(Santa Clara) Saturday night saw the top two teams in MLS face off at Buck Shaw Stadium, and this heavyweight match-up was a knockout win for San Jose. Fueled by a Chris Wondolowski hat trick, the Earthquakes extended their lead atop MLS with a 5-0 beat down of Real Salt Lake.
San Jose took a 1-0 lead through Wondolowski in the first half, then blew the game open after Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman was shown the exit in the 57th minute. The result tied the best ever margin of victory in San Jose franchise history, and pushed Wondolowski’s goal tally for the season to 17, one more than he had last season.
The Earthquakes attack was missing some key components, with Steven Lenhart recovering from what could be a concussion, and Tressor Moreno gone for good, but still San Jose took the initiative from the game’s first kick. The Earthquakes pressed Salt Lake in their end of the field throughout the opening period, and had a well-earned lead at halftime. Chris Wondolowski had a couple of chances in the opening 10 minutes before finally breaking through in the 18th.
That first score came from a Marvin Chavez corner kick that found Alan Gordon open 15 yards from goal. Gordon headed it towards the net, and at the six yard box Justin Morrow helped it on Chris Wondolowski at the far post for an easy tap in.
“I felt we were in charge of the game from the opening whistle,” coach Frank Yallop said. “There was no doubt that we were going to win this game. We bossed everything, we were in charge of everything. I didn’t feel worried at all. We totally dominated.”
Jon Busch had a relatively stress free night in picking up his second straight clean sheet as San Jose swept their three game series against Salt Lake this year.
“I can’t remember a chance that Salt Lake had that was like, “they should have scored,” Yallop said. “I can’t remember a chance were Jon Busch really had to scramble and make a save. That’s a good performance for us.”
Like so many recent Earthquakes matches, Saturday’s game featured some physical play and some frayed tempers. 7 yellow cards were handed out over the course of the match, along with the red card to Beckerman. Beckerman was shown the door after getting into an altercation with Sam Cronin just before the hour mark, a melee that also saw Justin Morrow and Fabian Espindola earn yellow cards.
From there on, it was all San Jose. In the 63rd minute, Marvin Chavez curled a cross into the six yard box for Victor Bernardez. Bernardez’s header banged off the left upright, but the rebound fell to Alan Gordon for an easy finish. It was Gordon’s 7th goal of the year, extending his person best for a season.
Ten minutes later it was Wondolowski again, making a near post run to deflect a Shea Salinas cross on target to make it 3-0.
Simon Dawkins then came on for Chavez, and soon added his name to the score sheet, pouncing on a mishit Wondolowski shot and slamming it into the roof of the net from close range.
Wondolowski closed out the scoring and completed his hat trick in the 80th minute, when
Khari Stephenson sliced open the Salt Lake defense with a well placed pass, allowing Wondo to slip between two defenders and drill home an open shot from 15 yards.
“Once it got to 10 men, we really turned the screws, which is the sign of a good team,” Yallop said. “We sensed they were in trouble, and we really took it to them. To be honest, it could have been more (than 5-0).”
Wondolowski gave most of the credit for the win to the San Jose midfield. “I thought our whole midfield was players of the game. Rafael Baca, Sam Cronin, Shea Salinas, Marvin Chavez, and Simon Dawkins, when he came in, Khari (Stephenson); they were pure class.”
“If you see how much ground they cover. Cutting out passes, they’re such smart players. Especially the first half, Salt Lake didn’t play as well as they’d like, but a lot of it had to do with the pressure we put on them, and it was all (the midfield),” Wondolowski said.
Frank Yallop agreed. “(Rafael) Baca and Sam Cronin were great in the middle of our midfield. They made sure it was busy, difficult to play against them, and they were clean on the ball. I thought it was great.”
The goals are starting to pile up for Wondolowski, who now has 51 over the past three seasons, and counting. With 14 games left on the schedule, he’s 10 shy of Roy Lassiter’s MLS single-season record of 27. Does he think he can set a new record this year?
“Catching Lassiter?” Wondolowski said. “I still have 10 (to go). That’s a long ways away. Maybe when I’m one or two away we can (talk about that).”
“There’s a chance,” Yallop said. “We have a lot of home games left, which is important for a goal scorer. I hope he does it. But, first things first. It’s a good victory at home, and we look forward to the next game.”
With the win, San Jose’s record improves to 12-4-4, good for 40 points, four better than Salt Lake and Kansas City. Their home stand continues; the Earthquakes will host FC Dallas Wednesday night at Buck Shaw.
San Jose Earthquakes (12-4-4, 40 pts.) vs. Real Salt Lake (11-7-3, 36 pts.)
July 14, 2012 — Buck Shaw Stadium
Scoring Summary: SJ — Chris Wondolowski (Justin Morrow, Alan Gordon) 18; SJ — Alan Gordon (Victor Bernardez) 63; SJ — Chris Wondolowski (Shea Salinas) 72; SJ — Simon Dawkins (Chris Wondolowski, Shea Salinas) 79; SJ — Chris Wondolowski (Khari Stephenson) 80.
Misconduct Summary: RSL — Kwame Watson-Siriboe (caution) 16; SJ — Marvin Chavez (caution) 26; RSL — Jamison Olave (caution) 44; RSL — Kyle Beckerman (ejection) 57; RSL — Fabian Espindola (caution) 59; SJ — Justin Morrow (caution) 59; RSL — Kenny Mansally (caution) 62; RSL — Jonny Steele (caution) 68.
San Jose Earthquakes — Jon Busch, Steven Beitashour, Victor Bernardez, Jason Hernandez, Justin Morrow, Marvin Chavez (Simon Dawkins 69), Sam Cronin, Rafael Baca, Shea Salinas, Chris Wondolowski (Sercan Guvenisik 81), Alan Gordon (Khari Stephenson 77).
Statistics: Total Shots: 15; Shots on Goal: 7; Saves: 1; Fouls: 8; Offside: 3; Corner Kicks: 4.
Real Salt Lake — Nick Rimando, Kenny Mansally, Jamison Olave, Kwame Watson-Siriboe (Sebastien Velasquez 73), Chris Wingert (Emiliano Bonfigli 78), Luis Gil (Jonny Steele 52), Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Will Johnson, Will Johnson, Fabian Espindola, Alvaro Saborio.
Statistics: Total Shots: 4; Shots on Goal: 1; Saves: 2; Fouls: 8; Offside: 1; Corner Kicks: 1.