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San Jose Earthquakes fail to hold lead, settle for 1-1 draw with defending MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids

The San Jose Earthquakes broke a three-game losing streak to the Colorado Rapids with a 1-1 draw Saturday night at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, CO. Following a 19th minute goal from team leading scorer Chris Wondolowski, the home side tied the score off a Drew Moor equalizer in the 71st minute. For the Earthquakes, it was the eighth time this season that they have failed to protect a lead and have either lost or drawn the game.

“It’s tough, you want to go in there, and you score the early goal and that should be enough to get the shutout and win one-nothing,” said second year defender Steven Beitashour on surrendering the lead. “It’s disappointing. I felt like they had a couple of back-to-back-to-back corners, and just, bounce, bounce, and it got in. so it’s disappointing.”

The Earthquakes continued to play well using their found-again possession tactics that they used to mixed effect to open the 2011 season. After some early moments in the game when they were tested on defense by the speed of the Rapids, the Quakes settled in to a new rhythm of pass-and-run soccer. As the game progressed to the 18th minute, Wondolowski broke through to give the visitors a one goal lead.

“We knew we were trying to play a possession game. That’s something we’ve really been doing a lot better lately,” said Wondolowski. “Moving the ball from side to side and getting crosses in. Khari [Stephenson] has a great shot and he was able to find a little space and it hit off right. It came out pretty hot, it was a pretty big rebound but I’ll take those any day.”

The initial shot from Stephenson handcuffed Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens, and the rebound fell directly to the onrushing Wondolowski. With only Pickens to beat, Wondo smoothly sent the ball inside the right post and into the net for his 11th goal of the season, and his 32nd all-time with the Earthquakes. The Quakes leading scorer this season and last is now tied with Landon Donovan for number 2 on the San Jose Earthquakes career goals list.

For over 50 minutes following the Wondolowski goal, the Earthquakes looked certain to get another, but time and time again they were frustrated by a lack of quality finishing. Even when they did get open shots, goalkeeper Pickens was able to make the necessary saves. The team’s inability to double their advantage would prove costly as the game reached the 70th minute.

Following an acrobatic save by Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch off a Drew Moor header in the 70th minute, the Rapids surged forward to flood the area on the ensuing corner kick. As the ball settled into a thicket of players in front of goal, a rushed clearance attempt by Ramiro Corrales found the foot of Rapids midfielder Jeff Larentowicz. The Rapids MVP slammed the ball at goal, where Wondolowski was able to deflect the ball off the line. Unfortunately for the Quakes, Moor pounced on the loose ball and opportunistically bundled it past Busch and into the open goal to tie the game at one goal apiece.

With Colorado wrestling control of the match over the final 20 minutes, goalkeeper Busch came up huge on some clutch saves to preserve the tie and give the Quakes one point for their effort.

“Jon [Busch]’s in there to make those saves and he does,” said head coach Frank Yallop. “He stays calm, he stays focused and doesn’t panic, and makes the saves he should. On the first one, he’s always in a good spot, it was right at him and he saved it. I think the one that he kicked out, they weren’t ‘routine’ saves but they’re saves I know Jon can make. It’s good to see him doing that, not panicking and not getting flustered.”

While the Earthquakes were the better team for much of the game, they did well just to hang on for the draw. In the end, their second straight road result was not enough to save their flagging hopes to qualify for the postseason, but it was a sign that the days of their summer doldrums appear to be a thing of the past.

“I think the result was probably fair in the end, but I felt that for a good 55 to 60 minutes that we should have scored more than one goal. If it had been two-nil, it would have been a lot harder for Colorado to get back in the game. But give credit to them, they kept going and got the goal and then had some chances at the end, but I still think the game all hangs in our inability to score the second goal.”

The Earthquakes return to action this weekend with a home match at Buck Shaw Stadium against Sporting Kansas City.

(Photos: Joe Nuxoll, centerlinesoccer.com)

San Jose Earthquakes (6-11-13) vs. Colorado Rapids (10-9-12)
September 24, 2011 – Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
Attendance: 17,877

Scoring Summary: SJ — Chris Wondolowski (unassisted) 19; COL — Drew Moor (unassisted) 71.

Misconduct Summary: SJ — Simon Dawkins (caution) 43; SJ — Brad Ring (caution) 52; COL — Drew Moor (caution) 53; COL — Caleb Folan (caution) 63; SJ — Steven Beitashour (caution) 76.

Colorado Rapids — Matt Pickens, Kosuke Kimura, Marvell Wynne, Drew Moor, Miguel Comminges (Wells Thompson 90), Sanna Nyassi, Jeff Larentowicz, Pablo Mastroeni, Jamie Smith (Brian Mullan 58), Omar Cummings (Macoumba Kandji 65), Caleb Folan.

Statistics: Total shots: 14; Shots on goal: 6; Saves: 3; Fouls: 9; Offside: 8; Corner kicks: 7.

San Jose Earthquakes — Jon Busch, Steven Beitashour, Bobby Burling, Nana Attakora (Brad Ring 30), Justin Morrow, Jacob Peterson (Joey Gjertsen 66), Rafael Baca (Maxwell Griffin 83), Ramiro Corrales, Simon Dawkins, Khari Stephenson, Chris Wondolowski.

Statistics: Total shots: 14; Shots on goal: 4; Saves: 5; Fouls: 14; Offsides: 4; Corner kicks: 6.