After weathering a bit of a storm to start their game against Chivas USA, the San Jose Earthquakes began to assert themselves in possession. With injuries relegating speedsters Marvin Chavez and Shea Salinas to spectator status, head coach Frank Yallop adjusted his regular line-up against the Goats in Saturday night’s game.
Recognizing that Chivas likes to play more in the center of the pitch, Yallop stacked his midfield with players that also like to tuck in centrally. With Chavez and Salinas out, both perhaps for another week, the capable replacement wingers were Simon Dawkins and Mehdi Ballouchy.
"We had both our wide players come kind of playing inside," said Yallop describing the Earthquakes formation. "So I told the guys before the game we need to get Steven (Beitashour) and Justin (Morrow) into space forward. From there they could get crosses off and it worked well for us in the game."
The first Earthquakes goal was collected via a Chris Wondolowski penalty kick, but the play developed because of constant runs up the right touchline by Beitashour that allowed for passes into the area. It was during such a run of play that Alan Gordon was fouled in the area off the ball, and San Jose earned the penalty call.
However, it was the second Earthquakes goal of the evening, the 12th of the season for Gordon, that was the more outstanding. With the line-up adjustment clicking, and midfield possession allowing for controlled overlapping runs from the outside backs, San Jose put together as fine a goal as has been seen from the Earthquakes all season — and they have scored a franchise record 58 goals this year.
Ballouchy, who made his first start for the team after coming to San Jose via a trade with the New York Red Bulls, had just completed the first half of the game integrating in well with central midfielders Rafael Baca and Sam Cronin. His efforts to control possession were paying dividends for defender Morrow, who was finding it easier and easier to collect the ball in space along the left sideline.
"Because of the way we play the midfield," said Ballouchy, "it opens up the wide areas. We can start things in the middle and bring the opposition inside."
The sequence that led to Gordon’s goal started with a fine give and goal between Morrow and Dawkins inside the Chivas half that sprang the defender into space running toward the byline. Morrow crossed the ball just inside the 18 for Ballouchy, but the Moroccan let the ball skip through his legs for the awaiting Wondolowski.
"Morrow drives in and he plays me the ball," described Ballouchy. "And then I hear Wondo behind me asking for it, so I automatically dummy it so the defenders follow me."
The two central Chivas defenders broke toward Ballouchy on the pass, leaving them unable to react as Wondolowski quickly deflected the through ball into the path of Gordon. With Goats goalkeeper Dan Kennedy cheating to his left, Gordon sent the ball back the other way and into the back of the net for the 2-0 lead.
"I was surprised it wasn’t in there as one of the Goals of the Week," said Yallop. "As a team goal it was a terrific play all around and a great finish from Alan. I think that goal says it all about our team."
The five goals that were nominated by MLS for Goal of the Week honors are all deserving, and they include some spectacular individual efforts from the likes of Thierry Henry, Fredy Montero, and Julian De Guzman. However, as a symbol of the San Jose Earthquakes team-first 2012 mentality, the entirety of the build-up and finish on Gordon’s goal was every bit as good as anything that shows up on the weekend’s highlights.
Take a look at the video of the nominees after the break, and share your favorite Goal of the Week in the comments below.The official Week 28 Goal of the Week nominees from MLS: