SAN JOSE, Calif. -- With mixed emotions on and off the field, the San Jose Earthquakes and FC Dallas faced off at sold-out Avaya Stadium Friday night, one day following the tragic events back in Texas that claimed the lives of five Dallas police officers.
Flags flew at half-mast at the stadium, and a moment of silence was held prior to the national anthem. But it was also Pride Night at Avaya, and the mood was somewhat balanced by the festivities. As for the game, following an entertaining, but scoreless, first half, Maximiliano Urruti scored a bicycle kick golazo shortly after intermission to give FC Dallas a lead that they would not relinquish, and the Western Conference leaders went on to win 1-0.
In three games against Dallas at Avaya, dating back to the stadium's opening last season, the Earthquakes have yet to find the back of the net. The result also pushed the Quakes winless streak in MLS to seven games, their longest stretch of futility since going without a victory over the last 15 games of the 2014 season.
The loss was the first of the season for the Earthquakes (5-6-7) at Avaya Stadium, and dropped them further from the playoff position in the West. FC Dallas (11-5-4) moved four points clear of the Colorado Rapids following their fourth road win of the season. San Jose, following its 1-0 loss at the Chicago Fire the week before, has dropped two games in a row for the first time in 2016.
The Earthquakes welcomed back Victor Bernardez to the starting line-up after the hulking center back missed last week's game at Chicago with a leg injury. Cordell Cato filled in for the injured Kofi Sarkodie at right back, and Shea Salinas replaced Matias Perez Garcia on the left wing. The attacking tandem of Chris Wondolowski and Quincy Amarikwa started their second straight game together.
FC Dallas, looking ever much the top team in MLS suggested by their league-leading points total, dominated San Jose from the opening whistle. Some all-hands-on-deck defending was necessary from the Earthquakes to prevent an early Dallas scoring opportunity as the visitors never were able to execute a shot on target.
In the sixth minute, the Quakes earned a free kick at the top of the area when Amairkwa was chopped down in possession. Bernardez lined up over the ball, as the TCL 4K Bar patrons looked for cover, but it was Anibal Godoy that struck a low shot that required goalkeeper Chris Seitz to parry towards the south sideline. A good effort from the Panamanian, but it wasn't kicked with enough venom.
FCD came close to taking the lead in the 19th minute after Mauro Diaz unlocked the Quakes defense with a perfect through ball to Urruti. The forward dribbled in on goal and fired a shot that goalkeeper David Bingham deflected just enough to redirect the ball off the goalpost.
In the 24th minute, Wondolowski nicked a pass from Alberto Quintero inside the area that rolled agonizingly close to the far post and out for a goal kick. The play was initiated by some smart footwork by Cato near the corner flag and an expert cross from Quintero. Wondo did well simply to touch the ball, and he threw hands to face at missing the opportunity to give the Quakes an early lead.
The scoring chance energized the Earthquakes, and over the next few minutes, they dominated the run of play. Marvell Wynne did well to keep the ball up the field, allowing Cato to keep a part of the offense. Godoy continued his strong play from the central midfielder spot, dishing the ball left and right with relative ease. The pressure paid off in the 31st minute with a yellow card issued to Matt Hedges for a crushing foul on Amarikwa.
The ensuing free kick was again taken by Godoy, and this time he curled a ball out of the reach of Seitz, but off the crossbar. Twice the Panamanian came close to opening the scoring; would he get a third chance to make good on his free kicks?
Dallas midfielder maestro Diaz almost single-handedly put the visitors ahead in the 37th minute, as he danced through the Quakes defense with ease and prepared to chip Bingham. Instead, the goalkeeper rushed out on the Argentinean and tipped the chip just enough with his forehead to deflect it over the target. It was the closest call of the first half for the Earthquakes.
In the 42nd minute, a stinging cross from Quintero was directed to the near post where Salinas was awaiting the delivery. He redirected the ball on the half-volley on target, but Seitz palmed the shot over the endline. On the subsequent corner kick, Amarikwa headed an attempt tantalizingly over the crossbar.
The match reached halftime still scoreless, but it was a far cry from the last time these two teams played at Avaya Stadium back on May 28, a game that finished without a goal and very little entertainment value. Friday's game was much improved in terms of the product on the field.
The stalemate was broken in the 51st minute in stunning fashion, as Urruti bicycled an errant clearance from Wynne into the upper corner of the net. It was an MLS Goal-of-the-Week quality strike by the Dallas forward, one that Bingham had little chance to save. Urruti, upon scoring the golazo, sprinted to the sidelines for a bear hug with head coach Oscar Pareja. The capacity crowd at Avaya Stadiun was shocked into silence.
Urruti nearly doubled the lead a minute later, but his close effort was cracked off the goal post. The Quakes quickly regrouped, but the damage had been done and the visitors looked in control of the game with a one goal lead. Making matters worse, Wynne had to come off the field in the 58th minute, replaced by defender Jordan Stewart. San Jose made a positive substitution in the 61st minute, bringing on Matias Perez Garcia for Salinas.
In the 68th minute, it appeared that the Quakes had tied the game, as the ball trickled into the net on a corner kick delivery. However, Godoy was adjudged to have crashed into Seitz on the play, and referee Juan Guzman called a foul on the Earthquakes midfielder, nullifying the goal.
Another lost opportunity occurred in the 70th minute as Perez Garcia delivered a long free kick that skipped out of the reach of a diving Stewart and flashed past the goal mouth and out for a goal kick. No one touched the ball on the way in, further serving to frustrate the battling Quakes.
As the game crept past the 80 minute mark, the Dallas defense held strong, and when the Quakes lost possession, the visitors were content to run the ball into empty spaces and draw down the clock. San Jose used its last substitution to bring in forward Chad Barrett for Bernardez and switching to three in the back.
In the 82nd minute, Simon Dawkins cracked a low shot that Seitz saved at the near post, as the Earthquakes pushed every available player in the attacking half. Determined to find an equalizer, San Jose took their chances and played with an elevated sense of urgency.
However, Dallas did everything they needed to do to protect their advantage, and the final whistle soon blew on the visitors 1-0 victory.
The reeling Earthquakes, desperate to break their long winless streak, conclude their short two game homestand with a game against Toronto FC next Saturday, July 16.