In what may have been one of the best overall team performances of the season, the San Jose Earthquakes came away with a 0-0 draw against the Colorado Rapids Wednesday night at Buck Shaw Stadium. Unlike the previous 0-0 meeting between the teams on April 19, this one had plenty of attacking flare. The sides combined for 31 shots, 11 on target, but couldn't find the back of the net on a single one.
"I thought that our team played well tonight," said Earthquakes Head Coach Mark Watson. "We had energy, forced the game and moved the ball better tonight. We had a lot of good chances and were unfortunate not to win the game."
Indeed, the Earthquakes looked brilliant going forward most of the evening. But the first clear cut chance came in the 13th minute from the visitors. Colorado right back Thomas Piermayr carried into the corner of the area and fired a low cross that Edson Buddle just missed on a slide near the six yard box.
The Rapids followed up a couple of minutes later with some good work down the left flank. First, in the 15th minute, winger Charles Eloundou collected the ball near the left corner and curled in an inswinging cross that looked to be heading inside the far post, but for a Jon Busch save that kept it out. Shortly after, Colorado again attacked from the left side of the box with Buddle. The forward did well to keep the ball under pressure and get it to midfielder Chris Klute, whose shot from inside the area cleared the crossbar.
The remainder of the opening half belonged to San Jose. A big story for the home side was the new central midfield pairing of Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi and Khari Stephenson. Stephenson in particular looked dangerous all night, linking well with the forwards and creating chances of his own. In the 25th minute, Stephenson found some space 25 yards from goal and unleashed a shot that ended up just over the crossbar, teasing the net as it sailed over. He also had an impact in the 36th, when he took a free kick from 30 yards that gave Rapids' goalkeeper Clint Irwin trouble and yielded a rebound. San Jose's Atiba Harris nearly got to the loose ball only to have it cleared away at the last second.
"I thought they both played well tonight," Watson said of his central midfield pairing. "They hadn't played recently and I wanted to change things up a bit. Khari [Stephenson] had a little knock and got a bit tired at the end so we had to take him off, but we didn't want to because he was playing very well. I also thought Jean-Baptiste [Pierazzi] put in a solid, professional performance for 90 minutes and I was proud of both of them."
Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski also benefitted from the midfield performance: "I thought they played well," Wondolowski said following the game. "Khari was doing a great job of looking forward and getting the ball moving on the ground. I've always said we've been able to combine we just have to have the confidence and little bit of space to do it. We start to do that and it starts to open up the game and open up chances."
Although the game was scoreless at halftime, it didn't have the look of a contest that would be goalless after the full 90. In the second half, San Jose had a number brilliant chances to break the deadlock. In the 53rd minute Earthquakes forward Alan Gordon worked a 1-2 with midfielder Shea Salinas near the top of the box. The play resulted in Gordon with a clear chance in the area with just Irwin to beat. Gordon aimed for the far post, but his shot rolled wide by a couple of feet.
Less than ten minutes later, Harris had another great chance for San Jose. A deflected cross fell at his feet at the top of the area, and his rifled shot stung the palms of Irwin as the 'keeper put the shot over the crossbar.
San Jose continued to press, but the scoreless draw was looking more and more likely. Wondolowski had one more opportunity to win the game near the end. In the 88th minute, Salinas slid a through pass to Wondolowski in the left side of the box. With a tight angle, Wondolowski attempted to put the ball into the far post. But Irwin, excellent all night, got just enough of a touch on the ball to force it onto the post and out.
"It was a good chance, good save," said Wondolowski. "It got a little stuck under me. Still, I thought I should have put it by him. Didn't do well enough."
Frustration was the theme of the night for most of the Earthquakes players following the game. "We've gotta stop having little stepping stones. We actually have to take some steps and take some leaps," insisted Wondolowski. "Especially at home, these are games we have to win, and games that we should win. We did a lot of positive things, we had a lot of chances. We have to finish them."
Salinas, who played very well on the night, agreed with his teammate: "We wanted three points tonight, definitely. We only got one and that's a little frustrating, especially playing the first of two games at home this week. We have to refocus and re-energize for Saturday. It will be a short turnaround before then. We'll watch some video and look at some things offensively to adjust for FC Dallas."
There was a scary moment for the Quakes at the stroke of halftime. San Jose right back Andreas Gorlitz was attempting to shield the ball near the byline when Eloundou crashed into him. Gorlitz appeared to get his leg caught underneath him and had to be substituted immediately. Following the game, Watson said that the injury could have serious implications, and that Gorlitz' season "may be over."
The Earthquakes will look to bounce back this Saturday, when they host FC Dallas at 7:30 p.m. The match will be played nearly 40 years to the day since the teams' first meeting back in 1974. Former player and team general manager Johnny Moore will be inducted into the team Hall of Fame at halftime.
San Jose Earthquakes (1-3-4, 7 pts.) 0:0 Colorado Rapids (4-2-3, 15 pts.)
May 7, 2014 - Buck Shaw Stadium
Scoring Summary: None.
Misconduct Summary: COL - Charles Eloundou (caution) 43; SJ - Victor Bernardez (caution) 78.
San Jose Earthquakes: Jon Busch, Andreas Gorlitz (Brandon Barklage 45), Victor Bernardez, Ty Harden, Jordan Stewart, Atiba Harris (Cordell Cato 77), Khari Stephenson (JJ Koval 81), Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi, Shea Salinas, Chris Wondolowski, Alan Gordon.
SHOTS: 15; SHOTS ON GOAL: 7; SAVES: 4; FOULS: 15; CORNER KICKS: 6; OFFSIDES: 2.
Colorado Rapids - Clint Irwin, Thomas Piermayr, Shane O'Neill, Drew Moor, Chris Klute, Kamani Hill, Jared Watts, Dillon Powers (Nathan Sturgis 70), Charles Eloundou (Dillon Serna 77), Gabriel Torres, Edson Buddle.
SHOTS: 16; SHOTS ON GOAL: 4; SAVES: 7; FOULS: 8; CORNER KICKS: 3; OFFSIDES: 2.