By Shawn Whelchel
The San Jose Earthquakes needed 120 minutes of play, and six penalty kicks in a shootout to defeat the Sacramento Republic FC on Tuesday night, but the team earned a second consecutive trip to the Round of 16 on Tuesday night in a spectacular come from behind win in San Jose.
The Quakes drifted lazily throughout much of Tuesday night’s U.S Open Cup matchup, but rode the momentum of a scoring outburst from captain Chris Wondolowski to eventually eliminate Sacramento for the second straight year.
Sacramento wasted no time in putting the pressure on San Jose during their first trip to Avaya Stadium, earning a goal within the opening minutes of Tuesday night’s contest. After sitting out the last three games following a red card suspension, Republic FC midfielder Rodrigo Lopez earned a penalty kick after being tripped up by Shaun Francis inside the box.
Bryan Meredith, who was playing his first minutes of the season in place of normal starter David Bingham, received a tough welcome to the pitch as Lopez was able to shoot the ball past the reserve goal keeper, and into the top left of the net for a goal at the six minute mark.
Sacramento would not let off the gas throughout the rest of the half, continuing to put pressure on Bingham and the San Jose defense. Although they would bend, the defense would not break a second time, disallowing a second goal by Sacramento at the 43′ minute mark following a pair of impressive saves by both defenders and goalie alike.
The Earthquakes failed to return the same amount of offensive pressure that Republic was delivering, only threatening once on a Mark Sherrod header near the halfway mark of the first that bounced wide of the net.
Sacramento started the second half of the game much like the first, earning an early goal while providing all the offensive pressure of the opening minutes. Republic’s second goal of the game came off the foot of Emrah Klimenta, who was able to beat San Jose up the right side of the pitch to sneak a ball under the outstretched leg of Meredith for a 2-0 advantage at the 53′ minute mark.
But San Jose’s fire was ignited at the 73′ minute mark, as a scoring outburst salvaged what looked to be a lackluster game from the Earthquakes up to that point. Mike Fucito started things off by putting goalkeeper Patrick McLain to the test on back to back scoring chances. After sending two tough strikes toward McLain, teammate Chris Wondolowski was able to slip undefended into the front of the net to play the rebound and sink his first goal of the night to cut Sacramento’s lead in half.
Wondolowski would show off his knack for scoring just five minutes later after heading in a perfect cross from Marvell Wynne to tie the match at 2-2. Wondolowski would barely miss a hat trick in the 86th minute but missed just high on the cross bar. The two teams would attack to no avail during the remainder of regulation before being forced to overtime.
Although both teams found a way to threaten, neither could scratch during the first overtime session, leaving a 2-2 tie heading into the second, and final, fifteen minutes. Drained from the extended play, the two sides couldn’t muster up any real scoring threats in the second overtime either, sending the game to a shootout.
San Jose looked to be in trouble after consecutive blocks to Khari Stephenson and Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi put them in a deficit. But Meredith was able to hold off Sacramento’s Emrah Klimenta to keep his team alive. After an equalizer for San Jose notched things back up, Sacramento faltered on their sixth try of the night as James Kiffe launched a ball over the top of the net to secure a victory for San Jose.
Tonight’s game was the first time San Jose Goalkeeper David Bingham did not play any minutes throughout the entire season.
Tuesday’s win advances their U.S Cup record to 14-11 all-time since the team began participating 12 years ago.
Tuesday night’s game was the first time a non-MLS team has played at Avaya Stadium.
Wondolowski’s two goal night gives him 99 goals as a member of the Quakes, and his franchise leading 176 multiple-goal game.