SAN JOSE, Calif. — With a depleted roster at his disposal, San Jose Earthquakes head coach Dominic Kinnear had a ready-made excuse for his team’s scoreless result against Sporting Kansas City in front of a full house at Avaya Stadium Saturday night. Instead, Kinnear acknowledged that despite the visitors looking stronger on paper, his squad did well to keep them off the scoreboard.
“They probably had the better chances overall in the game,” he said. “We had some good moments, but our final ball was a bit off today. Let’s give them credit, they are a good team. They had their best lineup out there, and we went with a lot of guys who haven’t been starting a lot of minutes. Not only are they putting out their best lineup, they are a good team. Am I thrilled with a point? You always want more, but maybe later tonight when I sit back, maybe I’ll say, ‘Okay, that wasn’t so bad.’”
The result was in doubt until the last minute of stoppage time, as it took a heroic save from David Bingham on a guilt-edged scoring opportunity for Graham Zusi that, well, saved the day for the Quakes.
“He make a great save, said defender Andres Imperiale. “When I turn and see one-v-one against David, I say, ‘Please, David. Make a save.’ So, he make a great save and we got the point.”
Imperiale, pressed into duty when center back Florian Jungwirth was ruled out with an ankle injury suffered midweek in the Earthquakes’ 2-0 U.S. Open Cup fourth round victory, was stellar for San Jose on the night. He even played through a broken nose sustained late in the second half, as the Quakes defense earned its sixth shutout of the season, propelling the team back above the red line in a crowded Western Conference playoffs chase.
“It was up to our standards,” said Bingham. “We were able to keep a shutout. International breaks, injuries, suspensions — doesn’t matter what it is — we have players that are ready to step it up. Credit to those guys that come in with the right mentality; they delivered for us.”
In addition to not having Jungwirth available, the Quakes were without starters Marco Urena and Darwin Ceren, both sitting out with suspensions earned two weeks ago in a 2-0 loss at the Portland Timbers. Fortunately, midfielder Shea Salinas was recovered from a knee injury, and rookie Jackson Yueill was also ready to step in on short notice, as both players made substitution appearances in the scoreless draw. For Yueill, it was his MLS debut, and he felt it went pretty good.
"With the weather, for me to come in was the perfect time,” the rookie shared. “Both teams were lulling a little bit. They had more possession as well throughout the game, so for me and Shea Salinas to come on and bring a spark to the game was the main thing that helped us. Watching the game, they were possessing, but when we came in we changed the dynamics a little bit."
The substitutions did go the Quakes way, and some half-chances on goal were enjoyed by the home side. However, it was Sporting KC that almost escaped Avaya Stadium with all three points, as Zusi came tantalizingly close to scoring deep in stoppage time.
“We’re not satisfied,” said Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes. “Obviously, with that last chance Graham [Zusi] had, he will tell you he should have scored that. You feel like you left something on the table for sure. But these games are tricky. When you walk away sometimes, you’ve got to realize, ‘Hey, we got a point.’ We’ve got to move on and get on with the next one.”
Bingham wouldn’t allow the U.S. international his moment of glory, and the Earthquakes increased their season points total to 20 with the draw. Their home record is only 3-1-4, but they do have a chance to add to the win column when Real Salt Lake visits the Bay Area next weekend.
Kansas City is a top quality team, there’s no getting around that,” said Bingham. “It’s frustrating not getting three points tonight but the most important thing each game is to keep the shutout and give us a chance to win, that’s what we always look to do.”