Earthquakes set MLS record in 3-1 victory over Whitecaps

photo from The San Jose Earthquakes get some love finally getting into the win column after five games with a 3-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps at Avaya Stadium on Saturday night.

by Marko Ukalovic

SAN JOSE, Calif. — In a historic night that featured first goals for three different players, the San Jose Earthqaukes used two of them to their advantage as they cruised to a 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday evening at Avaya Stadium.

San Jose set an MLS record for most shots in a game with 43 against Vancouver. The previous record for most shots in a match was 38.

It was also the first match without head coach Matias Almeyda who was suspended for the match due to his ejection for arguing a non-call in the match this past Wednesday in the 4-0 loss to LAFC.

The win snaps their three-game losing streak and four-game overall winless streak. The victory also propelled them into fourth place in the Western Conference as they are tied with the Los Angeles Galaxy with 41 points. Vancouver is 2-2 in their last four games and sit in the cellar with 27 points.

“It was a big example of character”, said defenseman Shea Salinas on how the team responded without Almeyda being out there on the sidelines. “We have a bunch of leaders on this team. Every single guy that steps out there make sacrifices for the team and it showed tonight. It was an amazing performance.”

Vancouver (6-13-9) drew first blood for the Whitecaps in the seventh minute when Jakob Nerwinski received a ball along the right sideline from Theo Blair. Nerwinski dribbled past Vako and bent in a left footed shot into the lower left corner for his first goal of the season in an entertaining opening 10 minutes.

San Jose (12-10-5) countered immediately on the next possession. Captain Chris Wondolowski received a nice ball inside the box from 10 yards out from Christian Espinoza. He one-timed a pass over to Judson who fired a shot into the lower left corner of the goal that beat Whitecaps goalie Maxime Crepeau for his first goal of the season in the eighth minute.

“We knew we had to hit the reset button”, said Wondolowski. “No need to panic but at the same time iron out the details. It was good to get the three points.”

The Quakes dominated the first half from there on out and never looked back as they peppered Crepeau with shots all the way up to the halftime whistle blew. Crepeau amazingly kept the Whitecaps in the game stopping eight of the nine first half shots, including a right footed shot from Vako that was destined for the far corner of the goal only to have Crepeau get a hand on it at the last second, poured on by the home team.

In the 29th minute, Ali Adnan apparently tripped up Mangus Eriksson inside the box but referree Ramy Touchan allowed play to go and no penalty was called.

San Jose gained the lead in the 34th minute off a set piece. A corner kick by Eriksson serviced into the middle where Florian Jungworth’s header attempt deflected over to an open Wondolowski who one-timed a header into the back of the night for his team leading 11th goal of the season.

To say the Quakes controlled possession in the opening 45 minutes would be an understatement as they had a 80%-20% advantage.

In the second half, San Jose continued its exhibition against Vancouver creating numerous chances agianst the porous Whitecap defenese in the first 25 minutes of the half. However they weren’t able to cash in on any of them whether it not being able to finish their attempts or because of Crepeau’s wall of stone.

“To be honest I think we match up well with them (Vancouver)”, said Wondo. “Our style (of play) kind of helps us dictate the game against them.”

San Jose’s hard work paid off for them in the 73rd minute when Eriksson dribbled inside the box, then found a wide open Andres Rios, who came in as a substitute in the 70th minute for Vako, just outside from 20 yards out and his one-timer fired off the left goal post and into the back of the night for his first career MLS goal.

“I’m really happy”, said Rios. “It was my first goal at home. It’s an important victory for the team in our fight to get to the playoffs.”

Daniel Vega finished with two saves in a light night for the Quakes goal keeper. Crepeau, who was arguably the Whitecaps best player of the match, finished the evening with 14 saves on 16 shots on goal.

“43 shots on goal, you’d expect a few more goals,” Salinas joked about his team setting the league record. “He’s (Crepeau) been making saves like that all year. He’s a great goal keeper.”

GAME NOTES: San Jose had an astounding 16 corner kicks to only 1 for Vancouver. San Jose led in fouls 10-9.

San Jose is now 4-1-6 all time against Vancouver.

Carlos Fierro and Shea Salinas came in as subsitutions for Wondo and Espinoza in the 80th minute.

