The San Jose Earthquakes survived a second half onslaught by the Vancouver Whitecaps and a straight red card to defender Brandon Barklage to eke out a 1-1 draw in Saturday's Desert Friendlies game from the Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, Arizona.
A well-placed tap-in from center back trialist Paulo Renato staked the Quakes to a lead in the first half, but a clever shot from Vancouver midfielder Kekuta Manneh leveled matters midway through the second stanza. Earthquakes goalkeeper Bryan Meredith was instrumental in preserving the draw as he was called into action on numerous occasions in the second half.
Head coach Dominic Kinnear, who started two very different line-ups in Wednesday's 3-2 loss to the Houston Dynamo, did very much the same against the Whitecaps, although with a slight twist in the rotation. Whereas it was Innocent Emeghara who started against the Dynamo as a second forward, fellow designated player Matias Perez Garcia got the start against the ‘Caps.
The Earthquakes were the better team from the opening whistle, playing as a unit and not ceding much in the way of possession to Vancouver. And even when the Whitecaps gained the ball, San Jose was right there to force a turnover or giveaway. The center back duo of Renato and Victor Bernardez, coupled with the central midfield pairing of Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi and JJ Koval, established control of the center of the park throughout the first half.
Vancouver looked a bit rusty from the beginning, and big center back Kendall Waston, who terrorized the Quakes on their visit to BC Place last September, was forced to commit numerous tough challenges to slow down San Jose. One particular tackle on Perez Garcia early in the game would necessitate the Argentinian's substitution prior to halftime. Waston was shown a caution for his rough play.
However, the Earthquakes offensive persistence finally paid off when the team pressed into the final third and forced the first of three successive corner kicks. On the third, with a delivery from Salinas, Perez Garcia flicked the entry ball through the six-yard box where it fell to Renato. The 27-year-old Portuguese defender calmly redirected the ball into the net for a 1-0 San Jose lead.
The Quakes nearly doubled their lead just as the match reached first half stoppage time when Tommy Thompson, who spelled the banged-up Perez Garcia minutes before, latched onto a loose ball near the center line and darted into the Vancouver zone. Keeping his defender at bay, Thompson directed a shot to the near post that Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted had to dive down to turn away from danger.
The teams entered halftime with the Quakes still up 1-0, and wholesale substitutions were ordered by Kinnear and Vancouver head coach Carl Robinson.
The biggest changes for the Earthquakes included the replacement of outside backs Marvell Wynne and Shaun Francis with Pablo Pintos and Barklage, as well as the removal of Koval and Pierazzi from the midfield for Kris Tyrpak and 25-year-old Argentine trialist Matias Silva. Pintos and Barklage had an especially hard time in the second half dealing with the Whitecaps offense, and the game's momentum tilted heavily to Vancouver.
Goalkeeper Bryan Meredith, a substitute for starter David Bingham, was forced into action on numerous occasions, but he showed off the skill that has many believing he can be a viable back-up to presumed number one Bingham. A tip save on Manneh after the ‘Caps midfielder sliced through the Quakes defense in the 60th minute was a major highlight for Meredith.
Unfortunately, the Earthquakes bend-don't-break defense finally gave way, as Manneh finished off a clever shot in the area as he was surrounded by four defenders. His low shot was just out of the reach of Meredith, and Vancouver equalized as they were due.
Meredith kept the match tied in the 73rd minute when he denied a rocket shot from Pa Madou Kah that was launched from just outside the area. Extending upwards, the Quakes ‘keeper pawed the shot over the crossbar when it appeared the ball definitely had eyes on the back of the net.
Following a dangerous studs-up tackle on designated player Octavio Rivero in the 83rd minute, Barklage was shown a straight red card from the referee, and the Earthquakes played the last 10 minutes a man down. However, Meredith stood tall and denied efforts from the Uruguayan striker and midfielder Mauro Rosales in the waning moments of the match to keep the score at one apiece.
The Earthquakes will complete their trip to Arizona on Tuesday when they face the Portland Timbers in the last of their three Desert Friendlies. The match will be live streamed and can be viewed at Center Line Soccer. To watch a repeat broadcast of the Quakes vs. 'Caps 1-1 draw, click here.
San Jose Earthquakes (1) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (1)
February 7, Kino Sports Complex, Tucson, Arizona
First half line-up: David Bingham, Marvell Wynne, Victor Bernardez, Paulo Renato, Shaun Francis, Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi, JJ Koval, Cordell Cato, Shea Salinas, Matias Perez Garcia (Tommy Thompson 37), Adam Jahn.
Second half line-up: Bryan Meredith, Pablo Pintos, Victor Bernardez (Jordan Stewart 62), Ty Harden, Brandon Barklage, Matias Silva, Kris Tyrpak (Cameron Iwasa 83), Tommy Thompson, Leandro Barrera, Innocent Emeghara, Adam Jahn (Mike Fucito 67).