SAN JOSE, Calif. -- A very colorful game of soccer -- both red and yellow -- marked the visit of FC Dallas to sold-out Avaya Stadium on Sunday as the San Jose Earthquakes survived a pair of red cards to earn a scoreless draw against their Western Conference rivals.
A straight red card for Mark Sherrod, making his first start for the Earthquakes, early in the second half torpedoed what had been a dominant performance to that point and allowed Dallas back into the game. However, a red card to Dallas defender Je-Vaughn Watson 20 minutes later brought the teams even until the game was nearly completed. JJ Koval collected the game's third red card with a cleats up tackle on Ryan Hollingshead to put Dallas a man up again.
"We were winning a lot of balls in the last 20 minutes of the first half, and I thought we were in for a good second half," said head coach Dominic Kinnear. "Unfortunately, the red card really changed things up in a negative fashion for probably everyone except FC Dallas."
With all the disruptions -- there were four yellow cards awarded on the afternoon in addition to the three red cards -- neither team could find the back of the net, and the game ended in a stalemate. The point earned allowed the Earthquakes to move up to a tie for seventh in West, three points behind the LA Galaxy for the last playoff qualification spot.
"If you had asked me halftime, I wouldn't have taken a point," said Kinnear, "but with the way the game was going, I thought we were leaning on them a little bit. As soon as you go down a man, obviously you think the odds are stacked against you. Even ten versus eleven, we were doing some good things. I'm not going to sit back in my chair and smile, but as I told the guys, I am really happy with the way they handled themselves today. We did not get rattled and did okay."
Kinnear made four changes to his starting lineup from a week ago, welcoming Fatai Alashe back from national team duty and giving Sherrod the nod over Adam Jahn. Cordell Cato replaced Sanna Nyassi, who is with the Gambian national team, and Matias Perez Garcia resumed his place in central midfield.
A yellow card to each team in the early going by referee Baldomero Toledo, the first to Marvell Wynne and the second to Victor Ulloa, set the tone early between these MLS originals, but the afternoon would not be a Clash and Burn affair for anyone other than the referee.
In the 16th minute, the Quakes nearly struck first, as Perez Garcia, back in the starting lineup after sitting out last weekend's 3-1 loss at Toronto FC, delivered a perfect free kick into the area that was stabbed wide of the target by forward Sherrod. Two minutes later, Cato had his own assist chance go wanting, as he blazed a ball through the six yard box from the right side, but it eluded both Chris Wondolowski and Shea Salinas.
Goalkeeper David Bingham came up big in the 20th minute with a diving save on a well struck ball by Michael Barrios. The Dallas midfielder had beat the Quakes on the counterattack and had cut back across Victor Bernardez for the uncontested shot, but Bingham leaped to his left and parried the ball out for a corner kick.
Cato was at it again in the 40th minute, sending a low ball into the danger zone, but just ahead of Wondolowski and Sherrod. The Quakes were threatening, but coming up just short. In the 44th minute, a corner kick from MPG was met expertly by Bernardez in the box, but he inexpertly headed the ball off the turf and over the goal. At the end of the half, San Jose had a penalty call waved away by Todelo when it appeared that Salinas was tripped up in the area by former Earthquake Atiba Harris.
Whereas he wouldn't make the call in the first half, in the 53rd minute, Toledo did make a brazen decision, but this time it was in favor of FC Dallas. After a low cross was collected by Dan Kennedy, Sherrod allowed his momentum to carry him over the goalkeeper's head and his boot made contact enough for the referee to brandish a straight red card. It was a tough blow for a Quakes team that had dominated the game to that point.
"As far as I can remember, the ball came in on a cross and he was on the ground and I was literally trying to get out of the way." said Sherrod. "His head came up to my cleat, and I definitely nicked him. It was 100% incidental, so there is not a lot I can do about that."
"I know Mark," added Wondolowski. "He hopped up and tried to get out of the way. I did see it. He did catch him a little bit, but there was no intent."
Kinnear was forced to change tactics at 10 men, bringing in Jahn for Perez Garcia in a move that the frustrated Argentine did not agree with. However, it was a move born of necessity, as the Quakes needed a way to slow down the game whenever they were able to clear the ball from their own half. San Jose would have to settle for counterattacks and set pieces from that point forward.
And it almost worked in the 74th minute, when a free kick into the area narrowly missed Wondolowski, and was nearly bundled over the goal line by Matt Hedges. On the ensuing corner kick, the clearance ultimately made it out to Cato, and the game changed again at the hands of Toledo.
With Cato prone on a sliding tackle, FC Dallas defender Watson raked his cleats over the Earthquakes midfielder, and Toledo summoned his well-used red card for the occasion. Perhaps a bit of leveling the playing field by the referee, but it was just the spark the Quakes needed.
Wondolowski came very close to securing a win for the home side when his lofted header beat Kennedy with five minutes to go, but the ball bounced agonizingly wide of the post. It was the last good effort from the Earthquakes on the afternoon.
"It disrupts any team when you go down a man," said Wondolowski. "It's hard to prepare for that. It's really difficult, and I wish it didn't happen."
Another straight red card came in the 87th minute, as Earthquakes substitute Koval was cited for a cleats up tackle on Hollingshead in a brazen open field tackle. The restless Avaya Stadium crowd rained boos down on Toledo as the Quakes again had to weather a man deficit to the visitors.
"You don't go out there trying to make bad tackles and get red cards," said Koval, "so it's unfortunate and frustrating, but it's going to happen sometimes."
Fortunately for the Quakes, their spirited defensive effort through four minutes of stoppage team kept FC Dallas off the scoreboard, and the game ended in a scoreless draw. San Jose plays next on Tuesday, June 20, in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup against Sacramento Republic FC at Avaya Stadium before resuming its MLS campaign with a road trip to Seattle Sounders the following weekend.