Jungworth was isssued a yellow card in the 31st minute for unsportmanlike conduct toward Touchan. Marco Lopez was also issued a yellow card in 72nd minute.

UP NEXT: The Quakes host Orlando City FC next Saturday, August 31 at 7:15 pm at Avaya Stadium.

Earthquakes fall short at home in international friendly

by Michael Martinez

SAN JOSE- The San Jose Earthquakes invited C.F. Pachuca, a club from Mexico and last year’s Liga MX champions, to play in an international friendly in San Jose. The Quakes attempted a big comeback but ultimately fell short, losing 4-3 as time expired.

The first half was all Pachuca as the international club netted two first half goals to hold a two goals to none lead. It appeared that if the first half continued into the second, San Jose was headed for some major trouble.

And when the second half begun, it looked troubling as the visiting team struck first with another goal early in the half from a penalty kick. Fortunately, San Jose was poised to fight back down by  three goals and they did just that.

In minute 64, the Earthquakes were on the scoreboard, when midfielder Tommy Thompson found the back of the net for the first time this season. Thompson has been on loan from SJ’s affiliate, the Sacramento Republic FC, since July. Four other players from the Sac Republic squad came on loan to compete in the friendly as well.

The Quakes showed a ton of fight, even though their opponent scored on a penalty kick again just two minutes later. San Jose battled back down by three goals and actually scored a minute after Pachuca. Midfielder Shea Salinas was the shooter as he nailed the far side netting.

In between minutes 60 and 70, the two teams scored three goals altogether as both offenses hit their stride with a little bit of help from chippy play. Pachuca’s midfielder, Ruben Botta, received two yellow cards and was sent off the field around the same time as all the goals.

With their opponents down a man, the Earthquakes hoped to take advantage and cut the two goals lead. However, it took the team too long as they  were finally able to cut the lead to one in the second minute of extra play.

Once again it was Salinas who got it past the goalkeeper, but ultimately the Earthquakes fell short, 4-3.

Salinas had a tremendous game and some incredible  goals to go with it. The Quakes have struggled to score recently so Saturday night’s friednly was a positive for them going forward.

San Jose’s next matchup is against the Seattle Sounders, next Saturday in San Jose at Avaya Stadium.


Third Time Not a Charm for Quakes to Capture Clasico Magic

By Matthew Harrington

STANFORD, Calif. – There would be no customary rally for the San Jose eleven Saturday night at Stanford Stadium, snapping a streak of thrilling come-from-behind wins in the clash of California sides. Earthquakes supporters expecting the customary late California Clasico offensive burst instead had to settle for the explosions the of post-game fireworks with the Quakes long since retired to their locker room to dwell on the 1-0 defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Galaxy.

For the first time in three years, the Earthquakes (4-6-4) had no answer for the Los Angeles Galaxy. San Jose didn’t need three second-half goals like in 2012, nor did they need stoppage time goals from Shea Salinas and Alan Gordon as they did last season. No, the Quakes needed a lone strike to salvage a point. Unfortunately for the men in blue, time ran out on this year’s comeback bid despite a valiant second half.

“We knew that our performance where it needed to be in the first half,” said Watson. “We had a few moments, we had a few chances. I thought LA dictated the play. We knew we’d have to come out with more energy and use the ball better.”

The two teams battled to a standstill after 45 minutes of play, matching each other move for move. Los Angeles attempted eight shots on goal to the Quakes’ seven, but neither side converted. The two sides appeared even in possession, though LA controlled the play for 55% of the opening half. It was San Jose striker Steven Lenhart however, that had the best chances of the half. Lenhart narrowly missed putting the ball into the back of the net on a pair of headers that beat LA keeper Jaime Penedo but trickled wide of the goalpost.

Gyasi Zardes erased the clean sheet in the 62nd minute, firing a point-blank rocket from dead center past a defenseless Jon Busch to give the Galaxy a 1-0 lead. The Galaxy forward was set up on his third goal of the season by Marcelo Sarvas who, with his back to the keeper, found Zardes squared up on goal for the strike. In total, Los Angeles had 17 attempts on net to 13 for the home squad. Five went on goal for Los Angeles, one for the Quakes.

