San Jose Earthquakes 0 : 2 Real Salt Lake
By Patrick Beatty
After a record breaking 2012, the San Jose Earthquakes struggled in their first game of 2013. Facing a Real Salt Lake team that is going through a revamp, the Goonies were favored to win the match. However, without towering forwards Lenhart and Gordon, Chris Wondolowski created shot after shot but failed to convert. Unlike last year, this time the chances would just not become goals. Frank Yallop summed it up well:
We played very well. We created enough chances to score a few goals…We created a lot of chances. I thought our general play was positive.The clear and chilly night at Buck Shaw stadium in Santa Clara, California was electric with the sold out crowd. Though the first 15 minutes were uneventful, the San Jose Earthquakes previewed what was to come with winger Shea Salinas sending in two crosses from set pieces to find Wondolowski in the box.
While Wondolowski and Fucito continued to create chances just wide of the goal, the usually sturdy defense of the San Jose Earthquakes started to show some weakness when Real Salt Lake’s 19 year old Luis Gil used some brilliant footwork to cut back and get a shot that just missed being the first goal of the match.
While Salinas had success and showed a lot of promise on the right wing, his success was partly due to a rough first 30 minutes from Real Salt Lake defender, Kenny Mansally. Mansally’s flubs went as far as missing a pass to the goalie so badly without being under pressure that he gave a corner kick to San Jose. Jason Kreis also noticed the poor initial outing by Mansally:
I had an itchy finger. Certainly considering making a move there, but I decided patient could be a good virtue. I saw him make a very good tackle in middle to late in the first half. I am really pleased with his reaction. It’s not easy to be away and make a few blunders early and come back in the second half and perform as strongly as he did.
As the first half wound down in the final 15 minutes, Wondolowski continued to break free with balls in the box, but still could not convert. Clearly, the industriousness of the Wondolowski-Fucito pairing is there, but the familiarity is not as they even occasionally both inadvertently dummied the ball to each other. Unfortunately for San Jose, not converting those chances early on was beginning to haunt them already. Luis Gil began to find room for long range shots or slip balls into an onrushing Robbie Findley. As Real Salt Lake, goalkeeper Nick Rimando said:
Gil has grown so much at Real Salt Lake under the guidance of Fabi [Fabian Espindola] and Javier [Morales]. He is calm on the ball and not many 20 year olds have that. He’s patient on the ball. He’s always been a great player. He’s grown but It’s not just from leading the US under 20 team. It has a great deal to do with competing with players like Javier Morales and Kyle Beckerman every day.
As the second half began, San Jose would continue to create chances and fail to convert. While similar to the first half, this second half would see Real Salt Lake re-emerge to control and possess the ball more, leading to chances to score the first goal of the game. Wondolowski had yet another shot on goal with an easy header that went wide. As the 2012 MLS golden boot winning Wondolowski said:
Horrible finishing by me. I had four clear looks and Rimando didn’t have to make a save.
Letting a good team like Real Salt Lake linger that long into a game was bound to become a problem for San Jose. In the 71st minute, it did. This is the moment when the newest addition to Real Salt Lake stepped onto the field. The diminutive forward Joao Plata, formerly of Toronto FC, was an instant spark for a Real Salt Lake team trying to unlock the San Jose defense.
Within his first few touches of the ball, Plata lobbed a ball over the San Jose defense perfectly for an streaking Saborio, who beat Busch one-on-one to slot in the first goal of the season at Buck Shaw stadium. Saborio summed it about both of his new speedy forward pairing in Findley and Plata:
Yes, [Plata played well and he helped me do my job], but also first I was playing with Robbie and he also did a very good job, making good runs, and tried very hard to help the team.
As the minutes wore on, Salinas continued to try to create for the Earthquakes but again no one could find the back of the net.
In the final 15 minutes, the former Seattle Sounders and now San Jose Earthquakes winger Cordell Cato came on and injected life into the game. However, without familiarity with his teammates that final connecting pass just never came.
As San Jose pushed for a goal, Real Salt Lake went in for the kill as they continued to dominate possession. All of this possession would pay off for Real Salt Lake in the 85th minute.
With minutes left in the game, Luis Gil slipped a ball across the top of the box to Kyle Beckerman, who slotted the ball into the path of a darting Saborio.
With a shot the Busch was inches away from stopping, Saborio from a the corner of the box, slipped a ball just past the leg of the falling goalkeeper for his second goal of the match.
Was this the end of the Earthquakes? No.
As Shea Salinas said in his post-match interview:
We all know Chris Wondolowski is going to score goals.Just because it didn’t happen on night one doesn’t mean he’s not going to get his 20 goals this year.
…and we know, Goonies never say die and neither do the San Jose Earthquake fans. However, without Simon Dawkins, some key injuries, and more games with their first year in CONCACAF Champions League, the San Jose Earthquakes are in for a very rough 2013 that will need every bit of that Goonies magic to make it even half as successful as 2012.
Real Salt Lake (4-1-2-1-2) – Nick Rimando; Tony Beltran, Chris Schuler, Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Kenny Mansally; Kyle Beckerman (C); Luis Gil, Sebastian Velasquez; Khari Stephenson (Yordany Alvarez, 84’); Robbie Findley (Joao Plata, 65’), Alvaro Saborio (Devon Sandoval, 87’)
Substitutes not used: Josh Saunders (GK), Carlos Salcedo, Lovel Palmer, John Stertzer
San Jose Earthquakes (4-4-2) – Jon Busch; Ty Harden (Adam Jahn, 84’), Victor Bernardez, Jason Hernandez, Justin Morrow; Shea Salinas (Cordell Cato, 80’), Sam Cronin, Rafael Baca, Ramiro Corrales (Sam Garza, 72’); Mike Fucito, Chris Wondolowski
Substitutes not used: David Bingham (GK), Peter McGlynn, Nana Attakora, Brad Ring
Attendance: 10,525/10,525 (100%)