There is one thing that the San Jose Earthquakes can be sure of when facing Real Salt Lake: the boys from Utah are tough to play against. Time and space is limited, tackles physical, offense scarce. In this edition, RSL followed that formula to pull out a 1-0 road win against the Quakes.
San Jose just couldn't do enough against Salt Lake's pressing defense. Generally, the key to relieving that type of pressure is quick ball movement, and the Quakes just didn't make the necessary adjustments to do so. Coach Dominic Kinnear went with the type of midfield lineup that had done well in the second half against New England, dropping Chris Wondolowski into midfield and adding Adam Jahn up top. What had been successful against the Revolution's aggressive midfield was not here. RSL stayed behind the ball and didn't allow much opportunity for buildup.
San Jose was by no means completely outplayed in this match. By that same token, they didn't play well enough to win either. This team shouldn't be content with where its at, both in terms of record and playing level. The Quakes get the chance for redemption next week, again at home, again opposite a western conference foe. There's still time to iron out the kinks but you'd certainly like to see some improvement.
As always, check out last week's ratings to compare.
G David Bingham, 7 - Didn't have a whole lot to do during the game, but generally made the right decision when called upon. Commanded his area well. Certainly couldn't blame him on the goal; that's just an unsavable shot. His one bad play came when he held the ball too long and nearly gave a great chance away to Saborio early in the second half.
D Cordell Cato, 6.5 - Played well enough out of position at side back. Early in the match he looked overwhelmed, but eased into things as time went on. Still have to hope that Marvell Wynne's injury is not too serious. Cato's attacking instincts prevent him from being a long term solution here.
D Victor Bernárdez, 8.5 - Always active and difficult to play against. Despite the loss, the Quakes defense really did an excellent job all game. Bernárdez was the best of them today, highlighted by his second-half goal-line clearance that kept San Jose in the game.
D Clarence Goodson, 7.5 - Also very reliable defensively on the day, particularly in the air. Gets a little less credit for some disappointing distribution out of the back. Had chances to play the ball forward on the ground, but instead opted for long balls over and over. Most of those resulted in turnovers and prevented any San Jose attack.
D Shaun Francis, 6 - A better game for him (it had to be, really) before the head injury forced him out. Got stuck in well and made himself tough to beat out wide. Still disappointing to see him give the ball away rather cheaply at times. Also struggled with some of the RSL runners on the wing.
M Fatai Alashe, 7 - Offered some good work in defensive midfield on a day when he went up against a lot of quality. His tackles were sharp, particularly in the first half. He did fade late on, and may be due for a rest in the near future. The second half tackle that got him booked was completely deserving of the card.
M Matías Pérez García, 6 - Showed some of his trademark skill on the ball, weaving his way through players and wowing the crowd. Problem is, the skill was short-lived and lacked an end product. Even his crosses seemed less dangerous, often left too short or overhit. The change in midfield personnel didn't do him any favors.
M Chris Wondolowski, 4 - A rather forgettable game for Wondo. Afterwards he was the first to admit that he didn't see nearly enough of the ball, and didn't make himself available to receive it. Seemed lost when he received the ball in midfield and had to make a decision with it. Got caught in possession too many times and his passes weren't crisp. Hopefully this midfield experiment is shelved soon.
F Sanna Nyassi, 7.5 - Emerged once again as a good attacking threat this game. For the entire contest, he looked like one of the only Quakes with any real attacking creativity out there. Worked well with Cato on the right and even linked up with some of the central players. Did tire in the second half, and his substitution was probably appropriate.
F Innocent Emeghara, 5 - Very disappointing with his decision making this game. There are times when he has the opportunity to make an easy pass in the attacking third, or has space to cross, and insists on cutting inside to look for a shot. This has only worked for him once this season, and teams are already shutting that same play down. Needs to put more true in his teammates. Could be a huge contributor if he linked up better with the rest of the lineup.
F Adam Jahn, 5.5 - His work rate is always there, but the goals are not. Had as many quality chances this game as anybody on the pitch and was found wonting. His first half flick that went just wide was the most glaring. Unfortunately for Jahn, this is the type of performance that shows how much he needs to improve before he can be handed a consistent starting role.
D JJ Koval, 7 - Somehow, he was one of the most dangerous Quakes all day playing out of a side back position. Showed great energy to get forward and registered three shots, two of which were on goal (one header of his was cleared off the line). Still got beat a couple of times on defense, probably due to a relative lack of pace for a fullback. Still, a positive performance from him.
M Shea Salinas, 6.5 - Last week he really came on and enhanced the team. Not so much this week. He wasn't worse than the other players, but he tended to fall into the same traps among RSL's defensive ranks. It's nice to see, though, that he is still willing to take players on, with the purpose of putting a cross into the box, something that is lacking from Quakes' wingers this year.
M Leandro Barrera, 4.5 - Not a great Quakes debut, although he wasn't given a lot of time to prove himself. Never looked assured in possession and really didn't contribute positively.