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San Jose Earthquakes dominate Toronto FC in impressive 3-0 road victory

In the aftermath of a 1-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo last weekend in which the team squandered a number of quality scoring opportunities, the San Jose Earthquakes answered their critics with a thorough demolition of hapless Toronto FC in a 3-0 victory at BMO Field. The clean-sheet road win for the Earthquakes helped ease the sting of the loss to the Dynamo, and proved that all the talk of the team improving on offense could be backed up with an impressive on-field goal scoring outburst.

An early goal from striker Chris Wondolowski set the stage for the Earthquakes, who after weathering a fast paced first half to enter the locker room with a one goal lead, had no problems holding off Toronto for the match’s second stanza. On a fine counterattack ten minutes into the second half, the Earthquakes doubled their lead through Shea Salinas, and in the 68th minute, Wondolowski made it 3-0 with a clinical finish from a Rafael Baca crossing pass.

The Earthquakes did not have as many shot attempts this week — just 11 compared to 22 against the Dynamo — but they were able to finish their opportunities with aplomb. The first goal was a direct result of a constant pressure from the Earthquakes attacking corps that began with the opening whistle, while the second and third goals came courtesy of fine defense resulting in counterattacking chances. Head coach Frank Yallop was pleased with how the game planned worked out for his side.

“Yes, very happy,” said Yallop during his post-game press conference. “We came in trying to get behind their back four and we accomplished that quite a few times, especially in the second half. It's nice to see what you work all week in practice come out in the game.”

The Earthquakes started brightly at BMO Field — a venue in which they have never lost — and had a listless Toronto FC side pinned into their defensive end from the opening kickoff. The pressure paid off in the 9th minute following a corner kick that was earned after a right-footed blast was turned around the goalpost from TFC ‘keeper Milos Kocic. Marvin Chavez sent the set-piece kick into the area, but former Earthquakes forward Ryan Johnson headed it out of danger. Sam Cronin received the ball and quickly turned it back to Chavez in the corner. The speedy winger sent it right back for Cronin, and he sent a floating cross to the top of the six-yard box for Wondolowski to guide into the back of the net with a well-placed header.

“If you watched today how we started, it’s not good,” said a very disappointed Toronto FC head coach Aron Winter in his post-game comments. “You can always lose a game, but the way we began the game, it was not good. It was like we didn’t want to play.”

The early goal staked the Earthquakes to a 1-0 lead, and seemed to wake Toronto up from their opening game slumber. However, as they have done all season, the San Jose defense kept their opponent at bay while under duress. Honduran international Victor Bernardez continued to show his class on the back line, sniffing out danger at every TFC foray into the attacking third and ensuring the Earthquakes protected their lead to the halftime whistle.

While both teams made adjustments at the interval, it was the Earthquakes that came out with the better effort in the second 45 minutes. Forced to increase their effort in attack, the Earthquakes settled into a more defend-and-counterattack strategy that worked to perfection. In the 56th minute, Steven Beitashour intercepted a deep pass attempt toward the right touchline and raced forward in possession into the Toronto half. Just shy of the penalty area, he slid a pass to his right to an open Chavez, who, eschewing a shot on goal, sent a pass back through the area that eluded a trio of Earthquakes attackers before being met by the left foot of Salinas. With a clear shot on goal, the Earthquakes left winger smashed the ball past Kocic and into the net to double the San Jose lead.

“We were pushing, pushing, trying to get that equalizer,” explained former Earthquakes forward Ryan Johnson in his post match comments. “We threw numbers forward and we got caught on the counter, and they did a good job finishing on the counter. That’s something that happens.”

The goal seemed to stun TFC, who despite having added attackers on the field, did little to test the Earthquakes defense for the next ten minutes. In the 68th minute, San Jose put together a clever sequence to take their lead to three goals to nil after a takeaway near midfield.

Receiving a long pass midway through the Toronto half, San Jose target forward Steven Lenhart collected the ball and passed back to Cronin near midfield. The former TFC man drove a one-touch pass back up the center of the field to second half substitute Baca, who turned and ran the ball into the area. Electing not to shot, Baca sent a hard cross through the six-yard box to Wondolowski, who after initially fumbling the pass, composed himself and drilled a low shot on target that beat goalkeeper Kocic. The left footed shot earned Wondolowski a brace on the day, and took his season tally to three goals.

Wondolowski almost scored a hat-trick in the game, as he missed an opportunity late in the match following a moment of individual brilliance from second half substitute Simon Dawkins. The Englishman took a pass down the left wing toward the byline before shaking off a TFC defender with a beautiful stutter step move. His hard crossing pass was met at the far post by Wondolowski, but with only an open net in view, he deflected the ball off the goal post.

The match-up with the only MLS franchise still alive in the CONCACAF Champions League was expected to be a more competitive affair, but the Earthquakes dominated on both sides of the ball to earn the 3-0 victory. For holding midfielder Sam Cronin — who earned his first assist of the season on Wondolowski’s first goal and probably deserved a secondary assist on his second, the convincing win was a nice way to start the team’s two game road trip that concludes this weekend against the Seattle Sounders.

“It feels good, great to get the win most importantly, much needed,” said Cronin following the match. “Our first road win, good to set a precedent continuing into next weekend’s game in Seattle who is a tough team to play on the road.”

The Earthquakes will play a Reserve League contest at their training facility Tuesday morning at 11 a.m. against the Portland Timbers FC reserves, before finishing their week of preparation for the Sounders with a departure to Seattle Friday afternoon.

(Photo: Joe Nuxoll, centerlinesoccer.com)

San Jose Earthquakes (2-1-0) at Toronto FC (0-2-0)
March 23, 2012 – BMO Field
Attendance: 20,753

Scoring Summary: SJ  Chris Wondolowski (Sam Cronin) 9; SJ  Shea Salinas (Marvin Chavez) 57; SJ  Chris Wondolowski (Rafael Baca) 68.

Misconduct Summary: SJ  Ramiro Corrales (caution) 36; SJ  Steven Beitashour (caution) 52.

San Jose Earthquakes — Jon Busch, Steven Beitashour, Victor Bernardez, Justin Morrow, Ramiro Corrales, Marvin Chavez (Khari Stephenson 72), Sam Cronin, Tressor Moreno (Rafael Baca 57), Shea Salinas (Simon Dawkins 85), Chris Wondolowski, Steven Lenhart.

Statistics — Total Shots: 11; Shots on Goal: 6; Saves: 1; Fouls: 16; Offside: 4; Corner Kicks: 5.

Toronto FC — Milos Kocic, Richard Eckersley, Miguel Aceval, Ty Harden (Aaron Maund 64), Ashtone Morgan, Luis Silva, Julian de Guzman, Terry Dunfield (Danny Koevermans 46), Joao Plata (Nick Soolsma 85), Reggie Lambe, Ryan Johnson.

Statistics — Total Shots: 13; Shots on Goal: 1; Saves: 3; Fouls: 6; Offsides: 3; Corner Kicks: 9.