The San Jose Earthquakes advanced to the quarterfinal round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tournament for the first time since 2005 as they defeated the Minnesota Stars 1-0 at Cagan Stadium on the campus of Stanford University. An 85th minute goal from forward Steven Lenhart made the difference in a tense affair between the MLS and NASL sides, while goalkeeper David Bingham earned the first clean sheet for the Earthquakes since a 1-0 defeat of the Seattle Sounders on March 31st.
With the victory over the defending NASL champions, the Quakes will face the Sounders in a round of eight match on June 26 at historic Kezar Stadium in San Francisco. The match is the only one of the four Open Cup quarterfinals to feature two MLS teams, as only five top flight teams are still alive in the tournament. In addition to the three-time defending cup champion Sounders, only Sporting Kansas City of the MLS survivors has previously won the tournament.
For an exhaustive read of what transpired at Cagan Stadium, be sure to check out match reports at Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area and at Centerline Soccer. Also, for a great visual report from the Earthquakes 1-0 victory over the Stars, be sure to check out the CLS photo gallery from Joe Nuxoll and the Flickr gallery from Lyndsay Radnedge. A video highlight from Tuesday’s game webstream is located after the break.
The victory over the Stars did not prove to be easy, as the Earthquakes for the second week in a row needed first team reinforcements to ensure they earned a result and moved on in the tournament. As against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers last week, the inclusion of midfielder Simon Dawkins as a second half substitute shifted the momentum of the match to the Earthquakes. While not a direct factor on the game winning goal — that was a byproduct of Marvin Chavez coming alive in the second half — Dawkins continually frustrated the Stars midfielders with his possession and passing acumen. Those his minutes were limited the Tottenham loanee again proved to be the stat-sheet invisible man of the match.
Up next for the Earthquakes is an away match at Chivas USA in the MLS Reserve League on Friday, June 8. Following their LA excursion, the team has a five day break planned before resuming training later next week. San Jose’s next competitive match falls on June 20, as they return to league action with an away game at the Colorado Rapids. International call-ups Chris Wondolowski and Victor Bernardez will be back with the team by that point, which will prove necessary when looking at the stretch of games coming up on the schedule following the road trip to Colorado. More on that after the break…
Goal Build-up and Finish
Video streaming by Ustream
As foreshadowed above, the Earthquakes progression in the Open Cup tournament adds another match to their already congested early summer schedule. Starting with their game at Colorado on June 20, San Jose will play 6 matches in a span of 18 days. Now that might be manageable if the competition were mixed, but a look at the Quakes’ opponents over that two and a half week stretch — at Colorado Rapids (June 20), at Real Salt Lake (June 23), Seattle Sounders (USOC, June 26), Los Angeles Galaxy (June 30), at Portland Timbers (July 3), and at FC Dallas (July 7) — makes one wonder who on the roster will be standing by mid July.
Top that off with a potential Open Cup semifinal on July 10 if the Earthquakes can topple the three-time defending champions Seattle, and San Jose’s fixture congestion could stretch to an additional 6 matches over the remaining three weeks of July. To be sure, the halcyon days of the 2012 MLS schedule are in the rear view mirror, and the Earthquakes will be best served to rest up and re-energize over their just started two week break.
The 1-0 victory against the Stars did not come without a few knocks, as both Sam Garza and Steven Beitashour were treated by team trainers after the match. Garza, the goal scoring hero of the Earthquakes 2-1 comeback victory over the Strikers last week, was removed from the game late in the second half following an ankle crunching tackle by a Stars defender. Head coach Frank Yallop stated after the game that Garza was substituted as a precaution, and Garza himself indicated that he would be ready to go again soon.
The other knock on the night was suffered by Beitashour, as he was cleated in the shin just as he released the byline cross that led to Lenhart’s goal. Beitashour after the match said he was glad Lenhart completed the play because he was not sure he was going to be able to bounce back up and sprint 80 yards back down the field to cover on defense. Seeing the ball hit the back of the net made the discomfort dissipate, but he indicated that he played out the match with some caution. Like Garza, Beitashour did not see the injury knocking him out of training.
Running the practice field Tuesday night with some of the other Earthquakes that were not in the match day 18 was none other than midfielder Anthony Ampaipitakwong. As has been widely reported, Ampai has asked to be transferred from MLS so that he can sign with Thai Premier League side Buriram United. The negotiations have not been completed, but when asked about the impending transfer general manager John Doyle would only say, "He’s going to Thailand." Enough said on that subject, one must suppose.
A familiar face for Minnesota on the field to many of the Earthquakes was defender Kyle Altman. The hulking central defender and minutes leader for the Stars over the past two seasons was a preseason camp invitee earlier this year. He impressed in his limited time with the club, but suffered a hamstring injury that effectively ended his prospects of making the team. Altman was a perfect foil to Lenhart all night long, and looked every bit like a quality MLS centerback. That he was victimized on Lenhart’s goal was no knock on the Stars team captain, as even the best in MLS have difficulty containing the physical forward for a full 90 minutes. If Altman can prove he is again healthy, expect him to get a look from an MLS team before long.