This season, the online edition of Britain’s Guardian newspaper has been covering MLS for the edification of football and soccer fans worldwide - an excellent resource for MLS fans. Alongside other Quakes fans, Center Line Soccer’s Nerdy Gales and Lisa Erickson have been providing concise reviews and previews of the San Jose Earthquakes games throughout the 2012 season. The dimensions of Guardian pitch are much smaller than the spacious field at CLS Stadium, so here's the expanded version of Nerdy’s submission for Week 20.
REAL SALT LAKE REVIEW: In last week’s MLS preview column, The Guardian’s MLS columnist Graham Parker predicted that the meeting between the league leading San Jose Earthquakes and second place Real Salt Lake should be the game of the week – it turned out to be so if you’re a Quakes fan; not so much if you are an RSL fan. It had been almost two months since the Quakes had played in our cozy Buck Shaw stadium, and 10,744 stalwarts squeezed their bums onto the aluminum bleachers to watch the showdown between the two Western conference leaders. The Earthquakes turned in a dominant display against a Real Salt Lake team, whose performance was flatter than their own Bonneville salt pan- Quakes midfielders Chavez, Baca and Salinaswere setting their own land speed records. The Quakes opened play with pace, poise and purpose, controlling most of the possession in the first half, and Wondo struck first with a headed deflection from Morrow. Fifteen minutes into the second half, RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman was given a straight red card when he took exception to Quakes midfielder Sam Cronin not putting the ball out of play quickly enough after an RSL player went down. The loss of RSL’s key player only made things worse as the second half transformed into shooting practice for the Earthquakes. Veteran Alan Gordon pounced on a Victor Bernardez bar rattler for the second goal, followed by the third that Wondo placed in the back of the net from a perfect cross from Shea Salinas. Simon Dawkins replaced Marvin Chavez, and proceeded to polish off Wondo’s mishit for the fourth and finally Wondo capped off his hat trick in the 80th minute – the Quakes faithful are excited to see goals and assists coming from so many players this season. Meanwhile, back in the Quakes goal, the solid back line left keeper Jon Busch underemployed, with enough free time to finish a couple of Sudoku puzzles during the 5-0 victory.
FC DALLAS REVIEW: In contrast, Wednesday night’s game against FC Dallas had an entirely different mood, and Jon Busch and the Quakes defense had their hands full with the Texan team pressing forward from the outset, and FC Dallas had the majority of chances in the first half. However, it was the Quakes who struck twice, the first a Marvin Chavez volley of another perfect pass from Salinas, and the second when Gordon nodded in another gem from Sam Cronin. The second half continued with both teams creating chances exacting more great saves from each goalie. Despite the save of Wondo's retaken penalty that would have iced the game, the 2-0 score line looked like it would hold until the 89th minute, but it turned into another late game thriller when Perutz converted a free kick on the far post. Then in stoppage time, Quakes fans groaned as a penalty was awarded when Dawkins brought down Zach Lloyd. Regular penalty taker Brek Shea had already been subbed off after an hour, so the kick was taken by Jair Benitez, who shot high – and it felt like a blown save for Dallas, just as Giants fans grew to expect with Armando Benitez). Much of the conversation in Dallas Thursday morning concerned Brek Shea’s sharp exchange of words with coach Schellas Hyndman upon his substitution, after which the player sat alone at the end of the bench with a towel over his head – all is not well with the 22 year old it appears.
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS PREVIEW: The Earthquakes will pack their metric cleats and travel north across the border to beautiful British Columbia seven points clear of RSL and Sporting KC. This will be the third of three games against the Caps, and the second on the plastic carpet of BC place; in my opinion field turf is not a surface on which the Quakes flourish. San Jose will face their former goalie Joe Cannon, of whom most Quakes fans have fond memories. Of course, Cannon and many of the San Joseplayers are familiar with each other’s tendencies. In fact, in the first meeting of the season at home, Wondolowski made an astute move when he chipped the ball over Cannon for the first goal: “Joe knows me and knows that I like to put my laces through the ball, so I tried to lift it a bit and put it over him.” With chief Goonie Steven Lenhart sidelined with concussion like symptoms (unavailable for Dallas and perhaps the upcoming Vancouver game) it’s again likely to be Wondo and Gordon up top. Hopefully Wondo is inside Cannon’s head enough for a couple of goals for another valuable victory against a western conference opponent.
Photograph: Lyndsay Radnedge at CenterLineSoccer.com