Ike Opara basks in congratulations from his teammates after scoring his second goal in two games. Photo: Joe Nuxoll, centerlinesoccer.com
(Santa Clara) For the first time since rejoining MLS, the San Jose Earthquakes have a winning record. Second half goals by Chris Wondolowski and Ike Opara and Joe Cannon's first clean sheet of the season lifted San Jose past New England 2-0 Saturday night, improving their record to 2-1-0.
Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop called the game "One of our better performances since I've been back here."
"Our all around play was great, very solid, very dynamic going forward," Yallop said. "The way we played was more like what I want. I think now we have an understanding of what it takes to shut teams down here. I feel if we can play like that most of home games, we'll be fine."
New England was missing a few familiar faces as Revs team captain Shalrie Joseph joined Matt Reis and Taylor Twellman on the disabled list, and was replaced in midfield by Pat Phelan. Marko Perovic got the nod at forward for New England over Kheli Dube, playing alongside last week's hat trick hero Zach Schilawski.
For San Jose, Wondolowski was the one change San Jose made in the line up that beat Chicago last weekend, starting in place of the injured Alturo Alvarez. Playing in front of his family, Wondo made the most of his first playing time of 2010, scoring the game winner in the 57th minute.
"Chris works really hard in training, and when he gets his chance, he's not afraid to play," Yallop said. "That's a sign of a good pro."
The Earthquakes dominated from the opening whistle, but at intermission they had nothing to show for it on the score board. Three minutes into the match, a corner kick reached Ramiro Corrales at the far post 10 yards from goal, but his header dribbled weakly wide left.
San Jose continually pounded the left side of the New England defense throughout the first half, creating several more scoring chances. Andre Luiz had a little trouble trapping down Ryan Johnson's cross from the right wing in the seventh minute, but his shot from 15 yards forced Revolution goalkeeper Peston Burpo to make a diving save.
Burpo was called on to make another diving save five minutes later, as a Bobby Convey cross from the right wing found Chris Wondolowski open in front of the net. Wondolowski should have done better with his header from eight yards, as Burpo was again able to push it clear of goal.
The Earthquakes left a golden opportunity wanting in the 32nd minute. Again from the right side, Andre Luiz hooked a free kick to Ike Opara bursting on goal, but the rookie's header went straight to the New England goalkeeper.
"We got in (at halftime) and regrouped and said hey, you've got to do exactly the same thing you did the first half," Yallop said. "You can't start to sit back and try to catch them on the break, you have to force the issue and make sure we're putting them under pressure, Most of our good chances came from us putting them under pressure by making it difficult to play in their own half. I thought it was a great display of fighting for the ball tonight, and good things happen when you do that."
New England almost went on top against the run of play in the 52nd minute. Off a corner kick, Zack Schilawski's header was blocked by Bobby Convey guarding right post.
San Jose took a well deserved lead soon afterwards. In the 57th minute, Joey Jertsen fed Ryan Johnson, who carried the ball up the right side before slipping a pass through a pair of defenders to Wondolowski inside the penalty area. Wondolowski slid home the shot from 10 yards out, before going over to celebrate in front of his father and brother who were attending the match.
"It's great scoring in front of them," Wondolowski said. "I have to tip my hat to Ryan Johnson. That was an unbelievable ball, and all I had to do was just tap it in, so I thank him."
San Jose doubled their lead in the 72nd minute. Bobby Convey looped a corner kick to the far post for Ike Opara to run on to, and the rookie from Wake Forrest buried a header from close range.
"Another great ball by Bobby Convey," Opara said. "I think we can make a good living off of his passes. He put it back in to the back stick, and I was able to get by my man and finish it off."
Besides scoring the second goal of his young career, Opara was part of a defense that stymied New England throughout the night. "You saw a work ethic from (the defense) that was great," Joe Cannon said. "It's great to see this team work so hard, and the energy and the (work) ethic that (the defense) provided, that's all you can ask for."
Cannon did not have much work to do in earning a clean sheet, and winning the 100th game of his MLS career. In stoppage time, he was finally tested and came up big, blocking a Zak Boggs shot, then saving Kheli Dube's effort on the rebound to preserve the shut out.
"I'm happy that we could get a shutout because these guys worked so hard defensively tonight that they all earned it," Cannon said. "That effort tonight, I don't think people have seen that here for a while."
The only discouraging words in the post game locker room concerned Ike Opara's schedule, and whether he'll be available for the next match as he finishes up his school work. "Right now, I'm hitting a little conflict. Frank's been very open about it, my teachers have been very open about it, so I'm going to see what I can work out this week so I can be back (by the next game)" Opara said. "We'll see what I can do. Finals, projects, papers, group projects, it's been a lot of work but I've enjoyed it so far. This is my first conflict coming up, so we'll see what I can do with it."
Coach Yallop didn't sound too worried, either about Opara or his club in general. "He's scored two goals in two games, and the future's very bright for him," Yallop said of Opara. As for the game, it was "a much deserved win. Hopefully it propels us to a good nice confident run."
The Earthquakes will try to continue their winning ways as they travel to Los Angeles to face Chivas USA next Saturday.
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San Jose Earthquakes vs. New England Revolution
April 17, 2010 – Buck Shaw Stadium
Scoring Summary: SJ – Chris Wondolowski (Ryan Johnson, Joey Gjertsen) 57; Ike Opara (Bobby Convey) 72.
Misconduct Summary: NE – Joseph Niouky (caution) 16.
San Jose Earthquakes – Joe Cannon, Steven Beitashour, Jason Hernandez, Ike Opara, Ramiro Corrales, Joey Gjertsen, Brandon McDonald, Andre Luiz, Bobby Convey, Ryan Johnson (Ramon Sanchez 92+), Chris Wondolowski.
Statistics: Shots: 14; Shots on Goal: 6; Fouls: 6; Offsides: 3; Corners: 6.
New England – Preston Burpo, Kevin Alston, Cory Gibbs, Darrius Barnes, Seth Sinovic (Zak Boggs 82), Sainey Nyassi (Kheli Dube 69), Pat Phelan, Joseph Niouky, Chris Tierney, Zack Schilawski (Kenny Mansally 85), Marko Perovic.
Statistics: Shots: 15; Shots on Goal: 7; Fouls: 8; Offsides: 4; Corners: 4.