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Early Set Piece Goals Send San Jose to Fourth Straight Loss

San Jose’s struggles continued Saturday night as the Earthquakes conceded a pair of set piece goals in the game’s opening 12 minutes on their way to a 3-1 loss to the Houston Dynamo. Brian Ching and Kai Kamara scored early for Houston, and Craig Waibel added a third goal just after intermission before Ryan Johnson pulled one back for San Jose.

Coming into the match, San Jose‘s defense had given up the most goals per game in the league, but the Earthquakes were hopeful of an improvement as Jason Hernandez, the club’s Defender of the Year in 2008, was in the lineup for the first time this season. But the game was all of four minutes old when Brad Davis sent a free kick into the box, and Bring Ching got inside Hernandez to nod it home from seven yards out.

Eight minutes later, Davis was again the assist man as he hooked in a corner kick to Kai Kamara, unmarked at the top at the six yard box, for another header to make it 2-0.

“We worked all week about being tough and strong on set plays, especially against a team like Houston,” coach Frank Yallop said, “and four minutes in, one goal, and then another set play, another goal. Football is a game of scoring goals and defending our goal and right now we can’t do either.”

“We made a conscious effort to talk about (set piece defending),” Jason Hernandez said. “It’s one thing to talk about it, and it’s another thing when you’re in the game, and they are whipping high quality balls in, and we are wrestling for position. And in individual battles, they came up with the upper hand on a few occasions.”

“It took the air out of us a lot because it kind of felt like the New York game where we gave up (early) goals,” Ryan Johnson said. “We dug a hole for ourselves, and we had to try to get out of it. It felt a little like New York because we bounced back a little bit.”

The Dynamo’s third goal came six minutes after intermission, when the Earthquakes failed to clear another Houston corner kick. From the top of the penalty area, Geoff Cameron headed the ball towards goal, and Craig Weibel, standing just inside the six, turned and knocked it past Joe Cannon.

San Jose got on the scoreboard in the 53rd minute. From the midfield stripe, Chris Leitch chipped a long ball into the penalty area that Cam Weaver won in the air, heading it across to Ryan Johnson charging the net. Johnson’s brave header – he knocked heads with Geoff Cameron on the play – was his team-leading fourth goal of the season.

Johnson and the Earthquakes thought they had another goal at the hour mark to continue the comeback. Jason Hernandez’s chip from the right wing found Johnson outside the left post. From a near impossible angle, Johnson hit the back of the net with a looping header only to have the play ruled off-side.

“I was definitely onside, because I made sure I was on line with my defender, and I made sure I was in the space,” Johnson said. “I don’t know what the call was – if it was offside or if it was interference. I don’t think I touched the keeper at all. It happens.”

From there, Houston easily killed off the game, running their unbeaten streak to six games. The Dynamo now are in third place in the MLS West with 15 points. With their fourth straight loss, the Earthquakes now sit dead last in the MLS standings, having earned just five points through nine games.

“I feel Ryan Johnson’s second goal was onside, and that would’ve made a difference in the match in the last 10 minutes,” Yallop said. “Obviously, very disappointed with the result, but our guys kept going, which is important.”

Trinidad and Tobago international Cornell Glen watched the game from the bench, and he may be available for San Jose’s next match, but things could get worse before they get better the Earthquakes. San Jose travels to Columbus to face the defending Supporters Shield and MLS Cup Champion Crew on Wednesday, before returning home next Saturday to face Salt Lake.