(Santa Clara, CA) For San Jose fans looking on the bright side, Saturday’s game against Portland wasn’t a loss, and it wasn’t scoreless. In fact, it was just the second time all year that the Earthquakes have salvaged a point after trailing at halftime. But once again, there were few positives to take away from a trip to Buck Shaw Stadium.
Alan Gordon’s second half goal, his first in a San Jose shirt, lifted the Earthquakes to a 1-1 tie with the expansion Portland Timbers. The result stretches the Earthquakes’ winless streak to 10 games, and they have slid to four points shy of 10th place, the last spot in the MLS playoff chase.
And, it looks like they may be without Saturday’s goal scorer for the next 3-5 weeks. Gordon told reporters he has a double hernia, and will be seeing a doctor Monday to get a second opinion on whether he needs surgery.
“It was pretty painful out there, but I did the best I could,” Gordon said. “(The injury) is something that happened to me about three months ago. I think that Toronto misdiagnosed me. As soon as I saw a doctor here it was a clear case, which is frustrating. I could have had this taken care of a long time ago. I’ve been trying to play through it, but I have to get it fixed to be 100 percent and help this club.”
Satuday’s match set up as a “must win” for San Jose, the middle game of a three game home stand against a side that’s one point ahead of them in the standings (with a game in hand). Frank Yallop started the night by changing half his field players from last week’s loss to DC United. Some familiar faces return to San Jose’s defensive four, as Jason Hernandez and Steven Beitashour both came off the injured list to line up alongside Bobby Burling, who was back after a one-game suspension. Veteran Ramiro Corrales played left back, allowing Bobby Convey to move up to left midfield. Joey Gjertsen got his first start in six games at right midfield, and Sam Cronin and Brad Ring held the middle of midfield, pushing Khari Stephenson to the bench. With Steve Lenhart on indefinite family leave, Scott Sealy started the game alongside Chris Wondolowski at forward.
On the Portland side of the ball, the Timbers were missing their leading scorer and team captain, Jack Jewsbury, out nursing a strained hamstring, while midfielder Diego Chara was forced to sit out due to yellow card accumulation.
Portland opened the scoring in the 23rd minute thanks to some nice passing, and a well timed run from Jorge Perlaza. Jeremy Hall released Perlaza down the right side, and with no defenders to bother him, Perlaza hit a centering pass to Kenny Cooper for an easy tap in.
Portland looked to double their lead after intermission, when again Hall and Perlaza combined to beat the ‘Quakes high defensive line. In the 53rd minute, Hall chipped a long ball forward, and Perlaza outraced Ramiro Corrales, creating an open shot from a tight angle on the right side. Perlaza tried to beat San Jose’s Jon Busch to the near post, but the San Jose net minder was up to the task and pushed the shot away.
In the 56th minute, Alan Gordon replaced Scott Sealy, and the San Jose offense perked up a bit. Just past the hour mark, a poor clearance by the Portland defense fell to Sam Cronin at the top of the penalty area. Cronin tried to curl a shot to the top right corner of the net; his shot clipped the top off the cross bar as it went high.
San Jose did find the equalizer soon afterwards. In the 67th minute, Steve Beitashour carried the ball up the right wing and chipped a diagonal ball to Alan Gordon. Gordon’s snap header from 15 yards was perfectly placed, beating Portland goalkeeper Troy Perkins inside the left post to even the score at 1-1. Gordon’s goal also ended San Jose’s scoreless streak at 283 minutes.
“I’m really proud of the guys, the way they played tonight. They battled well, they moved the ball, tried to do the things that we asked of them, really stuck to the game plan, and were unlucky not to get something out of it,” San Jose coach Frank Yallop said.
San Jose was also a bit lucky not to lose the game altogether. At the end of regulation time, Jeremy Hall had plenty of space as he came down the right wing, and found Lovel Palmer unmarked near the penalty spot. Palmer’s first shot was blocked by Steve Beitashour, but the rebound came back to him. Palmer’s second chance deflected off of Brad Ring and over the cross bar.
With 11 games left on the schedule, and 9 days left in the transfer window, San Jose GM John Doyle is visiting Brazil, looking for some players to breathe new life into his team’s playoff chances. “He’s still searching, but it’s never easy,” Yallop said. “Until you get a real chance of signing somebody, I don’t like talking about it.”
“It’s not like we’re out of it,” Yallop said of the Earthquakes playoff chase. “We’ve got to start picking up some wins for sure, but I’d like to think we can win at least enough to get in the playoffs. We’ve tied a lot of games we should have won, tied six of the last 10. But the table doesn’t lie. We’re sitting where we’re sitting. It’s all up to us to do. The group’s together, we feel we can do it.”
Alan Gordon agrees. “This team showed it last year. We’re more than capable of (making the playoffs). We have the players to do it,” Gordon said. “ I want to get back so I can be part of it.”
San Jose will host the MLS Cup Champion Colorado Rapids next Saturday at Buck Shaw Stadium.
(Photo: Joe Nuxoll, centerlinesoccer.com)
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (5-8-10) VS PORTLAND TIMBERS (7-10-5)
August 6, 2011 — Buck Shaw Stadium
Scoring Summary: POR — Kenny Cooper (Jorge Perlaza) 23; SJ — Alan Gordon (Steven Beitashour) 67.
Misconduct Summary: SJ — Bobby Burling (caution) 14; POR — Lovel Palmer (caution) 51; POR — Jeremy Hall 70; SJ — Bobby Convey (caution) 75; POR — Jeremy Hall (ejection) 90.
San Jose Earthquakes — Jon Busch, Steven Beitashour, Jason Hernandez, Bobby Burling, Ramiro Corrales, Joey Gjertsen (Rafael Baca 82), Sam Cronin (Khari Stephenson 64), Brad Ring, Bobby Convey, Scott Sealy (Alan Gordon 57), Chris Wondolowski.
Statistics — Total Shots: 11; Shots on Goal: 4; Saves: 3; Fouls: 11; Offside: 2; Corner Kicks: 3.
Portland Timbers — Troy Perkins, Jeremy Hall, Eric Brunner, David Horst, Mike Chabala, Darlington Nagbe (Kalif Alhassan 73), Sal Sizzo, James Marcelin, Lovel Palmer, Kenny Cooper (Mamadou Danso 90), Jorge Perlaza (Bright Dike 80).
Statistics — Total Shots: 9; Shots on Goal: 5; Saves: 3; Fouls: 9; Offside: 2; Corner Kicks: 4.