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Quakes, Timbers draw in San Jose's last preseason tune-up

Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara hosted a 1-1 draw between the San Jose Earthquakes and Portland Timbers Saturday night in its dress rehearsal for the Quakes 2010 MLS regular season home opener next weekend against Real Salt Lake. A long range strike from second half substitute Cornell Glen gave San Jose the 1-0 lead before a late goal from Portland defender Scot Thompson off a free kick left the score level on a beautiful night for soccer in the South Bay.

The draw in their final preseason match heading into the March 27th season opener left the Earthquakes with an impressive 7-1-2 record in their winter warm-ups. Especially gratifying for a coaching staff that has stressed the importance of defense all preseason, are the seven clean sheets and 6 goals allowed in those 10 matches. And until the Timbers equalized the score in the 80th minute Saturday night, the Quakes were riding a defensive scoreless streak approaching 450 minutes.

For Glen, the opportunity to score his first goal of the preseason was special. “It was nice to get on the score sheet,” said Glen. “I’ve been shooting the ball really well in practice.”

The Earthquakes attacked Portland early and often in the first half. In just the second minute, some clever interplay between Bobby Convey and Arturo Alvarez fed Ramiro Corrales on an overlapping run down the left flank. As Corrales cut in toward goal, the ball was deflected away for a corner kick. Convey’s kick was cleared by the defense.

Alavez took a turn on goal in the 7th minute after taking a feed along the right wing from midfielder Joey Gjertsen. The shot was saved, but the build-up to the effort indicated the Quakes willingness to throw numbers forward and keep the Timbers under pressure.

Portland, playing in a modified 4-5-1 formation, tried their best to utilize long balls over the San Jose defense. However, the central defending partnership of Jason Hernandez and Ike Opara settled in and limited the Timbers without a shot on goal for the remainder of the half. Their best effort came in the 12th minute, as Quevas Kirk sent in a far post cross that was headed wide of the target by forward George Josten.

The Quakes appeared to take the lead one minute later, as Ryan Johnson raced past two defenders to stab the ball into the net. However, he was adjudged offside by the sideline official on the feeding pass from Javier Robles, and the goal was waved off.

In the 18th minute, a beautifully timed give and go between Convey and Robles left the winger with just the last defender to beat. Convey was quickly closed down without getting off a shot, and the game remained scoreless.

Alvarez was finding plenty of space on the wings throughout the half, but was unable to muster much in the way of possession in the Timbers penalty area. In the 33rd minute, he found his path blocked by a phalanx of defenders before slotting the ball back to central midfielder Robles. His one-time shot was well struck, but it carried high over the crossbar.

In the 42nd minute, Convey again found space cutting in from the right side, and he blasted a shot on goal that was expertly pushed wide by goalkeeper Steve Cronin. One minute later, Alvarez had some space to dribble toward goal, and he appeared to be taken down in the box, but the referee waved play on leaving a frustrated Alvarez on the turf.

As the half entered stoppage time, a defensive miscue in the Quakes midfield allowed the Timbers to race in on goal. A tough tackle from Opara stopped cold the attack, but did result in a free kick 30 yards from goal. The kick was poorly cleared by the defense, and the free ball was met in the air by Josten. However, his header looped just over the crossbar, and the first half was complete.

“I thought we were pretty close (to scoring) in the first half,” said head coach Frank Yallop. “Ramiro (Corrales) came in strong, Bobby (Convey) was also in a good spot at times. Just that last touch was eluding us. On another night, those same opportunities get you 3-0 up and we aren’t talking about getting more shots.

Perhaps looking to create more scoring chances, Yallop brought on Cornell Glen for Alvarez to start the second half, where he immediately looked dangerous in the attacking third. Working with Johnson up top, the two forwards searched for openings in the Timbers solid defensive four. Glen nearly had a scoring opportunity in the 47th minute after some nifty passing with Convey, but he couldn’t pull the trigger before the defenders closed him down.

The Timbers continued to look for their chances on the counterattack, and seemed to find hope in an attempt in the 50th minute as Quakes defender Steve Beitashour lost his footing and was forced to concede a deep free kick. The clearance came back to the Timbers and they tried their luck again, this time Beitashour getting involved in an altercation with O.J. Obatola near midfield as the play developed.

