rapids off the scorecard for a 1-nil victory at Avaya Stadium.
Bingham had an outstanding day guarding the net for San Jose, making five saves on 18 shots from the Rapids, while showing off his hands and athleticism repelling a second-half flurry from the visiting team.
San Jose would secure their lone goal with the help of a new face-and their old reliable captain-as Alberto Quintero would feed a beautiful ball into the cutting Wondolowski for the go-ahead score at the start of the second-half. Despite a second-half outburst from the Rapids which saw them line-up 13 of their 18 total shots on the day, San Jose walked away victors for their 13th consecutive match without a loss against Colorado.
The Quakes got off to a sluggish start on the slippery turf at Avaya on Sunday, doing most of their work on the defensive side as the Rapids looked to be the aggressors early on.
Bingham received no grace period to start the season, being thrust into action to stop multiple Rapids’ attempts throughout the half. Kevin Doyle and Dillon Powers-who accounted for three of the Rapids five first-half shots- sent a trio of dangerous balls towards San Jose’s net. San Jose’s offensive attack couldn’t offer Bingham an extended spell either, as Colorado dominated the time of possession at 57.1 percent throughout the first 45-minutes of play as well, keeping the 26-year old Bay Area native on his toes.
While Bingham was busy showcasing his good hands, Colorado goaltender Zac MacMath had a relatively easy going early on. Quincy Amarikwa broke free on a dangerous run towards the goal near the 33′ minute mark, but was thwarted by a well-timed tackle by Rapids defender Jarred Watts near the goal. San Jose would loft up a few lazy shots throughout the frame, but failed to seriously threaten in a lackluster opening half.
But the revamped Earthquakes would shake off the season-opening cobwebs to start the second half, earning their inaugural 2016 goal off the head of the man who put through 16 for the team last year.
Just seconds after the sound of the whistle, newcomer Quintero- who was loaned to the team from Lobos BUAP in February-would feed the cutting Wondolowski a well-placed ball that would find the back of the net for a 1-0 advantage.
San Jose would continue to keep their newfound intensity up, with both Wondolowski and Tommy Thompson nearly missing a second goal for their club. But with time running out, Colorado launched a furious attempt to find an equalizer against Bingham.
Marco Pappa nearly connected with the back of the net on two attempts, including a free-kick attempt and a dangerous header attempt at the 88′ mark that just scraped the left-side of the goal post before heading out of bounds. Dominique Badji would also threaten the Earthquakes lead with a dangerous sprint up the middle of the pitch for an uncontested try that sailed into the second deck. Badji would represent the Rapids last attempt before game’s end as well, with Victor Bernardez showing some defensive prowess to stop the midfielder’s attempt before Bingham would make his fifth and final save.
The win represents the second-straight opening day victory for the Earthquakes at Avaya, and sets them off on the right foot for the 2016 MLS season. San Jose has a week off before facing the Portland Timbers on March 13 at 4:00 p.m.