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Costly injuries to Bernardez, Salinas sour San Jose Earthquakes 2-2 draw at New York Red Bulls

The San Jose Earthquakes fought valiantly to twice come back from one goal deficits to earn a 2-2 draw against the New York Red Bulls. All the goals in the contest came before the halftime whistle, as scores from the Red Bulls Kenny Cooper and Dax McCarty were answered by equalizers from Earthquakes Rafael Baca and Chris Wondolowski.

The goals from Cooper and Wondolowski were the seventh each for the two forwards, and brought both players level with New York’s Thierry Henry at the top of the 2012 MLS Golden Boot race. Wondolowski also earned a secondary assist on the Baca goal for his first set-up point of the 2012 season. Meanwhile, for second year midfielder Baca, his goal was his first of the season, and sent an early message to New York that San Jose would not capitulate to their Red Bull Arena hosts.

“We started a little slow and we didn’t match their intensity at the start of the game so we fell behind early,” said Baca in his post game comments. “However, we showed a lot of fight in coming back. This team has done it before and we proved it again tonight that you can’t count us out. It was a very good performance by the team and we came close to getting three points.”

As the first half drew to a close, with the score already at 2-2, the Earthquakes were forced to make a pair of substitutions due to two devastating injuries. In the course of a single sequence of play from a corner kick, midfielder Shea Salinas had his left clavicle broken courtesy of a take-down by Red Bulls designated player Rafa Marquez and defender Victor Bernardez sprained his left medial collateral ligament in a collision with New York goalkeeper Ryan Meara. Both injuries will likely cost the two Earthquakes starters a number of weeks — possibly months — in the early MLS season.

The second half was all San Jose, as the visitors controlled possession in and around the center line, but they could not break through for a third goal. For long stretches of the second stanza, the Earthquakes clearly frustrated the home team and forced them to gamble with long aerial passes that took them out of their preferred game. However, neither side was able to take the full spoils, and the Earthquakes left New York with a hard fought by costly point.

“I thought that we had a good performance tonight,” stated head coach Frank Yallop in his post game comments. “Once the game settled down a little bit we had the better of the play, especially in the second half. With all the stuff that happened in the game with the two injuries in the first half, it was a great result for us tonight. Our goals were excellent tonight. Both of them came after good movement and both Wondo (Chris Wondolowski) and Rafa (Rafael Baca) finished well.”

The Red Bulls were the first to score, as an early aggression from the home side earned them a throw-in deep in Earthquakes territory. Defender Roy Miller delivered the ball toward Dax McCarty at the top left corner of the penalty area, and perhaps with the slightest of touches, he chested the ball into the path of Thierry Henry. The French international carried the ball across the top of the 18, before spying forward partner Kenny Cooper with space inside the area. Held just onside by Victor Bernardez, Cooper collected the ball near the penalty spot and unleashed a shot past a helpless Jon Busch.

The match momentum continued in New York’s favor, but slowly started to tilt back toward San Jose in the opening quarter hour of the match. With midfielder Sam Cronin harassing him, McCarty coughed up a week pass near the center circle that Rafael Baca quickly collected and turned toward the Red Bulls end. A clever flick to Chris Wondolowski was touched and turned by the Earthquakes forward such that he could deliver a well weighted pass into the path of an advancing Khari Stephenson. With just goalkeeper Ryan Meara to beat, Stephenson smartly sent a lateral pass across the area to Baca, who having continued his run and leaving Red Bulls defensive midfielder Rafa Marquez in his wake, calmly one-touched the ball into the net for the equalizing goal.

The Earthquakes nearly doubled their scoring when on a 19th minute corner kick into the box, Miller and Marquez conspired to beat their own ‘keeper with an own-goal effort that went agonizingly tall of the target. The corner kick preceding entanglement by Marquez on Earthquakes midfielder Shea Salinas prior to the defensive miscue would prove to be a foreboding effort by the Mexican international for a critical sequence later in the first half.

The Red Bulls seized their second lead of the evening, when in the 22nd minute, a stellar individual effort from Dane Richards assisted McCarty first goal in a New York uniform. Richards deftly shrugged off a challenge from Salinas near the center of the pitch and outraced Baca and team captain Ramiro Corrales down the right touchline. Just before reaching the byline, the Jamaican international crossed the ball back into the area, where a fortunate touch from Cooper distracted the Earthquakes defenders long enough for McCarty to slam the loose ball past Busch for the 2-1 New York lead.

