SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Bright sunshine greeted a sold-out crowd at Avaya Stadium Sunday afternoon, as the San Jose Earthquakes defeated the visiting Sporting Kansas City 1-0 on Chris Wondolowski's second half penalty kick.
The strike from the spot was Wondo's 116th all-time in his MLS career, and his seventh so far in 2016. The Earthquakes forward now sits alone at the top of the league's scoring list this season.
San Jose improved to 4-0-1 at home with the result, as the Quakes moved into a three-way tie with Real Salt Lake and the LA Galaxy for third place in the Western Conference.
The Quakes had a golden chance to break through in the 24th minute when on a three-on-one attack, Alberto Quintero had space to bring the ball into the area. With both Wondolowski and Quincy Amarikwa crashing the box, Quintero weakly sought them out with a cross, and the errant ball was cleared from danger.
Sporting looked certain to take the lead in the 29th minute, as a momentary lapse of defensive oversight allowed Dom Dwyer to drift in to the far post, put the Kansas City forward saw his header from Benny Feilhaber's chip cross slapped away by David Bingham.
The rest of the first half was a drab affair, as disjointed possession and a slippery surface made it tough for either side to assert themselves. The last shot before intermission -- from Graham Zusi right into Bingham's breadbasket -- was a rare highlight for the first forty-five.
Both teams trotted out the same line-ups to start the second half, and so the soccer was much the same. A clear-cut penalty on Dwyer, earned when Andres Imperiale clipped in the are from behind, was waved off by referee Jair Marrufo in the 55th minute, drawing the ire of Dwyer.
Marrufo then did the opposite of making up for the call by awarding the Quakes a penalty in the 58th minute, as goalkeeper Tim Melia was adjudged to have tripped up Simon Dawkins just outside the six-yard box. Wondolowski calmly stepped up to the spot and placed a shot to his left that brought life to the crowd, including the San Jose Ultras, who are celebrating 13 years as the Earthquakes primary supporters group.
A determined Sporting took over the game, now down an undeserved goal, fought back to control the game for the next ten minutes. Amarikwa, who appeared to suffer a hamstring injury during that time, was subbed off for Adam Jahn. Former Quakes defender Ike Opara entered the game for Matt Besler in the 75th minute.
The subs did little to help either team improve the standard of play, which suited the Earthquakes just fine. Bingham controlled the game from his end of the field, making the saves he needed to make down the stretch, including a big catch-save in stoppage time when Sporting was on the break.
The Quakes head on the road to face the Philadelphia Union to close out the month of April. They will return to Avaya Stadium to play the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday, May 11.