VANCOUVER - Pedro Morales converted a penalty in the first half Wednesday as the Vancouver Whitecaps snapped an ugly 450-minute scoring drought with a 2-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes.
Morales stepped up to the spot and beat Jon Busch low to the San Jose goalkeeper's right in the 39th minute after Whitecaps defender Kendall Waston was fouled by Earthquakes counterpart Victor Bernardez in the area off a Vancouver free kick.
Waston then headed home a Morales corner in the 56th minute for his first goal with the Whitecaps since joining the club last month to give Vancouver some breathing room.
Morales' goal snapped a scoreless streak of exactly seven and half hours - or five full matches - for the Whitecaps (8-6-13), who had been shut out in four straight games, and five of their last six.
Vancouver's last goal before Wednesday came off the boot of Darren Mattocks, coincidentally in the 39th minute, of the Whitecaps' 2-0 victory over Sporting Kansas City on Aug. 10.
Morales - who now has eight goals on the season, including six from the penalty spot - snapped a six-game scoring slump of his own as Vancouver leapfrogged the Portland Timbers into the fifth and final playoff spot in Major League Soccer's Western Conference.
Both teams have seven games remaining on the schedule, including a critical game in Portland on Sept. 20.
Vancouver entered Wednesday with just two wins in its last fourteen games and a recent stretch of 0-2-2 forced the club out of the top-5 in the West.
Coming off a hard-fought 3-3 road tie against the Timbers on Sunday and having given up 14 goals in its last five games, San Jose (6-11-9) was just what the Whitecaps needed to shake their scoring woes and get back in the win column.
Vancouver head coach Carl Robinson again opted for a 4-4-2 formation with a diamond midfield, the same setup that failed to find a way through in Saturday's 0-0 home draw against D.C. United. Mattocks, who started that one but picked up an ankle injury, was replaced in the lineup by Erik Hurtado up top alongside Sebastian Fernandez.
The Whitecaps had the bulk of possession before the breakthrough, with San Jose failing to even direct a shot towards David Ousted in the Vancouver goal in the opening 45 minutes.
Waston had a chance to open the scoring in the 13th minute but sent a free header just over the bar off a corner kick as a season-low crowd of 17,183 at B.C. Place Stadium groaned in disapproval.
Fernandez and Russel Teibert then tried their luck from distance minutes apart midway through the half before Hurtado snatched at a loose ball in the 29th that forced an alert save from Busch.
After the Whitecaps grabbed the lead late in the first half from the spot, Fernandez almost doubled the Vancouver lead in the 47th minute, but his shot whipped wide of Busch's goal.
The Earthquakes entered Wednesday winless in their last six (0-2-4) and finally got a shot on target when captain Chris Wondolowski directed a header at Ousted off a corner in the 55th.
But those positive vibes wouldn't last as Waston - who missed that golden chance in the first half and another on Saturday - finally opened his account with the Whitecaps off a Morales corner with a powerful header in the 56th that went through the legs of San Jose's Cordell Cato at the near post and past Busch. The big defender pumped his fists and was mobbed by teammates before dropping to his knees in celebration.
Morales almost bagged his second in the 73rd, but Busch got his fingers to a shot that was headed to the bottom corner, before Hurtado sent a shot just wide moments later that would have snapped a personal scoring drought that stretches back to June 7.
Morales thought he had his second of the night in the 86th minute after scoring on a breakaway, but the referee judged that he controlled the ball with an arm.
The loss leaves San Jose 10 points back of Vancouver and eight adrift of Portland in the chase for the final playoff spot in the West, but the Earthquakes do have a game in hand.
Notes: Ousted has back-to-back clean sheets to give him nine on the season. ... Morales' assist on Waston's goal was his 10th of 2014 to set a Whitecaps' single-season record. ... Former Vancouver striker Carl Valentine was inducted into the Whitecaps' Ring of Honour prior to the game. ... Vancouver defender Steven Beitashour returned to the starting lineup after missing out on Saturday with a hip problem. ... The Whitecaps will play their third game in eight days on Saturday when they travel to take on FC Dallas. ... San Jose hosts the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday, also their third game in eight days.