Two minutes later, in part a retaliatory move after being nutmegged by Richards seconds earlier, Salinas picked up a caution from referee Ricardo Salazar for a dangerous tackle from behind on the Jamaican. The play served notice that the Earthquakes would not back down to their big-name opponents, but also set a tone of physical play that would result in significant injuries to players on both teams before the night was over.

With both teams fighting to tip momentum in their favor, the Earthquakes started to find more meaningful possession in the central third of the field. In the 35th minute, with plenty of space to work with on the left side of the pitch, Corrales changed the point of attack with a superb cross field pass to the feet of an overlapping Steven Beitashour. The third year defender touched the ball back to his left foot and sent a cross over the collected mass in the penalty area and toward the far post. Smartly judging the path of the ball, Salinas hustled into position, attracting two Red Bulls defenders with him, and volleyed the ball back to the top of the six-yard box. Like he has so many times before over the past two-plus seasons, Wondolowski found himself with space to maneuver, and he expertly headed the ball past Meara to level the score at two goals apiece.

“Steven Beitashour started the play with a good ball in,” described Wondolowski, “and Shea (Salinas) went all out to make the play there. Credit to him. Once he got it back to me, I had a fairly easy finish. Those guys set it up for me.”

The goal was Wondolowski’s seventh of the season, and also his 15th in his last 15 regular season appearances. It marked his second career goal at Red Bull Arena; his first a game clinching header against New York in the 2010 MLS Cup playoffs. Wondolowski finished the game in a three way tie with Cooper and Henry for the league lead in goals scored so far this season.

In the 42nd minute, the tone of the game changed dramatically during a fateful 30 seconds of play that started with an Earthquakes corner kick. Sending a dangerous ball into the area was midfielder Marvin Chavez, but Cooper was there to head the ball to safety. As the kick was delivered, Salinas was ridden into the ground by Marquez in a play that resulted in the Earthquakes midfielder suffering a broken clavicle. However, referee Salazar deemed the offense unworthy of a penalty call, and the play continued with Salinas crumpled in a heap inside the New York area.

Meanwhile, covering defender Justin Morrow collected the Cooper clearance and splayed the ball to the right to his 2010 MLS Superdraft cohort Beitashour to seek out a crossing channel. Switching the ball to his left foot, the defender floated the ball to the far post, where Bernardez went high in the air to challenge the ‘keeper Meara. Each of the players, in the course of not backing down, suffered a knock on the play, with the Earthquakes defender coming out with the lesser of it in the form of a sprained left medial collateral ligament. Removing both Salinas and Bernardez from the field of play — they were replaced in the line-up by Simon Dawkins and Jason Hernandez respectively — took well into first half stoppage time.

The Marquez non-call on Salinas, a continuation of the dangerous play he had been subjecting Salinas to on corner kicks throughout the first half, was especially egregious and, even not considering the injury suffered by the Earthquakes midfielder, deserved a penalty call from the referee. Whether Salinas slipped under the weight of the grabbing Marquez, or the Red Bulls enforcer collapsed him to the Red Bull Arena turf with full intent, the fall was enough to break the winger’s clavicle on impact with the ground. To add insult to injury, a careful look at the video replay showed Marquez lashing out with a kick to the same region of Salinas’ body as the broken bone. The extracurricular strike from Marquez all but cemented the Mexican international’s status as villain number one in Major League Soccer.

The incident went inexplicably unpunished during the run of play, although it will likely face significant scrutiny from the five-person MLS disciplinary committee in the coming days. With the league looking to end the type of physical play that in the last year has sidelined such stars as FC Dallas’ David Ferreira and Real Salt Lake’s Javier Morales, a retroactive fine and suspension of Marquez seems inevitable and in line with some of the other actions already taken by the committee thus far in the 2012 season. The Mexican international already has a history of bad behavior acknowledged and punished by MLS in the past — most notable a two-match suspension to open this season as punishment for antics following the Red Bulls dismissal from the 2011 MLS Cup playoffs at the hands of the Los Angeles Galaxy. That this particular action directly resulted in a serious injury to an opponent should deserve a much greater punishment at the hands of the MLS disciplinary committee.

