By Eric Maestas
San Jose 1 :0 CD Heredia
San Jose Earthquakes ensured that the off season would be one of anticipation not reflection for their supporters, after securing their qualification for the CONCACAF Champions League quarter finals.
Win, and you’re in was the challenge set forth for them in a group where hitherto every game had been won by the home side.
That cliché, so utilized in American sports, certainly applied to the SJ Earthquakes as they took on Guatemala’s CD Heredia Wednesday night at Buckshaw Stadium. A win for the Quakes would see them through to the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League.
Fielding a squad with Steven Lenhart and Chris Wondolowski at attack, the Earthquakes pressed the action early on in the first half, producing a corner kick in the 4th minute. The corner effort was effortlessly repelled by the Heredia defense.
Relentless pressure from the Quakes produced a chance in the 6th minute, with Wondolowski finding himself with space right in front of goal, only to lob his shot up and over the crossbar.
Yet Heredia’s goalkeeper Jose Calderon cleanly saved another corner effort from the Quakes in the 9th minute. Cordell Cato’s speed down the right wing produced problems for the Heredia defense.
CD Heredia’s offense finally sprang to life in the 13th minute, with forward Anderson Andrade sending a volley wide left from 30 yards out.
A Lenhart header in the 17th minute did not produce the action needed to get past keeper Calderon. A Lenhart shot in the 18th minute slightly bounced off Calderon’s chest.
A foul on Steven Lenhart in the 19th minute led to a Victor Bernardez free kick, which the Honduran international sent sailing over the crossbar.
CD Heredia proved to be a physical team, yet would go to ground a bit too easy at times.
An Earthquakes corner in the 28th minute found Clarence Goodson on the left edge of goal, but he headed it straight at the Heredia keeper.
The Heredia offensive in the 29th minute produced a free kick, which failed to materialize any real threat for Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch.
At the half-hour mark, Quakes midfielder Sam Cronin uncorked a shot from 40 yards out, only to send it over the crossbar. Two minutes later, Cronin found Wondolowski in space, who skied his shot in a one-on-one with goalkeeper. It was Wondolowski’s second missed (golden) opportunity of the half.
A Rafa Baca cross into the CD Heredia box produced yet another Earthquakes corner kick in the 40th minute, which failed to produce any legitimate threat to goal. A second successive corner kick in as many minutes proved ineffective.
A Jordan Stewart cross in the 43rd almost found the right boot of Wondolowski, as he slid in attempt to make contact with the ball.
The Earthquakes had only but themselves to blame to end the first half scoreless, as they will rue their missed opportunities.
The second half began in a similar fashion as the first, with the Earthquakes pressing the action, resulting in a corner kick in the 49th minute. While the opportunity did not result in a goal, a miscue by the Heredia keeper gifted the Quakes yet another corner about a minute later. Again, no goal.
Wondolowski found himself on the left wing for a brief moment in the 52nd minute, sending in a cross that Rafa Baca attempted to send into goal.
A Shea Salinas corner kick in the 53rd found Rafa Baca again in the box, who thumped the ball over the crossbar.
Jordan Stewart streaked into CD Heredia in the 59th minute, uncorking a shot that resembled a field goal.
The one-hour mark saw the introduction of Alan Gordon at the expense of Rafa Baca. In the 62nd, Shea Salinas played the role of provider yet again, feeding Steven Lenhart with a cross that did not connect.
Salinas found himself with the ball within the same minute, and again provided an assist, this time to 2012 MLS Golden Boot winner Wondolowski, who provided a clinical finish from six yards out for the go-ahead goal.
CD Heredia threatened in the 72nd minute, with Jon Busch punting away the ball from a corner kick.
In the 78th minute, Walter Martinez came on for Cordell Cato, a signal that Mark Watson wanted to shore up the defense in order to preserve the one-goal lead.
Given the tone and tempo of the match, both Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon, the latter-day “Bash Brothers”, were able exploit the space in the Heredia defense to find themselves unmarked.
CD Heredia became incensed in the 86th minute, as an apparent goal by Enrique Miranda was waved off, as the linesman held the offside flag up. Three CD Heredia players swarmed the linesman, and had to be separated by Mexican referee Alberto Garcia.
During the three minutes of stoppage time, Alan Gordon got behind the CD Heredia defense, but had his shot deflected by keeper Calderon.
A frantic finish to the match saw keeper Jose Calderon come up to support a CD Heredia corner kick, Clarence Goodson getting sent off after picking up a second yellow card, and Alan Gordon receiving a head-butt from Calderon.
The 1-0 scoreline was truly misleading, given the nature of how the SJ Earthquakes created chances, dominated possession, and established the pace of the game.
Ultimately, the Quakes achieved their objective of winning Group 5 of the CONCACAF Champions League, insuring a trip to the quarterfinals of the tournament.
Tonight’s result should serve as a tonic for missing this season’s MLS playoffs.
San Jose Earthquakes: Jon Busch, Victor Bernardez, Jordan Stewart, Steven Beitashour, Clarence Goodson, Cordell Cato (Walter Martinez 78′), Sam Cronin, Rafa Baca (Alan Gordon 61′), Shea Salinas (Justin Morrow 88′), Steven Lenhart, Chris Wondolowski
Substitutes not used: David Bingham, Mike Fucito, Adam Jahn, Justin Morrow, Jason Hernandez
Coach: Mark Watson
CD Heredia: Jose Calderon, Rodolfo Gonzalez (Enrique Miranda 67′), Henry Medina, Roberth Arias, Victor Hernandez, Wilfred Velasquez, Hector De Mata, Wilmer Garcia, Anderson Andrade, Charles Cordova, Osman Lopez (David Espinoza 80′)
Substitutes not used: Darwin Mendez, Pereira Hetzon, Rony Guzman, Rodrigo De Leon, Edgar Cotto
Coach: Juan Carlos Elias