The cardiac Quakes did it again, as an 87th minute goal from Chris Wondolowski was enough for 10-men San Jose to defeat Chivas USA 1-0 at the StubHub Center.
With the score still 0-0 in the 82nd minute, Steven Lenhart collected his second yellow card of the match to reduce the Earthquakes' numbers and give the Goats a chance to put a dent in San Jose’s MLS playoff hopes. Instead, Wondolowski’s goal ensured that the Quakes have everything to play for in the last three games of their regular season.
The 1-0 victory was San Jose’s second straight on the road after beating Real Salt Lake the weekend before. Prior to the two-game run, the Earthquakes had won only once away from the Bay Area all year.
The Earthquakes were missing U.S. Men’s national team defender Clarence Goodson due to a knee injury, but veteran Jason Hernandez stepped in to the line-up in his absence. For interim head coach Mark Watson, it was the 15th different combination of defenders San Jose has employed along its back four this season, but the team did not look fazed by the change.
Neither side was able to muster much on offense for the first 45 minutes of the match. The Quakes controlled most of the run of play on the expansive field, but, save a few free kicks near the Chivas USA area, could do little to challenge the defensive minded Goats.
Lenhart was shown a yellow card in the 38th minute for elbowing Steve Purdy on a 50-50 challenge. The collision left Purdy shaken up, and the Chivas defender exited the game with an apparent head injury.
Shea Salinas and Jordan Stewart each had strong efforts in trying to provide service to the San Jose forwards late in the half, but former Earthquakes defender Bobby Burling snuffed out every promising opportunity. Following two minutes of injury time, the teams entered the StubHub Center locker rooms scoreless.
A minute into the second half, the Earthquakes scored an apparent goal from a corner kick, but it was inexplicably called off by referee Jose Carlos Rivero. Running uninterrupted through the mixer to meet Salinas’ entry ball, Lenhart headed a shot past goalkeeper Dan Kennedy and into the back of the net. However, even before the shot was delivered, Rivero whistled the play dead after adjudging Cordell Cato of throwing an illegal pick.
With a second lease on life, Chivas USA better asserted themselves on offense and had their attacked bolstered in the 52nd minute with the entrance of Bay Area native Matt Fondy at forward. The Burlingame High and U.C. Santa Cruz alum nearly put the home side ahead with a header a minute later on a corner kick that forced goalkeeper Jon Busch to make a smart catch-save.
After an hour of the match had elapsed, the Earthquakes started to venture much further up the field in search of an all-important goal in their quest to keep pace in the playoff chase. An uncontested shot from Cato in the 63rd minute and a counterattack chance from Wondolowski in the 65th minute each were denied by Kennedy. Salinas, shortly before exiting the game for Marvin Chavez, tried a curling effort to the back post, but the shot flew tantalizingly past the target.
San Jose tried to turn up the pressure on offense with the substitution of Alan Gordon for Rafael Baca in the 75th minute, but the departure of the central midfielder meant the Goats found more space to counter on the Quakes. Erick Torres and Fondy both tested Busch but were unable to convert. An 81st minute drive from Tristan Bowen seemed to have the ‘keeper beat, but his 40-yard blast cleared the crossbar.
The Earthquakes found themselves behind the 8-ball in the 82nd minute when Lenhart was shown a second yellow card for a challenge on Kennedy. The ejection forced the Quakes to back off on offense and will cost Lenhart a game through suspension.
Ten-man San Jose found itself stretched on both sides of the ball, but still found a way to break through to take the lead. After a tough defensive stand in the 87th minute, the Quakes raced forward on the counterattack. Gordon found space to fire a 25-yard shot on target that forced a save from Kennedy, but Wondolowski was in position to pounce on the rebound and direct the ball into the back of the net.
The shell-shocked Goats looked uncertain on how to answer the Quakes goal, and San Jose expertly worked to run out the clock. With four minutes of stoppage time to survive, the Earthquakes put every man behind the ball. Chivas USA, spurred on by the sparse crowd, couldn’t string together enough on offense to challenge the visitors, and the final whistle finally sounded on San Jose’s second straight one-goal road victory.
A huge three points were duly celebrated by San Jose, as they kept their slim playoff chances alive with the win. The Earthquakes return to MLS action on October 9 against the Colorado Rapids at Buck Shaw Stadium.