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San Jose Earthquakes fall to Vancouver Whitecaps on late game Hassli heroics

Fortune favors the prepared, and for over a month the San Jose Earthquakes have benefited from their consistent play on both sides of the ball. However, that fortune, along with a seven game unbeaten streak, came to an unceremonious end on the turf of BC Place, as the hometown Vancouver Whitecaps wore down a tired and ineffective Earthquakes team. Perhaps a bit of karma for their own stoppage time winners over Real Salt Lake and Philadelphia in recent weeks, San Jose fell victim to a 94th minute goal by ‘Caps forward Eric Hassli and dropped a heartbreaking 2-1 decision.

“I’m disappointed we lost on a goal in the last minute of the game,” said head coach Frank Yallop in his post game comments. “That’s not like the way we’ve played this year. We have been very strong mentally late in games. We’ve done a good job of making sure we don’t concede late, but tonight was different.”

The Earthquakes, playing their third game in eight days, started out strong against the Whitecaps, and took the lead in the 15th minute on Chris Wondolowski’s 11 goal of the 2012 season. Assisted by Marvin Chavez, Wondolowski met a cross at the far post and guided it just past a tumbling goalkeeper Joe Cannon to put the Earthquakes up 1-0. For the star striker, the goal gave him number 19 in his last 19 MLS starts. In fact, Wondolowski has now scored in 13 of his 15 games, stretching back to an August 2011 home match against the Colorado Rapids. The goal was Wondolowski’s 48th as a member of the Earthquakes, but only his 5th as part of a losing effort.

“My goal means nothing with the loss,” said Wondolowski after the match. “It was just unfortunate we let in two goals in the last five minutes of each half – that'll come back to bite you. We've got to stay mentally stronger late in the match.”

Indeed, the Earthquakes did not appear to have the same steel in defense that they featured earlier in the season. A midweek 5-3 victory over DC United raised eyebrows that the defense was having issues, but that 3 goal letdown was attributed more to the wide-open nature of the game and the fact that with 5 goals scored the defense played loose.

The Whitecaps equalized in the 40th minute off a Gershon Koffie header from a set piece delivered by Camilo. The goal marked a period of sustained possession from Vancouver and was well deserved for their efforts. Coming just before halftime, the goal also served to give the Earthquakes something to talk about at the intermission.

“We knew they were going to come at us, we said that at halftime,” said goalkeeper Jon Busch following the game. “They're at home and have nothing to lose. I thought we weathered their storm quite well for the majority of the half. That late in the half (leading up to Hassli’s goal) we’ve got to be a little bit smarter and take what's on the table. When a point is on the table that late in the game on the road, we've got to take it. We've got to be smarter and we've got to lock it down. I think maybe we got a little bit greedy in trying to get three.”

The second half played out primarily in favor of the home side, but it looked like the Earthquakes would leave Vancouver with a point. However, with the team stretched and playing loose with a relatively disorganized back line, a critical error by the defense allowed Hassli the late opportunity to play hero, and the French striker did not disappoint the BC Place crowd. With Busch extending to tip Hassli’s shot, the ball still found enough to carom off the inside of the far post for the late stoppage time winner.

“I think we got a little bit too defensive and dropped a little bit too deep,” said Wondolowski. “We had tired legs after three very tough matches in a week and a lot of injuries also, so we were a bit depleted and, when it all added up, it came back to get us.”

The Earthquakes return to Buck Shaw Stadium on Sunday, May 13, to face Chivas USA.

(Photo: Joe Nuxoll, centerlinesoccer.com)

San Jose Earthquakes (7-2-1) at Vancouver Whitecaps FC (5-2-2)
May 5, 2012 – BC Place
Attendance: 19,271

Scoring Summary: SJ — Chris Wondolowski (Marvin Chavez) 15; VAN — Gershon Koffie (Camilo Sanvezzo) 40; VAN — Eric Hassli (Davide Chiumiento) 90+4.

Misconduct Summary: SJ — Sam Cronin (caution) 52; SJ — Steven Beitashour (caution) 54; SJ — Marvin Chavez (caution) 54; VAN — Jun Davidson (caution) 90+2.

San Jose Earthquakes — Jon Busch, Steven Beitashour, Jason Hernandez (Ike Opara 46), Justin Morrow, Ramiro Corrales, Marvin Chavez (Tressor Moreno 75), Sam Cronin, Rafael Baca, Simon Dawkins (Khari Stephenson 63), Chris Wondolowski, Steven Lenhart.

Statistics: Total Shots: 11; Shots on Goal: 5; Saves: 5; Fouls: 11; Offside: 2; Corner Kicks: 1.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC — Joe Cannon, Lee Young-Pyo, Martin Bonjour, Jay DeMerit, Alan Rochat, Gershon Koffie, Jun Davidson, Matt Watson (John Thorrington 61), Camilo Sanvezzo (Eric Hassli 74), Sebastien Le Toux, Omar Salgado (Davide Chiumiento 82).

Statistics: Total Shots: 15; Shots on Goal: 7; Saves: 4; Fouls: 9; Offside: 6; Corner Kicks: 8.