This game was about one thing and one thing only for the San Jose Earthquakes: they needed 3 vital points to try and get above that red MLS Cup playoff line. Anything less and their qualification chances would be in the hands of other teams losing.
The ups and downs of San Jose’s starting player availability continued with the return from injury of Victor Bernardez but the loss of Clarence Goodson to suspension due to yellow card accumulation.
The Quakes came out full of vim and vinegar but showing little control or patience. The RSL passing game was sharper and San Jose met this with a degree of physicality that kept the referee busy enough in the opening exchanges.
San Jose were the only side to have a clear sniff at goal in the first 15 minutes with Salinas getting through the defense but hesitating when he had a shot on into the upper right corner.
San Jose was looking like a team who had managed to confuse itself as to what the game plan was. However, around the 18th minute they began a period of possession and pressure that started to produce chances. There was some good passing and ball juggling movement between Amarikwa, Garcia, and Salinas but the final moves were wide of goal or all too easy for Rimando to gather.
There were a number of corners all but one of which failed to cause anything even resembling panic among the RSL defense. Still RSL struggled to get a chance on the San Jose goal and at times seemed to be all but handing the Quakes the game. San Jose, however, were a step late and a shot wide of being able to capitalize. Salinas managed to hit the post but in the general run of play even this felt as if it was not meant to be.
The half ended 0-0
In the 51st minute a piece of great interplay down the left wing saw Salinas deliver what looked to be the perfect defense dissecting ball into the area and Wondo looked set to side foot in the first goal. But Rimando is not your average keeper and he parried the ball away from point blank range. Amarikwa worked the ball back in for another shot on goal but it flew wide.
What fans must have wondered were the Quakes going to have to do in order to score. Meanwhile Pelosi was doing a good job keeping Sandoval on a leash.
The half progressed with a series of chances on goal for the Quakes but that killer touch was missing. Still the tide flowed mostly in San Jose’s favor and chances on goal from RSL were scarce.
One exception was in the 77th minute when RSL’s Plata got through one-on-one with Bingham but the Quakes keeper stood his ground, made himself big, and made a fine stop,
In the 87th minute the ball skidded out of the RSL box and Garcia pounced on it and fired a shot that took just enough of a deflection off a defender to wrong foot Rimando and suddenly, after almost an hour and a half of tension, it was 1-0 to San Jose.
The release of all that tension may well have been responsible for Garcia pulling off his jersey and forgetting he was already on a yellow card. Once he came out of the celebration huddle Garcia was given a second yellow, then a red, and sent off.
The Earthquakes subbed off Amarikwa for defender Koval and held on for the 1-0 win and 3 precious points.
The yellow card for taking off a jersey is a relatively recent rule change made by FIFA and entirely due to winning players having to have their team’s corporate sponsor logo in tight close up for the TV audiences following a goal. San Jose has no corporate sponsor but a rule is a rule and Garcia will miss the next Earthquakes game.
After the game I asked San Jose head coach Dominic Kinnear if he would appeal the red card. He smiled and said:
"I don’t think you can appeal that. I’ve seen video evidence. It’s pretty strong. I don’t necessarily agree with the rule but it is a FIFA rule and there’s no getting away from it."
On the missed chances for 87 minutes up to the winning goal:
"I’m happy we’re here for a victory press conference rather than something that could be different. We had a lot of chances, that’s the good thing. Give Nick Rimando some credit, he made a great save on Chris (Wondolowski). I think if you were to ask him I think Chris would say he should have scored. The one thing was that we didn’t stop pushing forward and we didn’t get frustrated and put our heads down and that was a positive thing. I really liked our determination right from the first minute, I thought we were good for a goal at halftime, and told the guys look let’s carry that first half over to the second half."