“Our guys competed all night,” said Earthquakes coach Mark Watson. “I thought they just had a little bit more quality on the night. I think it was a game where there wasn’t that many chances. I think we had an equal number of scoring chances, we just couldn’t finish them.”

LA nearly double its advantage in the 72nd minute after midfielder Stefan Ishizaki lofted a shot on net from just outside the penalty box corner to the right of Busch. The ball beat Busch’s cross-body dive and rang off the back post. A Quakes defender swooped in to clear the ball from a hungry Zardes and allow the San Jose netminder to regain position.

Naturally, the man who coined the “Goonies” nickname for San Jose nearly gave the home side new life with a late equalizer. In the 88th minute, Lenhart once again used his head to advance on the Galaxy net. Penedo narrowly managed to get his left fingertips on the bid to preserve his shutout, while Los Angeles (5-3-5) weathered the final surge to nab the three points and hold San Jose off from the seventh spot in the Western Conference. The Galaxy entered play one point (17 total) ahead of the Quakes entering play Saturday. LA continued a five-game unbeaten streak.
San Jose received some bad news before even taking the pitch, as centerback Clarence Goodson was a late scratch after aggravating an injury in warm-ups.

“(Clarence) pulled his groin in the warm-up,” said Watson. “We had to make a late substitution, which was disappointing. We worked with Clarence, he’s a big part of our team. I thought Jason Hernandez came in and did a fantastic job. He had 10 or 15 minutes to get himself mentally prepared and he did what he always does. He battled hard and gave everything he had.”

The Quakes were also short Shea Salinas with an injury while Chris Wondolowski and Victor Bernardez performed World Cup duties. While Bernardez and Honduras were ousted from the preeminent tournament of soccer after group play, he wasn’t quite on a time table to return to MLS play just yet.

“It was going to be close,” said Watson on the status of Bernardez Saturday. “We knew that. He played Wednesday in Brazil. It’s a long flight. He just didn’t feel he could give one hundred percent. He’ll be ready for Wednesday.”

The Quakes may also have Salinas back in the line-up Wednesday at Buck Shaw Stadium when they welcome Chivas USA to the Bay Area. The Quakes previously snapped a season-opening five-game winless streak by topping Chivas 1-0 at Buck Shaw on April 26th.

Small Package Delivers Huge First Win of 2014 for Earthquakes

By Matthew Harrington

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The man who stands shortest on the Earthquakes squad elevated his game head and shoulders above his competition in San Jose’s first win of the 2014 season. Minute midfielder Yannick Djalo tallied his first MLS goal in a 1-0 triumph over visiting Chivas USA at Buck Shaw Stadium, providing a scoring spark in the 66th minute for the scuffling San Jose side after subbing in to open the second half. San Jose was booked for three yellow cards in a physical tilt, while the visitors were assessed two yellows and a red card, a booking on their goalkeeper for playing a ball outside of the penalty box.

The Quakes (1-2-3) opened play Saturday knotted with Montreal for the fewest points in the MLS standings, but Chivas proved just the opponent to help San Jose turn around its five-game winless streak in 2014. San Jose has not lost to Chivas in any of the encounters over the last two seasons.

The Rojiblancos (1-4-3) took their 2014 season opener 3-2 over visiting Chicago but failed to find the W in six consecutive games to sit just three points ahead of San Jose in the league table. With the win, the Earthquakes tied Chivas with six points earned on the campaign.

“You never want to wait too long for the first one,” said Earthquakes coach Mark Watson. “We’ve waited a little bit. It’s a relief. We still have work to do. It’s three points. We take it, we run with it and we get back to work on Monday.”

Djalo, an import on loan from Sport Lisbon e Benefica of Portugal’s Primeira Liga, received a Shea Salinas cross and tucked a bouncer just inside of the left post for a precision strike out of reach of diving Chivas keeper Dan Kennedy.

“It was a great team play,” said Djalo through an interpreter. “Salinas made a great pass over to me. I was happy to score the goal, but it was the high level of the team that got the goal. The ball made the goal. I just wanted to focus and put it into the corner.”

The winning volley marks the first career MLS goal for the five-foot-six veteran of 166 professional games, all abroad, in only his fourth game in the States.

“The teams are all competitive here,” said Djalo of the MLS. “That makes every game competitive. There’s a lot of hard work to be done. That makes me excited every game.”

For Djalo, the issue hasn’t been adjusting to the league as much as it has been overcoming injury, chiefly tightness in his right hamstring that has limited his availability in the early going. Watson utilized Djalo sparingly in his three previous MLS engagements, coming on in the 79th minute or later in two of three appearances. He entered the game at the half in March 13th’s loss to the Columbus Crew for his longest stint before tonight.

“Last week I wasn’t in the condition to play,” said Djalo. “I was a little sore still and couldn’t get through a game. Thanks to the work of the medical staff here, they did a great job with me all week. I was able to get on the field for 45 minutes. I hope that’s going to be a little bit more.”

“There was an argument to start him,” said Watson. “We felt with the way his hamstring has been the last couple of weeks, it wasn’t the prudent thing to do. He’s getting close. He’s a real dynamic player. He helps us when he’s on the pitch.”

For the second straight game, Quakes keeper Jon Busch collected the clean sheet, blanking the Rojiblancos one week after shutting out the Colorado Rapids in a scoreless draw on the road. Busch handled all three shots labelled for the San Jose net, while his defenders managed a pair of blocked shots and forced 10 Rojiblanco shots off target.

“We’ve got some tremendous defenders on this team,” said Busch. “It’s coming together very nicely defensively. I thought Victor (Bernardez) and Clarence (Goodson) did a beautiful job dealing with some very dangerous crosses. I was very happy with them in front of me. They were tremendous tonight.”

The Quake defense proved especially stout against Chivas striker Erick Torres. Torres took the pitch tied with Clint Dempsey for the MLS in goals atop the chase for the Golden Boot. Though Torres’ loaded foot had already found the back of the net six times previously this season, San Jose kept him off the sheet. Torres managed multiple chances on net by way of kick and header, but none found their mark thanks to his opposition’s containment.

“The defense played strong,” said Watson. “That’s one of the things we’ve been working on, being tougher to break down. Getting two shutouts in a row helps us confidence-wise. There are still little things we need to do.”

Proving defensively stout has been critical for the denizens of Buck Shaw Stadium as they slog through a scoring drought. San Jose owns only one game with more than one goal scored in their favor this season in six attempts. A handful of injuries to start the season have hampered San Jose’s offensive rhythm, especially at the midfield position, but the team appears close to being on the mend.

“We work every day on both sides of the ball,” said Watson. “I don’t think the team is where it needs to be. The group’s getting healthy, which helps. We get more time to work together as a group and we’ll continue to do that.”

Among the wounded rounding into form, Watson put heavy emphasis on what a hampered Djalo has brought, and what the expectations for him will be when he’s at full strength.

“Right from the start of the second half, he gave us that little spark,” said Watson. “The thing with him is, he’s got a good technical base. He can get out of pressure. He’s most dangerous when he can get space, when he runs. He made a great run to the far post and a great finish.

Despite a feeling around the team that the Portuguese player may be called upon to be San Jose’s next potent weapon, the smallish soccer star-in-waiting handles the weight with aplomb.

“Everyone feels the same pressure,” said Djalo. “You have to come into the game, do the best you can, contribute to the team and try to get wins. The pressure is the same for everybody. I play the game to help contribute to my teammates. They go through a lot of hard work every week, every game. I just want to help them succeed.”

Saturday’s score certainly made Djalo a popular man, both with the fans and his new teammates who now know what it feels like to have a mark under the win column in the league standings. The Earthquakes now carry a little less pressure heading into next week’s showdown in Vancouver against the Whitecaps no longer mired in last place in the Western Conference.

“We got the monkey off our back,” said Busch. “Hopefully we can relax and play our game.”

Gordon’s Last-Second Score Draws Earthquakes Even With Toluca in First Leg of Champions League Quarterfinals

By Matthew Harrington

SANTA CLARA, Calif.-The San Jose Earthquakes “never say die” attitude almost created an international incident, with the Quakes introducing their “Goonies” attitude to the opening leg to the CONCACAFA Champions League quarterfinal matchup against Deportivo Toluca FC. Despite having the better of the chances at Buck Shaw Stadium Tuesday night, it took the Earthquakes a last-second goal from Alan Gordon to head to Toluca with the aggregate score even, 1-1.

