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SANTA CLARA — San Jose earned another valuable point in their run for the playoffs Saturday night, battling FC Dallas to a scoreless draw at Buck Shaw Stadium.
In a game that saw referee Ricardo Salazar turn a blind eye to a lot of physical play, San Jose limited the Hoops to one shot on goal on the night and raised their record to 9-7-6, good for 33 points and a five point advantage in the chase for the last playoff spot.
The tie stretched FC Dallas’ unbeaten streak to a club record 14 games, as the Hoops earned their fourth consecutive clean sheet. The Hoops 10-2-11 record is currently fourth best in the league.
San Jose coach Frank Yallop called the draw a “fair result.” “I thought our guys fought hard,” Yallop said. “Our back four and goalkeeper were excellent. I thought we created enough chances to score a goal. (Dallas) had a few sniffs here and there, but all in all, I’m pretty happy with a point, and disappointed we didn’t get three.”
“We played some good soccer tonight,” goalkeeper Jon Busch said. “Defensively, we played very well. I think it was one of our best games. I didn’t really have to see much, the guys in front of me did a great job.”
Saturday’s game saw the return to action of Eduardo, playing in just his second game of an injury-scarred season. The Brazilian forward came on in the 70th minute, and provided some spark up front, even if he couldn’t hit the back of the net
“The game changed a little bit when he came on,” Yallop said. “He held the ball well, was dangerous. He found his feet after a few minutes, and I saw good stuff coming from him. He actually could have scored the winning goal.”
Earthquakes fans saw a preview of coming attractions when Eduardo and Geovanni teamed on a long give and go in the 87th minute. Eduardo stretched to reach the return pass inside the penalty area and volley it on goal, but his effort missed wide left.
“Great ball from Geovanni,” Yallop said. “Eddie makes some good runs, he’s dangerous, and we’re expecting good things from him this year.”
While the return of Eduardo was welcomed, San Jose was without one of their top offensive stars, as Khari Stephenson had to sit out the game with an ankle injury suffered in training. The Earthquakes had won three out of four since Stephenson joined the line up, and with the Jamaican international out and Sam Cronin sidelined due to a red card suspension, Frank Yallop had to make some adjustments to his midfield.
Geovanni started the game as a midfielder, but occasionally let Chris Wondolowski play that role, moving up top to partner with Cornell Glen. Brad Ring, getting his second career start, was the holding midfielder, with Arturo Alvarez and Bobby Convey on the wings.
“We missed Khari,” Yallop said. “He’s been dominant in the games he’s played this season.”
Though San Jose tried to push the action in the first half, the opening 45 minutes was a stalemate, played between the boxes. The Earthquakes best chance came in the ninth minute when Cornell Glen, who’s been consistently good about getting into dangerous positions, and just as consistent in failing to finish off the play, dribbled through defender Zach Lloyd to break into the penalty area. But Glen’s touch was a bit strong, allowing Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman time to come out and smother his shot.
Dallas was having just as much trouble breaking down the San Jose defense. A 40 yard free kick by Daniel Hernandez was hit well, but straight at goalkeeper Jon Busch. It was the only save Busch had to make all evening.
The second half saw more shooting from both teams, but almost always from long distance, and rarely on target. In the first 15 minutes after intermission, Cornell Glen and Arturo Alvarez had open looks from 25-30 yards but did nothing to bother Kevin Hartman. Heath Pierce tried a couple long range shots of his own for Dallas, with the same results.
Dallas’ best chance to score came in the 77th minute, when Brek Shea teed up David Ferreira at the top of the arc for a shot that missed high and wide.
When Eduardo replaced Glen in the 70th minute, San Jose seemed destined to finally break through. A nifty back heel pass soon after he entered the game brought some “oohs” from the crowd, but the Dallas defense proved to be as stingy as Sane Jose’s. Eager to make the difference, Eduardo earned a yellow for jumping into Hartman while trying to chase down a long ball near the end of regulation time.
With two of the three teams closest to the playoff chase, Chicago and Toronto, both losing their games Saturday, San Jose is looking more and more like a club ready to print playoff tickets.
Next up: San Jose hosts Philadelphia Wednesday night at Buck Shaw, while Dallas returns home to face New York Thursday.
San Jose Earthquakes
Head coach Frank Yallop
San Jose Earthquakes (9-7-6) vs. FC Dallas (10-2-11)
Sept. 11, 2010 – Buck Shaw Stadium
Scoring Summary: None
Misconduct Summary: DAL – Eric Alexander (caution) 42; SJ – Eduardo (caution) 88.
San Jose Earthquakes – Jon Busch, Tim Ward, Brandon McDonald, Jason Hernandez, Chris Leitch, Bobby Convey, Brad Ring, Geovanni, Arturo Alvarez (Ryan Johnson 81), Chris Wondolowski, Cornell Glen (Eduardo 70).
Statistics: Shots: 9; Shots on Goal: 2; Saves: 1; Fouls: 9; Offsides: 2; Corners: 3.
FC Dallas – Kevin Hartman, Heath Pearce, Jackson Goncalves (Kyle Davies 69), Zach Loyd, Jair Benitez, Atiba Harris (Marvin Chavez 62), Eric Alexander, Daniel Hernandez, Brek Shea, Jeff Cunningham (Ruben Luna 83), David Ferreira.
Statistics: Shots: 10; Shots on Goal: 1; Saves: 2; Fouls: 14; Offsides: 3; Corners: 7.