Offense takes a step forward while the defense takes a step back in San Jose Earthquakes 2-2 draw with Vancouver Whitecaps FC

In an entertaining, but ultimately frustrating game, the San Jose Earthquakes and Vancouver Whitecaps played to a 2-2 draw Wednesday night at Buck Shaw Stadium. Twice the Quakes took the lead courtesy of Chris Wondolowski, and twice the defense surrendered the tying goals from ‘Caps striker Eric Hassli. With the draw, the team’s third in a row and fifth in their last seven games, San Jose extended their home unbeaten streak to seven games and moved into the last playoff position in the MLS standings.

Following two straight shutouts by the Earthquakes, the expectation that they could dispatch of the last place team in the league at home with a similar effort and just a hint of offense went unmet. Head coach Frank Yallop was encouraged by the breakout night from Wondolowski, now with a team-high eight goals in 2011, but was disappointed that his defense was not up to the task of seeing the game out when they had the lead.

“It was a really frustrating night,” said Yallop in the post game press conference. “We seemed to not get breaks when we needed them. There’s a little bit of luck involved in our sport of soccer because you can dominate and not win, you can play not great and win, you can play terrible and win, or none of the above. But for some reason we can’t seem to see games out. We let the other team come into it after we took the lead.”

Wondolowski, who scored a goal either side of halftime, would have netted a hat trick on the night if not for a missed free header with the score tied at 2 goals apiece. The 2011 MLS All-Star game bound forward didn’t dwell on any particular play as reason for the team failing to pick up all three points, but he admitted the team as a whole just didn’t do enough to get the win.

“I think, tonight, it’s one of those games where there were some positives,” said Wondolowski from the locker room, “but it wasn’t good enough to get a win, which is what we always want, especially at home. I thought we played well at times, but didn’t put together a complete 90 minutes to get that win.”

The Earthquakes started the game determined to press the Whitecaps defenders, after all going into Wednesday night, Vancouver was still winless on the road. In the third minute, a perfectly weighted pass into space on the right wing was nearly collected by Jacob Peterson on the full sprint, but a defender was able to poke it to safety and concede a corner kick. Peterson sent the set piece ball into the area where Steven Lenhart headed it toward target, but Brad Ring inadvertently deflected the ball up and off the crossbar, and the Whitecaps cleared the ball to safety.

Just seconds later, the Earthquakes regained possession through a well placed Khari Stephenson tackle and Chris Wondolowski picked up the loose ball and turned his attention on Joe Cannon’s goal. Hitting it to Lenhart, who dumped it back to Simon Dawkins, the English midfielder spied Wondolowski flirting with the last defender to stay onside and chipped a ball right to his foot. Taking one touch to settle the pass, Wondolowski then unleashed a left-footed volley that found the far side netting for the 1-0 lead.

The Whitecaps nearly equalized in the 9th minute as a long ball intended for Eric Hassli was deflected by Bobby Burling right into the onrushing path of Mustapha Jarju. Vancouver’s newest Designated Player blasted a shot from 15 yards that was just out of the reach of goalkeeper Jon Busch but just above the crossbar.

The Earthquakes continued to control the pace of the game, and should have doubled their lead in the 31st minute after a fine through ball left Lenhart racing in on the penalty area with only Cannon to beat. As the ‘keeper rushed out to close the angle on the Quakes forward, Lenhart slowed down in an apparent attempt to get the ball onto his left foot. That hesitation was just enough for the Vancouver defense to recover, and the ball was tackled away before a shot on target could be attempted.

A double dose of frustration came for San Jose in the 42nd minute, when Dawkins ruled himself unable to continue in the game with what was later diagnosed as a hamstring strain. Speedy newcomer Rafael Baca substituted for the Englishman, and assumed the left midfielder role with Wondolowski moving more centrally as the second striker behind Lenhart.

Amidst all the changes, the Whitecaps capitalized in transition and pressed the ball quickly up the right flank. After collecting the ball just in front of the Vancouver bench, former Earthquake Shea Salinas took a touch and saw a streaking Hassli breaking free of the defense and running into space just at the top of the area. With Burling slow to react, Salinas led Hassli with an excellent ball that the Frenchman immediately fired low and to the far post. Busch was able to just get a touch on the ball, but the ‘Caps had the equalizer through Hassli’s seventh goal of the season.

The second half started much like the first, with the Earthquakes outperforming the Whitecaps and keeping the majority of possession. Their perseverance finally paid off in the 54th minute following a generous foul call against defender Greg Janicki for knocking over Lenhart on the right touchline gave the Quakes a dangerous free kick opportunity.

As he had been doing all game, San Jose newcomer Peterson presided over the set piece, delivering a perfect cross to the top of the six-yard box. Wondolowski met the ball in the air and powerfully headed it past Cannon to restore the Earthquakes lead to 2-1. Wondo’s eighth goal of the season was made possible when his marker Jeb Brovsky slipped as the Quakes forward positioned himself to receive the ball, and he could not recover in time to apply any pressure on the reigning MLS Golden Boot winner.

