(Santa Clara) For the second straight game, the San Jose Earthquakes were in control for most of the match, but needed some late heroics from Alan Gordon to overcome a strong performance by the opposing goalkeeper and salvage a 1-1 tie. Coming off last week’s 88th minute equalizer against Chivas USA, Gordon waited until the 90th minute to get San Jose on the scoreboard Saturday night for a well earned point against the Columbus Crew.
With San Jose down a goal and the game going into stoppage time, Ramiro Corrales sent a long ball to the top of the arc for Gordon. He headed it on to Chris Wondolowski inside the penalty area, who gave it back to Gordon for a left footer from 12 yards out. That shot banged off the cross bar, but Gordon reacted quickly and pounded home the rebound with an acrobatic scissor kick.
“Wondo did a great job,” Gordon said. “I thought he was going to hit it, (but) he laid it off, and I was wide open. I didn’t do as good as I should have; I should have buried it. But the goalie got a tip, it bounced up (off the crossbar) and I was like, ‘I’m going for it.’ I just tried to get a good foot on it. I hit it perfect and it went in.”
The Earthquakes were the dominant team in the opening period, with 17 attempts at goal to the Crew’s 3, but San Jose went into intermission down a goal. Columbus goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum was the star of the first half, making several quality saves to keep San Jose off the scoreboard.
“The first 30-35 minutes, we were excellent,” coach Frank Yallop said. “We should have been three up. I thought their keeper was great tonight.”
In the fourth minute, Stephenson tested Gruenebaum from long range, and three minutes later it was Simon Dawkins with an open shot from 12 yards, but neither could beat the Crew net minder.
In the 21st minute, Steven Lenhart dribbled past Eric Gehrig in the box, only to get knocked down from behind by the Columbus defender. Referee Juan Guzman pointed to the spot, but Gruenebaum again was up to the task, punching away Chris Wondolowski’s penalty kick.
Off the ensuing corner kick, Lenhart’s header from 8 yards forced Gruenebaum to dive to his right for yet another save.
In the 26th minute, Wondolowski played Rafael Baca down right side. Baca charged in on goal before centering for Simon Dawkins, but Gruenebaum snuffed out the point blank shot.
Having survived a half hour of relentless pressure, Columbus found their footing and went on to take the lead in first half stoppage time. From the left wing, Justin Meram took on Steven Beitashour one on one, and hit a right footer from 15 yards that was perfectly placed inside the far post for his second goal in as many games.
“It was heartbreaking,” Gordon said of the first half. “We had some opportunities, but the goalie had the game of his life. Those are dangerous games. They get a goal and the wind gets taken out of your sails.”
“For us to miss a penalty kick says how the night went,” Yallop said. “But what I liked about it, we didn’t quit. We kept going, and we got a point.”
The second half was a tighter contest, and by the hour mark Frank Yallop was tinkering with his line up. Sam Garza replaced Khari Stehenson, and Alan Gordon came on for Steven Lenhart. Robert Warzycha countered by bringing Dilly Duka on for Justin Meram.
In the 70th minute, Yallop made his last substitution, pulling Rafael Baca in favor of Tressor Moreno, a move that almost paid dividends immediately. A couple minutes after coming on, Moreno slid a pass forward to Wondolowski, who laid it off to a charging Simon Dawkins, but rather than try an open 15 yarder, Dawkins tried to play in Alan Gordon, who was in an offside position.
With San Jose starting to press forward, Columbus added some fresh legs to their back line with ten minutes left in regulation time, as Shaun Francis replaced Nemanja Vukovic.
Off a corner kick, 84th minute, Alan Gordon rose above the crowd for a header from six yards out, but he didn’t get much on the shot and Gruenebaum was able to make a diving catch.
In the 87th minute, Dawkins danced around Danny O’Rourke at the top of the box and let fly with a 20 yarder that deflected off the defense and sailed high.
But San Jose kept coming, and in the 90th minute, Gordon got his goal. “That’s one of those things. You get lucky from time to time,” Gordon said. “The ball bounces and hits the sweet spot and goes in.”
“I look at it as a very positive vibe, where we don’t give up,” Yallop said, “You can’t buckle once you get scored on. And our guys this year have not buckled when they’ve been scored on.”
The decision stretches the Earthquakes winless streak to 3 games. At 7-2-3, their 24 points has them two points behind Salt Lake with a game in hand.
“We played well enough to win tonight,” Yallop said. “In our league, it’s about getting points, and getting results, and keep chipping away. We got one point, which is another step towards making the playoffs.”
Next Wednesday, San Jose travels to the Home Depot Center to face the arch-rival (and defending MLS Cup and Supporters Shield Champion) LA Galaxy.
(Photo by Joe Nuxoll, centerlinesoccer.com)
Columbus Crew (3-4-3) at San Jose Earthquakes (7-2-3)
May 19, 2012 – Buck Shaw Stadium
Scoring Summary: CLB – Justin Meram (unassisted) 45+2; SJ – Alan Gordon (unassisted) 90.
Misconduct Summary: SJ – Steven Lenhart (caution) 35; SJ – Alan Gordon (caution) 66; CLB – Tony Tchani (caution) 90+1; SJ – Ramiro Corrales (caution) 90+4.
San Jose Earthquakes – Jon Busch, Steven Beitashour, Jason Hernandez, Justin Morrow, Ramiro Corrales, Rafael Baca (Tressor Moreno 70), Sam Cronin, Khari Stephenson (Sam Garza 56), Simon Dawkins, Chris Wondolowski, Steven Lenhart (Alan Gordon 60).
TOTAL SHOTS: 24; SHOTS ON GOAL: 8; SAVES: 0; FOULS: 11; OFFSIDES: 4; CORNER KICKS: 10.
Columbus Crew – Andy Gruenebaum, Sebastian Miranda, Eric Gehrig, Josh Williams, Nemanja Vukovic (Shaun Francis 80), Eddie Gaven, Milovan Mirosevic (Cole Grossman 46), Danny O’Rourke, Tony Tchani, Justin Meram (Dilly Duka 60), Olman Vargas.
TOTAL SHOTS: 9; SHOTS ON GOAL: 1; SAVES: 7; FOULS: 13; OFFSIDES: 4; CORNER KICKS: 3.