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San Jose Earthquakes vs. Columbus Crew SC match report: Wondolowski, Salinas deliver in 2-0 win against 10-man Crew

The Quakes convincingly closed out the 2-0 win, the largest margin of victory this season

Wondolowski scored his 99th career MLS goal
Wondolowski scored his 99th career MLS goal
Lyndsay Radnedge | Center Line Soccer

As the saying goes: It's good to be home.

For the San Jose Earthquakes, who last took the field at Avaya Stadium on April 11, it was important to once again play in front of friendly faces, to feed off the energy of the 18,000 that filled the stands there to see their heroes return to action. This was a homecoming that was long overdue, and it was another win in what has burgeoned into a four game unbeaten streak.

"It's amazing. This is a special place to play," said Chris Wondolowski. "Especially to start the season with only three at home in the first ten was tough, but it is nice to get points here. It's almost rejuvenating since it's been a month since we played here. It's like a fresh start again, and seeing the crowd still gives you goosebumps, and I love playing in front of these fans. It's exciting."

Wondolowski was credited with the game winning goal for the Earthquakes in an impressive 2-0 victory over the visiting Columbus Crew SC. That a red card to the Crew's Mohammed Saeid in the 33rd minutes reduced the visitors to 10 men certainly played a role in the result, it was still a very impressive night for the Blue and Black.

"This was a better performance," said head coach Dominic Kinnear. "You can talk about wanting to play the perfect game all through the week, every week, and that you want to go out and play well.

"Against 10 men, you can be your own worst enemy, you take your foot off the gas, and the other team can find something. But our positioning was good, so that when we turned the ball over, there wasn't too much trouble. We were set up nice such that we could have bodies around the ball, which was good, and our passing was better. The guys were in the mood to play."

The Earthquakes finally returned home to Avaya Stadium, to face the Columbus Crew. Goals from Chris Wondowlowski (# 99 in MLS) and Shea Salinas sealed the 2-0 victory.

Posted by Center Line Soccer on Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Earthquakes starting brightly under the bright ribbon board lights that encircle the grandstands. Sure, Columbus missed a few chances early that could have sunk their spirits, but the Quakes looked much more energized than they did during last week's grueling three away game in eight days stretch.

"Yeah, definitely," said Wondolowski. "It is always a different mentality when you are at home versus on the road. We wanted to go out, Columbus is a very good team, but we wanted go out and make our mark."

"During the spell of three games in a week, we weren't connecting the easy passes that we normally should. Tonight, however, we did a much better job of doing that, and it breeds confidence that we can take one-two to three-four. Our movement was very crucial in our possession, and that's something we need when we get a little bit stagnant. When you look up and guys aren't moving, it makes it a lot more difficult."

Just a minute before Saeid was sent to the showers for a second yellow card offense -- the first an elbow to Matias Perez Garcia in the 14th minute and the second a scissors tackle on Shea Salinas in the 33rd -- Quakes goalkeeper David Bingham came up huge to deny Crew SC midfielder Federico Higuain a massive scoring opportunity after a nifty give-and-go in the box. The rebound was stabbed to safety, and the best Columbus effort of the night would also be its last.

Down to 10 men, the Crew attackers, who entering the game had posted the most goals per game of any other team in MLS, had to bunker back a bit, and the Earthquakes slowly imposed their will on the game. The home side had some excellent chance to break through in the first half, especially off the foot of Perez Garcia, but Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark kept the game scoreless into intermission.

"Yes, my teammates have told me I should shoot more on goal," said Perez Garcia through an interpreter. "In the first half, especially, I made a point of trying to get a goal and take the chances that I had in front of me. The goal did not come for me, unfortunately, but in the second half, I was able to create some passes that led to some good opportunities and the goals came."

The first goal was a result of some nifty passing between Perez Garcia and defender Jordan Stewart in the 55th minute. Surveying the space afforded him at the top of the area, the Argentine play-maker eschewed a shot on goal and slipped a perfect pass to Stewart overlapping on his left. The Englishman sent a blazing cross into the six yard box that Wondolowski met perfectly to redirect into the net for his 99th career MLS goal and a well deserved 1-0 lead.

"Jordan just fizzed it across," said Wondolowski. "The way he played it behind Parkhurst, I just had to make sure that I got a good touch on it and it was going into the net. It was a really good play, I thought, for Jordan to get himself there and free himself. Sometimes I should take a little more credit for my goals, but that one was all Jordan."

The goal energized the Avaya Stadium crowd, and murmurs began as to whether or not they would get to witness history and Wondolowski's 100th MLS goal.

"99 goals for Chris Wondolowski is an incredible achievement," said Kinnear. "To see where he's come from, Chico State, Reserve League player, to a guy that wasn't getting a ton of chances. Tonight, he had more than one good chance, and maybe with a little luck he could have finished more, but all the credit goes to him. He puts the work in every day, and he doesn't miss a chance to improve his game."

The scoreless first half, even after getting to play a man up for a third of it, was worrisome for the Earthquakes, but the way they started the second half and earned their first goal was a huge step forward from the first half.

"I told them to be patient, but when we get a chance to go, to go at good pace," said Kinnear. "Usually when you play against 10 men, the middle bottles up, so sometimes the path behind them is on the outside, and that's how the first goal started.

