Earthquakes' season comes to bitter end


Earthquakes' season comes to bitter end

SANTA CLARA -- After digging themselves a 3-0 hole in the first half to the LA Galaxy, the San Jose Earthquakes did all they could to draw on their never say die attitude, but could only manage one goal in a furious comeback attempt and lost 3-1 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate to exit the MLS Cup playoffs.

A brace from Robbie Keane and a series winning goal from Mike Magee were enough to overcome a late goal from Alan Gordon and send the Galaxy forward in their quest for a second consecutive MLS Cup.

Meanwhile, the 2012 Supporters Shield winning Earthquakes could not capitalize on their season-long unbeaten streak at sold-out Buck Shaw Stadium, and at the final whistle collapsed to the grass in defeat to their California Clasico rivals.

The Galaxy stormed out of the gates looking to put the Quakes defenders under early pressure, and in just the fourth minute Victor Bernardez was forced to concede a free kick 30 yards from goal after earning a yellow card for elbowing Omar Gonzalez. Specialist David Beckham sent the ball well over the target, but was a minute later lining up a 20 yard attempt after another Bernardez foul. This time, the Englishman curled a trademark shot over the wall that forced goalkeeper Jon Busch into a spectacular diving save.

Bernardez was forced from the game with a leg injury in the 12th minute and was replaced by Ike Opara. The Galaxy soon took advantage of the absence of the Earthquakes Defender of the Year when a miscue in the midfield allowed Keane to dribble uncontested toward the top of the penalty area. Slow to close down the Ireland international, Opara was too late to prevent Keane from unleashing a strong shot that bounced in off the post to give the Galaxy a 1-0 lead.

Chris Wondolowski had a golden chance to equalize in the 26th minute as the Earthquakes seemed to come to life after conceding the goal to Keane. A low cross into the area was not cleared by Gonzalez, and the ball popped loose to 10 yards from goal. Wondolowski pounced on the opportunity but sent his one-timer skimming over the crossbar.

The Galaxy doubled their advantage in the 34th minute on a counterattack engineered by Landon Donovan. Carrying the ball unimpeded toward the top of the Quakes area, the former San Jose star threaded a ball past Opara and into the path of Keane. He rounded the keeper and calmly slotted in his second goal of the night.

Donovan played provider on the Galaxys third goal as a smart give-and-go along the right sideline freed the U.S. international to cut back a cross into the Earthquakes penalty area. Magee, making a direct run from midfield, slotted the pass from Donovan past a helpless Busch to extend the Galaxy lead to 3-0 and stun the capacity Buck Shaw Stadium crowd into silence.

A flourish of scoring chances fell to the Earthquakes in the waning minutes of the first half, including a Marvin Chavez free kick that clanged off the post in the 41st minute, but the home side went into intermission licking their wounds at being down 3-1 on aggregate.

The second half started with San Jose showing more urgency in the attacking third, but the Galaxy back line settled into a solid rhythm of bend but dont break defending. And even when the Earthquakes sent quality crosses into the area, goalkeeper Josh Saunders was there to secure the ball from danger.

Second half substitutions Shea Salinas and Gordon brought renewed energy to the Earthquakes offense, and the home side began to press forward in ever increasing numbers. In the 83rd minute, the pressure finally paid off, as a weakly cleared corner kick fell to Justin Morrow 30 yards from goal. The Quakes defender volleyed a shot toward goal that Gordon deflected past Saunders and into the goal to cut the Galaxy lead to 3-1.

The Earthquakes nearly scored in stoppage time, a goal that would have leveled the series at 3-3, but Simon Dawkins skied an uncontested shot over the target with just over a minute left, and the Galaxy successfully ran out the clock to end the Quakes season.

After best start in franchise history, Quakes' rough season ends on low note


After best start in franchise history, Quakes' rough season ends on low note


A San Jose Earthquakes season that began with the best start in franchise history ended on Sunday with an all-too-familiar result and feeling.

A Sporting Kansas City first half penalty shot and 89th minute-goal was more than enough offense to finish the Quakes' season on a low note in what was a 2-0 loss at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City.

The Earthquakes finished the 2016 campaign with an 8-14-12 record -- their 12 losses are tied for second most since returning to San Jose after a two-year hiatus in 2008.

The shutout is also the 12th the Quakes suffered this season and San Jose has now missed the playoffs four straight years.

San Jose pressed Sporting Kansas City in the first half and was almost rewarded with a goal on both occasions.

But it was Kansas City who made the most of their opportunities and those don’t come much better than a penalty shot. 

Benny Feilhaber stepped up to the spot in the 27th minute after an awkward bounce hit Cordell Cato in the arm, forcing the referee to call for the penalty. Feilhaber beat David Bingham to the keeper's left for his seventh goal of the season.

The second half was noteworthy for its chippiness more than any real threat by San Jose to try and equalize. Referee Drew Fischer handed out five yellow cards in the half -- three to the Quakes. 

Sporting KC left the game way beyond reach for San Jose when Feilhaber found a streaking Dominic Dwyer on the right side who emphatically finished past Bingham for the 2-0 result. 

Man of the Match: Feilhaber gave San Jose fits the entire match and the Quakes had no answers for the midfielder. Feilhaber and Dwyer almost connected on a couple of other occasions that might have made the result worse for the Quakes. 

Attendance: 20,371 watched Sporting KC advance to the MLS Cup playoffs. 

Up Next: It's back to the drawing board for the Quakes who will reconvene in Tucson next season for preseason camp. 

Neymar to sign extension with Barcelona through 2021


Neymar to sign extension with Barcelona through 2021

MADRID — Neymar will sign a three-year contract extension with Barcelona on Friday, a deal that will keep the Brazil forward with the Spanish club until 2021.

Barcelona and Neymar had made the announcement of the agreement in July.

The previous contract was to end in 2018. The new deal will run through June 2021, Barcelona said Monday.

The club's announcement in July ended speculation that Neymar was unhappy in Spain and was looking to move to another club. Paris Saint-Germain was among the clubs reportedly trying to sign him.

At the time, the club said the contract's buyout clause would be fixed at 200 million euros ($219 million) for the first year of the new contract, 222 million euros ($243 million) for the second, and 250 million euros ($274 million) for the final three years.

Neymar has been with Barcelona since moving from Brazilian club Santos in 2013. He has scored 90 goals in 149 matches, including five goals in eight matches this season.

A key player in Barcelona's potent attack along with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, Neymar helped the team win nine titles: two Spanish league titles, two Copa del Reys, two Spanish Super Cups, the Champions League, the European Super Cup, and the Club World Cup.

The trio of attacking players scored 122 goals in the 2014-15 season and 131 goals last season, both record figures.

Neymar and his father, who acts as his agent, are likely to face trial for fraud in Spain in a case into alleged irregularities regarding his transfer from Santos to Barcelona. A Brazilian investment group which was entitled to 40 percent of the transfer claims it received a smaller compensation than it should have because part of the fee was concealed.

Barcelona also confirmed that defender Javier Mascherano will be staying with the club until 2019. That deal also had been announced in July.