SANTA CLARA -- The San Jose Earthquakes came back again from a deficit for the fourth straight match, but this time earned the full three points on offer, as second half goals from Adam Jahn and Chris Wondolowski overturned a one goal Toronto FC lead and gave them a 2-1 victory.
“We have created chances like that as of late, but haven’t been able to finish,” said Wondolowski. “We came out with confidence and I feel us getting stronger every game.”
Toronto forward Justin Braun, who had four career goals against the Quakes heading into the game, scored the first goal of the evening in the first half, but a relentless effort from San Jose in the second half saw them snap their 6 match winless streak.
“It was great to see us win a game where we were a goal down,” said head coach Frank Yallop. “I always felt we had a chance to get the winner after Adam (Jahn) scored the other one a bit earlier. I’m very happy with the fighting spirit within our squad.”
Heading into the midweek match, San Jose could ill-afford to drop any more points at home. With nearly a third of their season complete, the Earthquakes needed a dominating performance to avoid dropping further down a crowded Western Conference table. However, with the score 0-1 in favor of Toronto at halftime, the Quakes did not look like a playoff caliber team, something that did not escape the coach’s attention.
“At halftime, I think I got their attention,” said Yallop about his locker room talk. “I felt that I needed to let them know the urgency of getting a win tonight. I thought the response in the second half was fantastic. We dominated the second half and I felt very comfortable that we were going to get back in the game.”
Goal scorers Jahn and Wondolowski will earn the headlines, but attacking midfielder Walter Martinez, making his first start for the Earthquakes, was the driving force behind San Jose’s first victory since March. For his coach, Martinez was the man of the match.
“I thought Walter played a terrific game,” said Yallop. “I thought he played very well when he was in the middle, very well wide on both sides. He’s a good addition to our squad, and I was very happy with his performance tonight.”
The Honduran international, who along with San Jose teammate Victor Bernardez featured during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, was especially pleased.
“It felt good to be out there,” said Martinez. “I was more than comfortable to play every minute. This is a strong club with great players and I see how hard they work every day. Now we are taking our good play on the road to play a great Seattle Sounders FC side and I will remain ready to play whichever role is asked of my coaches, starting or off the bench.”
The Earthquakes, with 14 points from their first 11 matches, but still without a win on the road, make a quick turnaround, as this Saturday they’ll head to the northwest to face the Seattle Sounders.
Yallop made two changes to the starting eleven that faced the Montreal Impact over the weekend as Martinez spelled Rafael Baca in the midfield and former Toronto FC defender Dan Gargan replaced Justin Morrow. Martinez made his first start of the season for the Quakes after making his MLS debut as a substitute against the Impact. With his inclusion at left back, Gargan celebrated his 100th career MLS start.
Losers of the pregame coin-flip, Toronto played into the setting California sun to start the game, and the Earthquakes looked to attack in the early going to take advantage. In the 6th minute a long diagonal pass from Wondolowski found Marvin Chavez streaking down the right wing. The midfielder created space in the corner before sending a cross back over the area to an onrushing Wondolowski near the far post. Wondo looped a header toward the opposite post, but TFC goalkeeper Joe Bendik did well to paw the ball away from danger.
After weathering the opening San Jose salvo, Toronto broke through in the 15th minute through a set piece opportunity. A free kick just inside the center line from TFC was met by defender Donell Henry, getting the better of Bernardez near the penalty spot, and flicked forward. Notorious Quakes-killer Braun volleyed the ball through his marker and past goalkeeper Jon Busch to put TFC up 1-0. For Braun, it was his fifth career goal against the Earthquakes.
The Quakes tried to counter quickly, and created a good opportunity one minute after Braun’s goal, but a 20 yard effort from Chavez sailed just wide of the post.
In the 27th minute, Jahn did his best to earn an equalizer, as he expertly chested down a floated pass near the top of the area and spun toward goal. His volleyed shot was well struck, but it sailed over the crossbar and crashed into the Buck Shaw Stadium video scoreboard behind the south goal.
The Earthquakes should have tied the score in the 45th minute through Shea Salinas, but the midfielder skied an open shot from 10 yards out after receiving a well placed pass from Wondolowski. The Toronto defense was caught watching the play after expecting an offside call against Wondolowski, but referee Fotis Bazakos did not agree, and Logan Emory received a yellow card for dissent after the Salinas miss.
Following a closed-door meeting at half time that featured an impassioned speech from Yallop, the Earthquakes stormed out to start the second half and quickly found an equalizing goal. In the 48th minute, from a throw in from Gargan, Wondolowski flicked a pass into the area for Jahn. The rookie forward took a soft touch was his right foot before unleashing a shot off the outside of his left boot that beat Bendik to the near post. Jahn’s fourth goal of the season tied the score at one goal apiece.
On the ascendancy, San Jose continued to press forward and nearly went ahead through a flurry of offensive activity in the 67th minute. A clever run from Martinez allowed the midfielder to send a cross through the box that was narrowly missed by Chavez at the far post. Less than a minute later it was Chavez providing a cross to Martinez, but the Honduran connection failed to result in a goal as Martinez’ header went wide.
Toronto, forced to slow the game down with yellow card accumulation and substitutions finally yielded to the heavy Earthquakes pressure in the 81st minute. On a corner kick, Chavez drove a low ball into the area that Martinez redirected toward the six-yard box. Wondolowski met the pass and volleyed home the ball to give San Jose their first lead since the first half against Chivas USA two weeks ago.
San Jose survived a late Toronto effort in the 90th minute as the visitors made their first dangerous foray into the attacking third in the second half. A loose ball at the top of the area fell to Henry and, with Busch off his line, the Toronto defender smashed a shot on target that Bernardez dived in front of and deflected high into the air. With a bead on the ball, Busch went up to make a catch save, but he was bowled over by Robert Earnshaw and called for the foul.
Toronto had one more chance to earn an equalizer in the last minute of stoppage time, but San Jose held on and earned their first victory since a March 23 victory against the Seattle Sounders. The Quakes next travel to Seattle to face those same Sounders this Saturday afternoon.