"We were kinda getting to where we were driving at them and playing in the middle too much, but I thought our first goal was what we talked about. Take your time, be patient, and get guys going forward, so it was a nice goal, a great finish by Chris, and obviously they had to chase the game a little bit and things opened up."

Silent most of the night was the Earthquakes veteran center back tandem of Clarence Goodson and Victor Bernardez, as well as rookie defensive midfielder Fatai Alashe. All three player stuck to their responsibilities on defense, which left plenty of room from sideline to sideline for Perez Garcia to work his magic.

"In the second half, especially, there was more space for me," said Perez Garcia. "I was able to have more time on the ball, that is very important to my game, and provide more clarity to the attack. Obviously, it was important to get the goals because it relaxes you a little bit, and then you feel even more confident."

"He's a smart player," said Kinnear. "{When he picks the right pass, you have to find that right pockets to give and receive the ball. Sometimes drifting wide is best because the middle is clogged up. Tonight, he was very effective for us, and his patience and timing on the pass before the first goal was key."

The Crew slumped a bit after giving up the goal to Wondolowski, and the Quakes sensed a defeated foe and asserted themselves even more in the attacking third. However, the Columbus back four stood firm, and even played with a bit more aggression as the memory of the first goal faded.

"Yeah, they are very good, very organized, and they have a great back four," said Wondolowski. "Especially when they have 10 men, you have to take shots to help them step out so you can play through, I thought that was a big reason we scored the second goal. They had to step out, which gave us room for a quick one-two, and we capitalized on the space there."

The game clinching goal was a thing of beauty, as Salinas took a pass at the top of the area, dipped his head toward goal before laying off a perfect pass to Perez Garcia, and then receiving the ball back before side-stepping an opponent and blasting the ball past goalkeeper Clark to double San Jose's lead.

"It was nice to get the second one," said Wondolowski. "Especially because it was a pretty nice goal. It was a good combination play and Shea showed good control with Matias and they finished a one-two in the box. It was a very special goal."

"He was finding himself in good spots," said Kinnear. "In the open field, Shea is a very good player. He can run at guys on the inside or the outside, so it was nice to see that. It was a good play overall for his goal, so it was nice to see him rewarded for his hard work and good play."

Salinas has become an important player for the Earthquakes in 2015 as Kinnear has asked his wingers to play on both sides on the ball. Known more for his industry and pace than for his skill and acumen, Salinas was a menace all evening for the Columbus Crew defense, and the technical skill he showed off on his goal made even Wondolowski take notice.

"That is something that he has really developed in his game," said Wondolowski. "He is gaining confidence, especially in tight places, and he gets the ball and is able to maneuver it. With his speed and the way he can one-two, he is very hard to keep up with. I think he is starting to understand the game, to see the game, and have better ideas out there. You can definitely see it."

Just as impressive as the sequence that led to the second goal was the Earthquakes determination to not settle with a one goal lead. To a tee, the players looked back at the two draws they experienced on the recently completed three game swing through the middle of the country and saw two missed opportunities to earn three points instead of one. They would not make that mistake against the Crew.

"It was a long road trip, and we got five points from it, which was very important for us," said Perez Garcia. "We scored goals first in all those games, but unfortunately they scored too, and at the end of the last game which especially hurt. We knew when we came home that we had to get a win and we were able to do that tonight."

Certainly playing with a man advantage for almost 60 minutes was helpful, but the Earthquakes mentality for the entire 90 minutes was more focused than it has been at any other point of the season.

"A lot of it comes down to our desire," said Wondolowski. "A lot of guys are hunting down the ball and winning it in good positions where we can go in and attack. That's something that really works for us and something that we need to continue to do."

For a team that had only played one game separated by more than one goal over the course of the first 10 games of the season, it was especially important for the Earthquakes to create some breathing room against Columbus, lest the Crew believe they still had a chance to nick a point on the road. So it was no surprise to see the Quakes push the game even harder following the second goal, when a third strike seemed very likely.

"It means three points," said Wondolowski. "That's the important thing. It was nice to get that and to keep that zero back there was also nice. It was something we needed to do, to get that second goal and finish games off, and I thought we did that tonight."

The capacity crowd was willing to lend a helping hand as well, as the chorus of chants from the San Jose Ultras end of stadium echoed and were emulated by fans throughout the banks of blue seats.

"The crowd was excellent tonight," said Kinnear. "The guys were charged up being home, and we love playing here. It's a great stadium, the fans are good, Troy Dayak was leading the way behind the goal. We really gutted it out on the road trip, and I told the guys that there are no guarantees when you come home, you have to work exactly the same. Hopefully the wins will continue."

"It's always nice to score in front of your fans," said Wondolowski, "especially to do so in front of the Ultras."

The shirts were off, and the singing was superb at Avaya Stadium as the clock ticked ever closer to 90 minutes. Wondolowski didn't manage to score his 100th career MLS goal -- his next opportunity will come next Sunday against the Orlando City SC at Levi's Stadium. No stage would be bigger for Wondolowski to push his goal-scoring to the century mark.

But that didn't matter on the night, as supporters and players alike were happy to celebrate another result in the win column. The Earthquakes kept pace with the other Western Conference leaders, with their 2-0 win over the Crew enough to separate them from the pack of mid-table teams. San Jose is now 5-4-2 in 2015 -- one win shy of last year's season total.

"I thought we did well with our possession and finished our chances nice, so I am really happy," said Kinnear. "It was a great three points, a huge night for us, and it was good to be home."