“That’s how soccer goes sometimes,” said Gordon after the match. “To be able to battle back and to show ourselves we still have that, we’re always going to have that. It’s in our DNA to come back and get results. It’s really good for our confidence moving forward. We played a good team and we played them well.”

Toluca dominated the possession game, hogging the ball for over 64.8 percent of play, true to the technical styling of most dominant Mexican sides. Despite the ownership of action, Los Diablos Rojos failed to force Earthquakes keeper Jon Busch into action for much of the game. The Quakes defense blocked 4 of 10 Toluca shots while the other five bids were off target excluding the lone Diablos goal. In total, the Quakes finished with seven shots on goal to one for Toluca. San Jose also took five corners to none for the away side.

“I think our team was superior to them,” said Toluca coach Jose Cardozo through a translator, reflecting on the controlling, technical approach of his squad. “On the field we had a team that was playing soccer and another team that was just shooting at the goal area.”

Earthquakes coach Mark Watson, however, didn’t think the shot choice kept the Quakes off the board, but rather the finish. Tuesday marked the first time San Jose took the pitch for a truly meaningful contest, with the MLS regular season set to kick off later this week.

“I thought we created lot of chances,” said Watson, reinforcing throughout his press conference that many of his players were not quite in game-shape just yet. “I think in a normal game, if you take that number of chance, on a different night, on a better night we would have finished those. I think there were goals we left on the table.”

Diablos midfielder Gabriel Velasco Gutierrez opened play in the 14th minute, ripping the first dangerous salvo to officially christen the start of the series. His kick from just inside the penalty box sailed over the outstretched hand of Busch and up over the crossbar by just under a foot, garnering a collective sigh for the Quakes supporters in the crowd.

The Quakes nearly took the early edge when team captain Chris Wondolowski raced up the pitch, feeding a streaking Cordell Cato on the wing. The lightning-fast Cato wheeled the ball over to Sam Cronin who booted a chance that Toluca netminder Alfredo Talavera just tipped over the crossbar.

The first goal of the quarterfinals came off the foot of Toluca forward Raul Nava Lopez after a Jason Hernandez miscue. Nava, entering play with four Champions League goals to lead Los Diablos Rojo, fired a flawless shot that beat a diving Busch to his right side to muddy his clean sheet in the 67th minute.

“We held a very good team to very few good chances,” said Watson. “I felt bad for Jason. It just came off the side of his foot. It was a fantastic finish, world-class. You have to tip your hat to (Nava). Collectively it was a very good defensive effort.”

Quakes forward Steven Lenhart nearly put his side on the sheet in the 79th minute, heading a cross feed off the cross bar and out. Chris Wondolowski followed up with a shot of his own that was blocked aside by a Diablo defender. The visitors then cleared it out of play after a number of Quakes took a stab at the loose ball before it was cleared out of play and out of danger.

Again San Jose appeared to have the answering tally but denial reared its head just four minutes from the end of regular time. Lenhart strung a pass across the goal box to Alan Gordon. The pass ended up just a step behind Gordon who couldn’t pull the trigger for a clean look. The book remained open on Gordon’s narrative as hero of the day, however, as he found a way to avoid rejection during the four-plus minute allotment of injury time.

“I think it was right after they scored, right in that moment,” pondered Gordon on the moment when his team mustered up the morale to believe. “It was in that moment, when that stuff happens. It feels like the ball isn’t going to go back into the net. But we didn’t put our heads down. We kept going. We got together in the middle of the field like we usually do and looked each other in the eye. We made a conscious effort to see it through, all the way to the end.”

In the final minute of play (or 30 seconds after play should have ended according to a frustrated Cardozo’s viewpoint post-match) Shea Salinas lofted the ball up for a challenge in the Toluca goal box. It was Gordon connecting on the header nearly unguarded, redirecting it just past Talavera to dramatically knot the teams at a goal apiece.

“You don’t usually expect to get goals like that in the MLS,” said Gordon. “You usually expect to get grabbed and pulled. I was a little surprised to be untouched. It was great, a good feeling.”

When the Earthquakes travel to Estadio Nemesio Diaz for the second leg March 19th, they will head to hostile territory on even footing, knowing that the winner on the pitch will be the one advancing to the Champions League semifinals. The challenge will be greater, considering Toluca fielded a mix of starters and reserves Tuesday but will more likely trot out a majority of the starters in game two with the home crowd hungry for victory. Toluca is already midway through its season in the Mexican league and wary of injuries in non-league play.