Obatola appeared to impede Beitashour as they both tumbled to the ground, when the Quakes rookie shoved off the Portland midfielder with a well placed elbow. After some yelling and screaming from the Portland bench, and a talking to from the referee, play resumed. Beitashour would return the favor later in the second half, but both players somehow avoided being cautioned by the officials.

“He threw an elbow right there, and it caught me in the mouth,” explained Beitashour. The referee said he saw it but he just warned us to calm it down.”

Unlike in the first half, the Earthquakes began to take advantage of the space in front of the Timbers defenders, as they pinned their defenders in their own penalty area for long spells of the second half. Controlling possession through the midfield partnership of Andre Luiz and Javier Robles, San Jose continually looked for space to make deliveries to the forwards and wingers.

“When you have quality guys with experience in the midfield it makes it much easier for the forwards,” said Glen when asked what the central midfielders bring to the team. “All you have to do is get space in the defensive and you know they are going to give you go service. I’m glad to see Andre Luiz out there playing again, it’s helping us a lot. And Javier (Robles) is a great addition to the team.”

In the 65th minute, the attacking pressure looked to have paid off, as Corrales sent an excellent floating cross into the area, right on target to Glen. His powerful volley crashed into the net for the apparent goal, but for the second time in the evening, the sideline officials raised flag resulted in the goal being waved off.

The Earthquakes wouldn’t have to wait much longer to finally get a goal that counted. In the 71st minute, Glen found himself with plenty of space between the Timbers midfielders and defenders. From about 25 yards out, he blasted a low shot to the outside post that left the goalkeeper flat footed. He was too late to stop the skipping ball make its way into the goal, and the Earthquakes finally had the lead they much deserved.

“I tried to use the space between the defense and the midfield,” said Glen. “When I got my opportunities I tried to take them.” As for the goal scoring strike, “I saw the space when I looked up, so I took a good shot at it.”

San Jose made additional changes after the goal, bringing in a new midfield tandem of Brandon McDonald and Ramon Sanchez, while also finding time for Quincy Amarikwa and Omar Jessey. The new line-up took some time to work together, as possession became more of a challenge. Perhaps sensing an opportunity, the Timbers pressed San Jose further down the field.

A free kick was awarded to Portland in the 80th minute after Corrales was forced to take down substitute forward Doug DeMartin just wide of the penalty area. The resulting free kick by Rodrigo Lopez was fed into the mix of players in front of goal, before popping off of Opara and into the net for the equalizer. Forward Scot Thompson was credited with the goal that left the score 1-1.

“It was a good ball in on the corner kick,” explained Opara. “It took two or three deflections, and before you know it the ball hit my head then my shoulder before settling into the back of the net. It felt more like an own-goal than a goal for them, but it was tough to react to it in there.”

The Portland goal was the first score yielded by San Jose in their last five games. Unfortuantley, having it occur on a deflected set piece play overshadowed the solid defensive effort the Quakes displayed all evening long.

Ten minutes and stoppage time remained for the Quakes to regain the lead; however, a constant stream of pressure could not break down the Timbers defenders, and the final whistle blew on the 1-1 draw. After the game, coach Yallop shared his impressions of the match.

”I don’t think we played badly,” said Yallop. “I think we weren’t very dangerous in the firs half. We had a few good combinations where we could have scored, but I don’t think we forced the issue, we didn’t press them, we really didn’t keep them in their own end. But with Portland coming in here and playing only one man up front and 5 in the midfield and 4 in the back, they made it difficult for us in the attacking half, and I think if we were able to break through with the second goal it might have opened them up a bit. All in all, I am pleased with the effort, and I think we can look forward to next weekend.”

Outside midfielder Bobby Convey impressed with his play on the night, going the entire match at full speed and effort. Yallop agreed with the assessment, “Bobby played well, I thought he had a complete 90 minute game tonight.”

Two of the Quakes' newest players, rookies Ike Opara and Steve Beitashour, also played the whole match. They both appear to be in line for the primary defensive back-up rolls come the regular season, but on this night impressed with their play.

“This is Ike (Opara’s) first time playing on our home field,” commented Yallop. “The first time he’s had a professional crowd to play for. Also, Steve Beitashour playing at right back had the same thing, playing in front of his hometown crowd. These guys are definitely going to be a little bit nervous, so it is good to get that out of their system and let them settle in.”

