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Quakes drop opener 3-0 to Salt Lake

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The defensive play of the game may have come from RSL defender Jamison Olave, who blocked this shot in the early minutes of the match. "(The Earthquakes) had a tremendous amount of chances in the game and a clear-cut scoring chance where Jamison Olave made a fantastic defensive play," RSL head coach Jason Kreis said afterward. Photo: Joe Nuxoll, centerlinesoccer.com. 

Center Line Soccer's complete coverage includes a photo gallery and audio interviews with players and coaches from both teams.

Santa Clara — "No matter how you look at it, it's not good." That's how San Jose Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop summed up his team's 2010 season opener, a 3-0 loss to Real Salt Lake.

The Quakes largest-ever crowd at Buck Shaw Stadium, 10,589, saw a game that goalkeeper Joe Cannon called "embarrassing." The defense that had earned a string of clean sheets in preseason play was down 2-0 before the game was half an hour old, and as for the offense, Yallop said, "We still have some work to do with our play going to goal."

"We were second best tonight in a lot of categories," Jason Hernandez said.

Javier Morales was the hero of the night for RSL, scoring a pair of goals and setting up the third. Salt Lake took the lead in the 14th minute when Morales knocked down a Fabian Espindola pass and slammed a 30-yard half-volley that screamed past San Jose's goalkeeper into the top right hand corner of the net.

"The Morales goal was probably one of the better goals I've seen here," Yallop said.

"That’s not a goal that you think about," the RSL star said after the match. "You just get the ball and you execute."

San Jose looked on the verge of equalizing in the 23rd minute, when RSL's Nat Borchers fell to the turf trying to defend Ike Opara's long ball to Ryan Johnson, leaving Johnson an open path to goal. But Johnson's first touch at the top of the box was not a good one, and by the time he could get a shot off RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando had come of his line to meet Johnson near the penalty spot and snuff out the chance.

"You look at the chances we had," Yallop said, "at 1-0, Ryan Johnson usually scores that, and that makes a difference in the game."

Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando agreed with Yallop's assessment. "It was just one of those things where the ball bounces and you have time to react and get in a better position. We’re 1-0 up; if they score that, I think the game is different."

Instead of a tie game, San Jose soon found themselves down 2-0. In the 27th minute, Morales played a pass through the middle to Espindola, who controlled the bouncing ball and chipped a shot from the top of the penalty area over an onrushing Joe Cannon and into the empty net.

The Earthquakes made a couple of changes at the half, ending midfielder Javier Robles' MLS debut and pulling Bobby Convey off as well, but newcomers Joey Gjertsen and Brandon McDonald weren't much more effective.

RSL got their third goal in the 53rd minute. A Rimando goal kick was flicked on to Espindola breaking in alone on goal. Chris Leitch challenged Espindola from behind, knocking the RSL forward down as he raced into the penalty area. The play earned Leitch a red card, and RSL a free kick from inches outside the box. On the restart,  Morales bent a shot around the wall and into the top right corner of the net.

"Joe didn't have a chance on any of the goals," Yallop said. "At least with 10 men we kept going and didn't completely buckle under,  and actually had a couple chances to score."

RSL head coach Jason Kreis was also impressed with the Earthquakes' determination. "Obviously to lose a game 3-0 at home in the first game of the year is an extremely negative thing, but if I was Frank (Yallop) right now I think there’s a lot of positives to take out of that game as well, especially how they reacted to being a man down," he said. "That’s when they created probably the majority of their chances."

At the hour mark, Arturo Alvarez slalomed through the RSL defense, dribbling in from the left wing and firing from a tight angle, but Rimando got a piece of the shot, deflecting it off the near post. The rebound fell to Andre Luiz near the penalty spot, but his effort sailed over the crossbar.

In the 74th minute, Rimando had to make another save from close range after Brandon McDonald chased down a Joey Gjertsen pass near the end line and pulled it back for Ryan Johnson to fire on goal.

RSL almost netted a fourth goal in the 78th minute. A bad back pass was stolen by Alvaro Saborio, and when Joe Cannon came out to challenge him, it left the net wide open. Saborio pulled a pass back to  Robbie Findley, whose shot looked like a sure goal, but a hustling Ramiro Corrales stretched to clear it off the line.

The game left Frank Yallop searching for positives. He said rookie defender Ike Opara "did okay" in his MLS debut, though he thought Opara "looked a little nervous at times." Yallop said another eagerly awaited  newcomer, Eduardo, was scratched with a hip strain, but that "his visa stuff is sorted out," and that he "will have a good two weeks of practice and then we'll see if he features in the game in Chicago."

The Earthquakes can look at the gold star on their opponent's shirt and take heart in the fact that the defending MLS Cup Champions lost more games last year during the regular season (12) than they won (11). But San Jose will have to put together a much stronger showing going forward than they did Saturday night to entertain any playoff hopes. The Earthquakes get a short break before traveling  to Toyota Park to play the Chicago Fire April 10.

"It is a long season, but I can't keep saying that," Yallop said. "We need to pick ourselves up and look forward to our next game in a couple weeks, and try and get a result in Chicago."

• • •

San Jose Earthquakes (0-1-0) vs. Real Salt Lake (1-0-0)
March 27, 2010 – Buck Shaw Stadium
Attendance: 10,589

Scoring Summary: RSL - Javier Morales (Robbie Findley) 14; RSL - Fabian Espindola (unassisted) 27; RSL - Javier Morales (unassisted) 54.

Misconduct Summary:  RSL - Ned Grabavoy (caution) 39; SJ - Chris Leitch (ejection) 52; SJ - Brandon McDonald (caution) 57; RSL - Jamison Olave (caution) 64; SJ - Ike Opara (caution) 90.

San Jose Earthquakes -- Joe Cannon, Chris Leitch, Jason Hernandez, Ike Opara, Ramiro Corrales, Arturo Alvarez, Andre Luiz, Javier Robles (Brandon McDonald 46), Bobby Convey (Joey Gjertsen 46), Ryan Johnson, Cornell Glen (Quincy Amarikwa 83).

Statistics:  Shots 14; Shots on Goal 4; Saves 2; Fouls 11; Offsides 0; Corner Kicks 5.

Real Salt Lake: -- Nick Rimando, Robbie Russell, Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers (Rauwshan McKenzie 63), Chris Wingert, Ned Grabavoy (Andy Williams 64), Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Will Johnson, Fabian Espindola (Alvaro Saborio 72), Robbie Findley.

Statistics:  Shots 12; Shots on Goal 6; Saves 4; Fouls 15; Offsides 2; Corner Kicks 4.