“It’s tough to go in to Mexico and get results,” said Gordon. “For us to go in there down 1-0 (in the aggregate) would have been a huge mountain. Now we’re in a one-game series. We’re looking for the result in Mexico. There’s no reason we should think that we can’t.”

Gordon, who sat out most of the preseason, saw the goal Tuesday as a positive sign that he’s ready to perform when it counts, including Saturday’s MLS season opener at Buck Shaw Stadium against Real Salt Lake.

“It was really our first run,” said Gordon. “The preseason is the preseason. It took me awhile to figure out preseason goals don’t count for anything. I joke with the guys that I’m in the preseason hall of fame. It never got me any goals in the regular season. Now I switch it up and don’t play any games in the preseason.”

Quakes top Rapids to stay alive in MLS playoffs race

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San Jose Earthquakes Jordan Stewart celebrates on top of his teammates as Chris Wondolowski (in the center) scored against Colorado Rapids at Buck Shaw Stadium. Photo by Michael Bonocore Photography

By Ivan Makarov

SANTA CLARA, CA — A couple of months ago the odds of San Jose Earthquakes making MLS playoffs didn’t look good, as the team kept losing points while unable to produce offense. They even parted ways with their head coach Frank Yallop who led the team to 2012 Supporters Shield award only a year ago. But after tightening its defense with the signing of Clarence Goodson, and focusing on offense in training, the things finally started to come together for the Quakes and its interim head coach Mike Watson.

That improvement calumniated in a key victory against the divisional opponent Colorado Rapids on Wednesday night at Buck Shaw Stadium. The race for the five playoffs spots in the West is staying very close this year between seven teams, and to stay alive Quakes needed a victory against Colorado, one of the two teams right in front of them. With the big goal by its captain Chris Wondowski, the Quakes earned 1-0 win and kept themselves alive in this close race to the finish.

“That was probably a must-win game for us tonight,” said Mike Watson after the game. “We needed the three points. I don’t think one would have been enough. I don’t think you go into a game with that as your main thought, but you know the result you need to come away with. I thought our guys were excellent tonight. We were on top of the game from the start. We were sharp, moved the ball well and had a bunch of great chances.”

The key moment of the game happened on the 69th minute from two set pieces inside the Rapids territory. It all  started with a cross from a free kick taken by Rafael Baka from 40 or so yards out which found Wondolowski’s head inside the penalty box. Wondo put a shot on target, but Colorado’s goalkeeper Clinton Irwin made a great save, putting the ball above the goal, resulting in the Quakes’ corner kick.

Shea Salinas took that corner and sent the ball back to the Quakes top goalscorer Wondolowski. He once again beat his coverage, and put another header on goal, which went in this time. This was Wondo’s 10th goal of the season, and his league-leading seventh game winning goal. It’s also worth noting that it was a well deserved assist for Salinas, who was brilliant all night, orchestrating most of the attacks with his speed and creativity.

“Shea [Salinas’] service has been excellent,” said Mike Watson. “He’s somebody who thrives off running past defenders. He wants those one-on-one match-ups. He’s quick and has good control and his service is usually very good when he gets in dangerous spots. Tonight, I thought his service was great.”

Quakes had the chance to score other goals in the game, creating multiple chances from crosses inside the zone, where Rapids defense seemed to struggle. Alan Gordon had at least two great scoring chances from headers, as did Wondolowski who had a chance to score from a breakaway at the start of the second half. Quakes outshot the Rapids 8-0 with shots on target. At the same time, Quakes were excellent on their own back end, with Colorado earning only a couple of chances to score – mostly early  in the game. Jon Busch earned his eighth shutout of the season.

“As the season draws to an end, it feels like each game gets more emotional,” said Chris Wondolowski. “The guys were loose before the game and it helped ease the nerves because this match was a must-win situation here at home. We were so excited to play tonight; I was fired up all game and it’s always great to play in front of our home fans here at Buck Shaw [Stadium]. Now we are a point back of where we want to be and know that if we take care of business we will be rewarded.”