“It was tough to judge the pitch,” said Opara. “The ball was skipping quite a lot. You needed to be careful with everything you did in the back. All game I worked on making the easy passes. As the game went along, I felt better and was more satisfied with my play.

“It was a really good run-out,” added the Quakes rookie. “For me, I still have one week left to work the kinks out of my game before the big show starts next weekend. Hopefully we can come out and get the win.”

Fellow rookie starter Beitashour is a native of San Jose, and was surprisingly collected in his first professional game in the Earthquake home stadium.

“It was a dream come true,” said a beaming Beitashour. “I’m sure every little kid watching thinks of playing out there, I know I did when I was younger. I was born and raised here in San Jose, so I watched the team when they were the Clash and then when they changed to the Earthquakes. It was a great experience going out to games.”

With regular starter Chris Leitch still making his way back to the Bay Area after attending CBA talks in Washington D.C., Beitashour was handed the starting spot in the match against the Timbers just days after earning a place on the Earthquakes roster.

“I just signed with the team, and then getting the chance to play the full 90 minutes right before the home season opener — it was a great feeling. The atmosphere was great out there. I really liked it.”

Up next for San Jose is the season opener with the defending MLS Cup champions Real Salt Lake. As part of MLS First Kick week, the Quakes will try to start their 2010 campaign on a positive note. Expect Leitch and goalkeeper Joe Cannon to return to the starting XI on Saturday, as well as Brazilian forward Eduardo. Above all, look for these Quakes to come out hungry for results.

“To win,” replied Cornell Glen when asked what he was looking for this weekend. “That’s it, to win. We want to start the season out on a winning note.”

Post Game Notes: In a pregame Q&A with Quakes season ticket holders, general manager John Doyle confirmed that there were no planned increases in the team roster size for the new season. While the new CBA has done away with the “Developmental Roster” positions, the total roster size would remain unchanged from 2009’s 24 players. • • • Frank Yallop shared that the team was still working on signing 17-year old midfielder Omar Jessey, but no further details were forthcoming. If Jessey is indeed signed, that will leave the Quakes with 26 players under contract — 2 over the MLS roster limit. With a 2 p.m. Monday deadline to reach roster compliance, some tough personnel decisions still need to be made. “It is a tough time with that stuff,” said Yallop, “but we have to make sure we have a strong squad that is prepared for the season. It’s a horrible part of our responsibilities (as coaches) but we have to do it for the best of the team moving forward.” • • • Joe Cannon and Chris Leitch, the two player representatives from the team in the players’ union, returned to San Jose in time to catch the end of the match. After the game, they were able to inform the rest of the team the details on the CBA in preparation for a full vote expected in the near future. A CBA for 2010 has been reached in principle, but still requires both the league Board of Governors and the full MLS Players’ Union members to vote on ratification.

• • •

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Portland Timbers
March 20, 2010 — Buck Shaw Stadium, Santa Clara

Attendance: 3152

Scoring Summary: SJ — Cornell Glen (Omar Jessey) 71; POR — Scot Thompson (Rodrigo Lopez) 80

Misconduct Summary: None

San Jose Earthquakes: — Andrew Weber, Steven Beitashour, Jason Hernandez, Ike Opara, Ramiro Corrales, Joey Gjertsen (Omar Jessey 63), Andre Luiz (Brandon McDonald 75), Javier Robles (Ramon Sanchez 75), Bobby Convey, Arturo Alvarez (Cornell Glen 46), Ryan Johnson (Quincy Amarikwa 78).

Statistics: — Shots 8; Shots on Goal 4; Saves 1; Fouls 8; Offside 5; Corner Kicks 4.

Portland Timbers: — Steve Cronin (Matt Pyzdrowski 80), Quevas Kirk, Stephen Keel (Rodrigo Lopez 56), Ian Joy, Mamadou Danso (Scot Thompson 75), Ryan Pore, James Marcelin, Alex Nimo, Derek Gaudet (Troy McManus 46), O.J. Obatola (Josh Cameron 82), George Josten (Doug DeMartin 69).

Statistics: — Shots 4; Shots on Goal 2; Saves 3; Fouls 15; Offside 2; Corner Kicks 1.