The lead was short lived for San Jose as they fell victim to a Vancouver counterattack following some positive possession in the attacking half. After Lenhart failed to find Wondolowski on a pass into the area, the Whitecaps quickly cleared the ball and it eventually landed at the feet of Salinas on the left wing. With just Chris Leitch to beat, Salinas ducked toward the byline and used his speed to round the veteran defender. Wisely electing to pass instead of shoot from such a tight angle, Salinas pulled the ball back for the lurking Hassli who one-timed the ball past the help Jason Hernandez trying to cover the goal. For Hassli, the 61st minute goal gave him his second of the match and eighth of the season, matching Wondolowski for fourth best in MLS. For Salinas, he collected his second assist of the game and surprisingly for the season.

On the restart, the Earthquakes quickly earned a free kick deep down the left touchline courtesy of Baca, who was bowled over by Brovsky. Peterson lined up his kick, and found Wondolowski streaking across the area, but his header caromed dangerously off the crossbar. Ramiro Corrales was in position to collect the rebound, but his powerful shot went off a defender, and San Jose’s golden opportunity to retake the lead went wanting.

In the 74th minute, the Earthquakes nearly fell victim to a similar play to the equalizing goal the Whitecaps scored when they hosted San Jose back on May 11. Instead of being in the run of play, the situation Wednesday night was a free kick opportunity, with the ‘Caps putting a dangerous ball into the area that gave the goalkeeper trouble. Back at Empire Field, it was a cross into a congested six-yard box from Davide Chiumiento that somehow managed to sneak in at the far post for a Whitecaps goal in injury time. In the return leg at Buck Shaw Stadium, a free kick from Camilo seemed destined to be knocked in by one of his teammates, but the ball skipped through on goal. This time around, Busch was alert enough to make a reaction save and tip the ball over the crossbar.

The Earthquakes were gifted a scoring chance in the 83rd minute, as a back header from the defense saw Lenhart through on goal with just Cannon to beat. Perhaps thinking back to his mistake in the 31st minute of letting the defense catch him, Lenhart strode at full speed toward the area as Cannon rushed out to meet him. He lined up the shot on his right foot and hit a powerful shot that curled wide of the post when a more collected attempt would have sufficed.

Less than a minute later, Lenhart had a chance to atone for his miss when the Earthquakes mounted another attack on goal. Baca got things started in the midfield with some fine possession and laid the ball off for Corrales. The Earthquakes defender shuttled the ball to the touchline for second half substitute Bobby Convey, and the newly selected MLS All-Star delivered a fine cross into the area. Rising high over his defender, Lenhart headed the ball on target, but Cannon was alert enough to tip the ball off and over the crossbar.

The Whitecaps had the final chance to break the 2-2 deadlock when in the 89th minute they pressed a deep Earthquakes throw-in and forced a turnover. With the ball moved into the center of the field, Gershon Koffie found himself uncontested nearly 40 yards from goal, but decided to take a shot despite the distance. His audacious effort was spectacular, and it flew over Busch and cracked thunderously off the crossbar.

Neither team threatened to score in the four minutes of extratime, and the final whistle blew an end to the Earthquakes fourth straight home draw. The restless crowd matched the frustrations on the field as players and supporters felt the performance warranted more than one point.

(Photo: Joe Nuxoll, centerlinesoccer.com)

SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (5-6-9) VS VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC (2-10-9)
July 20, 2011 – Buck Shaw Stadium

Attendance: 8,122

Scoring Summary: SJ — Chris Wondolowski (Simon Dawkins, Steven Lenhart) 3; VAN — Eric Hassli (Shea Salinas) 42; SJ — Chris Wondolowski (Jacob Peterson) 54; VAN — Eric Hassli (Shea Salinas, Davide Chiumiento ) 61.

Misconduct Summary: VAN — Jeb Brovsky (caution) 40; SJ — Brad Ring (caution) 45; SJ — Chris Leitch (caution) 74; SJ — Ramiro Corrales (caution) 93+

San Jose Earthquakes — Jon Busch, Chris Leitch, Jason Hernandez, Bobby Burling, Ramiro Corrales, Jacob Peterson (Bobby Convey 66), Brad Ring, Khari Stephenson (Scott Sealy 83), Chris Wondolowski, Simon Dawkins (Rafael Baca 42), Steven Lenhart.

Statistics: Shots: 11; Shots on Goal: 4; Saves: 3; Fouls: 14; Offside: 4; Corners: 6.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC — Joe Cannon, Jonathan Leathers, Michael Boxall, Greg Janicki, Jeb Brovsky, Shea Salinas, Gershon Koffie, Peter Vagenas, Camilo, Eric Hassli (Nizar Khalfan 81), Mustapha Jarju (Davide Chiumiento 57).

Statistics: Shots: 13; Shots on Goal: 5; Saves: 2; Fouls: 11; Offside: 4; Corners: 4.

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