The game turned out to be a close to a complete performance by the home team in front of the sold out crowd of 10,525. The win improved the Quakes to 4-0-1 in their last five games. With two games remaining in the season, San Jose needs to continue winning, as they finish the season against LA and Dallas. But they’re keeping their hopes up and such performance should add to their confidence going into those final games.

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Quakes win big in Salt Lake City

By Ivan Makarov

San Jose Earthquakes are not going down without a fight this season.

With only five games remaining in the regular season before the Quakes played on the road against Real Salt Lake, they knew they needed to win at least once on the road, if they were to have a chance to content for the MLS Cup in playoffs. The win was needed even more so after the Quakes failed to secure a victory against Vancouver last Saturday.

That win was earned on a good defensive effort and a pair of headers from Steven Lenhart, as Quakes won that game in Salt Lake and greatly improved their standings.

Rio Tinto Stadium, the home of Real Salt Lake, has always been a hard place to play for any visiting team, with its stands close to the field, and passionate fans filling up the stands all contributing to Real’s dominance in SLC. They only lost two games at home this season, while the Quakes won just once on the road, where they struggled all season.

While the Quakes looked good in many road games but not seeing that translate on the scoreboard and in the standings, the scenario reversed itself on Saturday. This much was also obvious on the stats sheet, where Real dominated in just about every category – shots on goal (17 vs 8), passing accuracy (83% vs 71%), and ball possession (70% vs 30% for Real). Well, except in one category that matters most – the goals.

Quakes got the great start to the game they always want with an early goal from one of their forwards Steven Lenhart. Cordell Cado got the ball on the right wing, and crossed it high and long towards the penalty mark. Lenhart won the position and put a great header straight into the net, only 18 minutes into the game.

Real responded a minute later, as Javier Morales was left wide open on the far side of the net after Kyle Beckerman’s cross off the corner, making it 1-1 on the 19th minute.

But Lenhart put the Quakes ahead only two minutes later, once again from a powerful header. Shea Salinas took the free kick 40 or so yards away on the left side of the field, and his cross was to the similar spot where Lenhart scored earlier. Quakes tall forward won another challenge in the air, scoring his fourth goal of the season.

Quakes could have put themselves one more goal ahead in the second half on the 66th minute when Rafael Baka took off on a 2-on-1 breakaway with Chris Wondolowski on his left side, but he fired it off early, and straight into Real’s goalkeeper Nick Rimando.

Other than that, it was all Real with chances the rest of the game. Solid play by Quakes defense and their goalkeeper Jon Busch kept the home team off the scoreboard, and gave San Jose much needed three points. The win may have come with a price, as their defender Clarance Goodson left the game early with what looked like an injury.

A strong defensive effort, and offensive production means the Quakes earned their second victory on the road against a very good opponent.

The Quakes are still outside the playoffs picture, but should they win both remaining home games and grab a point on the road either against Chivas USA or LA Galaxy, they could end up in the fifth spot in the West, giving them a playoffs berth.

Their quest for that continues in LA on Sunday, September 29th, when they take on Chivas USA.

Big win keeps Quakes hopes alive in the Champions League

By Ivan Makarov

SANTA CLARA, CA – Facing elimination in the CONCACAF Champions League with a draw or loss, San Jose Earthquakes delivered one of their best performances this season against Montreal Impact on Tuesday night at Buck Shaw Stadium, defeating them 3-0.

After trading chances early on, the Quakes scored first on the 21st minute. A long throw in the Montreal’s zone landed on Steven Lenhart’s head who passed it back to Chris Wondowski. This caught Montreal’s defense by surprise and there was no one able to stop Quakes forward as he put the ball into the net, scoring first Champions League goal for the club in the tournament.

While the game looked even prior to the goal, the lead gave the Quakes needed confidence and they started to take over the pocessing and the scoring chances.

“The game changed a little bit [after the first goal],” said Montreal’s center back Alessandro Nesta. “We had some opportunities, and some chances, but as it happened today, if you don’t score, you start losing these opportunities.”

Impact’s best moment of the first half came at the very end when the cross from the left zone came within inches of Daniele Paponi’s foot and the empty net. Justin Morrow read the play and cleared it away from danger last moment.

Marvin Chavez delivered the second blow on the 57th minute. The ball was inside Montreal’s penalty box and Matteo Ferrari cleared it outside the box. It wasn’t a good clear, however, and it fell to Chavez chest who stopped it and put a hard volley on the net right after. It flew fast and into the net, giving the Quakes two goal lead they desperately needed to improve their standings.

Desperate for change, Montreal head coach Marco Schallibaum made double substitution on the 63rd minute, sending Felipe and Marco Di Vaio (current leading MLS goalscorer) onto the field. That didn’t help, however and neither forward had a scoring chance the rest of the game.

Coming on as a substitution for Marvin Chaves, Shea Salinas scored a similar goal as Chavez on 84th minute. It was another failed clearance by Montreal, and Salinas got the ball just at the top of the penalty box, with only Jeb Brovski and the goaltender to beat. Salinas accelerated with his signature takeoff speed, and blew past Brovski who couldn’t keep up. With just the goalkeeper Troy Perkins in front of him, Salinas put the ball into the net with the low kick to make it 3-0 for the Quakes.

Salinas could have made it 4-0 when he got the ball on the edge of the box during stoppage time, but he shot the ball straight into Perkins.

How pleased was the Quakes interim coach Mike Watson with the three goals in one game after scoring just once in the last three games?

“Very pleased,” he said after the game. “I thought at 1-0, there was still a lot to do in the game. We still had to defend a lot. It shows our persistence. We feel very good about our performance. Maybe three goals is what we need to get going offensively.”

Quakes are next back in action on Saturday when they travel to Salt Lake City on take on Real in the MLS regular season. Their next Champions League game is at home against CD Heredia on October 23.

Wondolowski shines in his return, nets two in Quakes victory

By Ivan S. Makarov

August 3, 2013

After being gone for almost a month on the U.S. National Men’s team call up, Quakes captain Chris Wondolowski made his return count in the very big way against Chivas USA in the Saturday night contest at Buck Shaw Stadium. The team’s top goalscorer of the past few seasons showed he’s in top shape as he scored both goals for the team in 2-0 home victory.

“Tonight was great for Wondo,” said Quakes interim head coach Mike Watson after the game. “He’s been away for a while with the [U.S.] National Team, but I know he wanted to come back and make a contribution for us and he did that very well for us.”

Wondo’s presence was felt by the home side since the beginning. After successful run with US National Team that saw San Jose’s forward play a key role in CONCACAF Gold Cup championship, it seemed as though Wondolowski had an extra quickness and confidence to his game. It was something he might have lacked in the first half of the season, which saw him struggle to score goals at his usual pace. This time Wondo was focused and often ahead of defense by a step or few during many attacks by the Quakes. It really was the same Wondo that won the title of the top goalscorer in the league in the last regular season.

That confidence translated into two goals for Wondolowski.

The first one came at the very end of the even first half that saw both team exchange a few good, but not great chances on goal. Steven Beitashour delivered a long but accurate pass to the edge of the box for Victor Bernandez, who headed it towards open Wondolowski. The header fell straight into Wondo’s head who directed into the top corner for a nice finish.

The second goal by Wondolowski came towards the end of the second half, when Chivas USA were already playing with the man down after Carlos Bocanedra was sent off with the red card for two footed challenge on Shea Salinas. Wondolowski picked up a rebound inside the box after Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy made a difficult save on a great shot by Shea Salinas. With Kennedy down, Wondolowski put the ball just over him and into the net, scoring his seventh goal of the season.

Chivas USA had their share of chances during the game, but another great night in goal by Jon Busch, and his third clean sheet denied them any points in San Jose this time.

With the win, the Quakes improved their playoff chances, as this was their third straight victory in MLS action.

“I think the way we’ve been playing can carry us into the post-season,” said Chris Wondolowski. “That’s the great thing about this team: It’s not just one player who carries the team; it’s all 11 men out there working for each other. We have to fight for every ball, capitalize on our chances and play solid defense. I feel we’ve been doing that as of late and that’s a great recipe to make a playoff push.”

The Quakes are still out of the playoffs in the MLS standings, but are now only three points out of the fifth playoff spot in the West. Their next game is against Montreal in CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday. After that, the Quakes are playing Vancouver Whitecaps in MLS action on Saturday, a team they’re chasing for that playoffs spot.