Following a somber halftime, the San Jose Earthquakes roared out of the gates in the second half and played some of their best soccer of the season. Dawkins, who entered the game for Salinas, transformed the ground game for the Earthquakes in partnership with Baca and Chavez, and kept New York guessing for throughout the second stanza. The Tottenham loanee looked very dangerous with the ball, and came close to springing Wondolowski for a third Earthquakes goal with a nifty pass into the area. With Salinas expected to miss over two months as he recuperates from his broken clavicle, Dawkins assuaged the fears of some with his second half play that the team would not easily recover from the injury loss.

In the 52nd minute, perhaps in a bit of retaliatory play, Chavez was booked for a dangerous tackle on Miller just outside the right edge of the Earthquakes penalty area. A deliberate scissors move from the Honduran, the tackle left Miller unable to continue in the game, and he was substituted for Red Bulls rookie Conner Lade seven minutes later. Much like Marquez can expect later this week, Chavez may also face a decision by the MLS disciplinary committee on his tackle that knocked Miller out of the match. While certainly not at the blatant level Marquez mastered in his take-down of Salinas, Chavez’ rash challenge is likely to be considered detrimental to the game and deserving of a fine and suspension.

The rest of the second half continued with little in the way of quality scoring opportunities from either side. In the 67th minute, and individual effort from Henry cutting across the area from the left side resulted in a weak shot that Busch collected at the near post. A minute later, Red Bulls goalkeeper Meara made a similar save on a Stephenson effort from about the same distance. The closest either team came to breaking the 2-2 deadlock was a Chavez effort from 18 yards that soared agonizingly wide of the far post at the end of a 74th minute fast break counterattack.

“We played well tonight and could have had the three points,” said Wondolowski after the match, “but on the road you feel good about getting a point. I think we were better in the second half than the first half to be honest. We created a lot more chances but we just didn’t finish them. The first half we put away our chances, but we were not as clinical after halftime.”

From coach Yallop, the sentiments were similar.

“My halftime talk was pretty simple,” said Yallop. “I told the team that we can win this game and that we can’t sit back and try and get a point. We came out in the second half and possessed the ball well and created a number of good chances. We feel that could have gotten a win tonight, but we will take the point and move on. We have another big game next week.”

The San Jose Earthquakes return to Buck Shaw Stadium this Saturday to face MLS Western Conference leaders Real Salt Lake. The 7:30 p.m. kick-off features a match between the two conference leaders, and could end with the Earthquakes at the top of the standings this late in the season for the first time in the franchise’s return to MLS in 2008. The match also will also give coach Yallop his second successive chance to earn his 100th career MLS victory as a head coach.

New York Red Bulls (3-2-1) at San Jose Earthquakes (4-1-1)
April 14, 2012 — Red Bull Arena
Attendance: 17,114

Scoring Summary: NY — Kenny Cooper (Thierry Henry, Roy Miller) 5; SJ — Rafael Baca (Khari Stephenson, Chris Wondolowski) 15; NY — Dax McCarty (Kenny Cooper, Dane Richards) 22; SJ — Chris Wondolowski (Shea Salinas, Steven Beitashour) 35.

Misconduct Summary: SJ — Shea Salinas (caution) 25; NY — Dane Richards (caution) 47; SJ — Marvin Chavez (caution) 52; NY — Rafael Marquez (caution) 86.

San Jose Earthquakes — Jon Busch, Steven Beitashour, Victor Bernardez (Jason Hernandez 46+), Justin Morrow, Ramiro Corrales (Ike Opara 80), Marvin Chavez, Sam Cronin, Rafael Baca, Shea Salinas (Simon Dawkins 45), Khari Stephenson, Chris Wondolowski.

Statistics: Total Shots: 10; Shots on Goal: 3; Saves: 2; Fouls: 14; Offside: 1; Corner Kicks: 4.

New York Red Bulls — Ryan Meara, Jan Gunnar Solli, Markus Holgersson, Stephen Keel, Roy Miller (Connor Lade 59), Dane Richards (Victor Palsson 92+), Rafael Marquez, Dax McCarty, Mehdi Ballouchy (Joel Lindpere 61), Thierry Henry, Kenny Cooper.

Statistics: Total Shots: 4; Shots on Goal: 4; Saves: 2; Fouls: 13; Offsides: 2; Corner Kicks: 1.