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San Jose looks ahead to playoffs, drops 1-0 game to Houston

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Bobby Convey

Bobby Convey's play was one of the few bright spots for San Jose on Saturday night against Houston. Photo: Joe Nuxoll, centerlinesoccer.com.

Center Line Soccer's complete coverage includes a photo gallery and, after the jump, post-game audio.

SANTA CLARA — A sellout crowd of 10,597 was on hand Saturday night at Buck Shaw Stadium to watch the Earthquakes take on their old friends from Houston, but all eyes were on the playoffs. The baseball fans in attendance were splitting their attention between soccer and the San Francisco Giant’s National League Championship Series victory over Philadelphia, while the rest of the Earthquakes’ faithful, and apparently many of the San Jose players were looking ahead to October 30, the date of San Jose’s upcoming home playoff game.

Meanwhile, the Houston Dynamo, who will miss the MLS playoffs for the first time since the franchise moved to Texas, took control of the game at hand, dominating the first 75 minutes of the match, and riding Andrew Hainault’s first half goal to a 1-0 win.

“All the hard work’s been done the other months, so maybe the guys took their foot off the gas in this game and felt they’re looking forward to playoff game rather than three more league games that don’t really mean too much to us,” San Jose coach Frank Yallop said. “The last fifteen minutes we at least gave it a good try, and created some good chances to score, but all in all it was a little bit disappointing.”

From the opening whistle Houston seemed to be playing for pride, pressing forward while San Jose looked like they were just trying not to get hurt. And even that wasn’t going to plan. The Earthquakes received a scare in the first minute of action when goalkeeper Jon Busch, trying to punch away a cross from the left wing, was run over by Houston’s Cam Weaver. Busch suffered a cut to his left ear in the collision, and laid on the turf for several nervous minutes while the Earthquakes medical staff bandaged him up.

“He got kicked in the ear, it sort of split his ear in half, so he’s got a pretty big gash there,” Yallop said, “but he’s a good pro and he shrugged that off. I think he played well. Luckily enough, it was only a flesh wound, and not anything that would keep him out of any games.”

Busch seemed able to shake off the injury -- he even shook off the bandage midway through the second half -- but could do little to keep Houston from scoring the game’s lone goal. In the 23rd minute, Brad Davis served up a corner kick to the near post, and a diving Andrew Hainault headed it home from close range.

Once ahead, Houston continued to take the game to San Jose, and should have at least doubled their lead in the opening half. Just past the half hour mark, a Mike Chabala cross from the left side hit Cam Weaver in stride for a header from 10 yards that barely missed the upper left corner of the net.

In the 37th minute, a 30 yard blast from Davis beat Busch cleanly, but banged off the left post. A minute later, a diving header by Cam Weaver forced Busch to make a quality save; the Earthquakes keeper doing well to punch it over the crossbar.

Houston didn’t let up in the second half, and Dominic Oduro must be wondering why he didn’t score at least one of the three golden opportunities that came his way in the next 20 minutes. One minute after intermission, Oduro was sent in down the right channel, shooting from a tight angle from 10 yards out. Jon Busch was able to push his shot wide of the far post.

Just before the hour mark, a long ball from Davis gave Oduro another chance to go 1 on 1 against Busch this time from the inside left channel. Again, the Earthquakes’ goalkeeper was up to the task, dropping down to block Oduro’ s shot.

San Jose made a couple changes soon after that, bringing on Arturo Alvarez for Khari Stephenson, and Ramiro Corrales for Chris Leitch, but Houston stayed on the front foot. A poor pass by Corrales in the 66th minute was stolen by Oduro for yet another 1-on-1 chance against Busch, and the San Jose net minder denied Oduro yet again.

When Cornell Glen replaced Sam Cronin in the 74th minute, the Earthquakes finally began to show some spark. “We created more chances in the last 10 minutes than we did in the (previous) 80 minutes,” Yallop said. “It was just about being positive. We put (Houston) on their heels.”

The final quarter hour was rather chippy and more than a bit ragged, with plenty of bodies (usually wearing San Jose blue) hitting the deck while referee Michael Kennedy refused to blow his whistle unless absolutely necessary, and sometimes not even then.  When Arturo Alvarez was taken down at the edge of the box in the 80th minute, the fans screamed for a free kick and possibly a penalty, but Kennedy waved play on.

In the 84th minute, Chris Wondolowski came close to tying the game (and, tying the club record for goals in a season) when he tried to nod home a Corrales from six yards out, but his shot missed wide right.

As regulation time expired, Alvarez teed up Bobby Convey at the top of the box for a left footed blast that clipped the right post as it sailed wide. Then, in extra time, an Alvarez drive from 25 yards forced Houston’s Tyler Deric to get down to make the save.

Seconds before the final whistle, Wondolowski let fly from 30 yards with a dipping  volley that was inches over the cross bar, hitting the top of the net.

The Earthquakes still have two more games to play before their October 30th playoff match, hosting Chivas USA Wednesday before traveling to Kansas City next weekend.

“The whole team was flat (tonight),” Yallop said. “We didn’t really push, and exert a lot of energy. We didn’t do it against Chicago either (in the previous home game), so it’s something we have to address. I want to see us come out scrapping and fighting Wednesday and I’m sure we will.”

• • •

Post-game interviews

Frank Yallop
[audio:101016Yallop.mp3]

Jon Busch
[audio:101016Busch.mp3]

Chris Wondolowski
[audio:101016Wondolowski.mp3]

Jason Hernandez
[audio:101016Hernandez.mp3]

• • •

San Jose Earthquakes (12-9-7) vs. Houston Dynamo (8-15-6)
October 16, 2010 – Buck Shaw Stadium
Attendance: 10,597

Scoring Summary: HOU – Andrew Hainault (Brad Davis) 23.

Misconduct Summary: SJ – Sam Cronin (caution) 35; SJ – Jon Busch (caution) 87.

San Jose Earthquakes – Jon Busch, Chris Leitch (Ramiro Corrales 61), Jason Hernandez, Bobby Burling, Tim Ward, Chris Wondolowski, Sam Cronin (Cornell Glen 73), Khari Stephenson (Arturo Alvarez 61), Bobby Convey, Geovanni, Ryan Johnson.

Statistics: Shots: 10; Shots on Goal: 3; Saves: 6; Fouls: 11; Offsides: 4; Corners: 4.

Houston Dynamo – Tyler Deric, Andrew Hainault, Bobby Boswell, Eddie Robinson, Mike Chabala, Corey Ashe, Brad Davis, Lovel Palmer, Danny Cruz (Richard Mulrooney 77), Dominic Oduro, Cam Weaver.

Statistics: Shots: 19; Shots on Goal: 7; Saves: 3; Fouls: 12; Offsides: 3; Corners: 9.