'Quakes defeat Sounders 2-1, extend lead in West


'Quakes defeat Sounders 2-1, extend lead in West

Chris Wondolowskis last season scoring surge continued Saturday night, as the San Jose Earthquakes took advantage of his 22nd goal of the season to overcome the Seattle Sounders 2-1 at CenturyLink Field. With the victory, the Earthquakes completed a three-game season sweep of the Sounders and opened up an 11 point lead in the Western Conference.

We started the game well and played a great first half to get the lead, said head coach Frank Yallop. Seattle put a lot of pressure on in the second half and we bent a little but we didnt break and got an important result. This team just has great spirit and they always push through to the end.

A goal from Simon Dawkins in the second minute, the earliest by an Earthquakes player since the franchise returned to MLS in 2008, was cancelled out 12 minutes later by Seattle midfielder Steve Zakuanis first goal of the campaign and first since returning from a horrific leg injury suffered early in the 2011 season. Wondolowski scored in the 30th minute to restore the Earthquakes lead, and the visitors hung on for the last hour of the match to post the victory.

For Wondolowski, the goal marked his 10th game winning goal of the season, setting a new MLS record and breaking his own personal best of 9 winners in the 2010 season. His goal also extended his lead atop the league scoring chart to a staggering 8 goals over second place strikers Alvaro Saborio of Real Salt Lake and Kenny Cooper of the New York Red Bulls.

I do pride myself on scoring important goals that help the team win, said Wondolowski, so it does feel good to score that many game-winning goals. This team gives me a lot of opportunities and I just need to finish them.

Playing their third game in eight days, the Earthquakes featured nearly the same line-up that faced Chivas USA a week earlier. Playing on the artificial turf of CenturyLink Field, coach Yallop deployed a starting XI that was geared toward keeping possession of the ball and transitioning from defense to offense with urgency. And with speedy wingers Shea Salinas and Marvin Chavez still mending from injuries, Dawkins and the rest of the Earthquakes midfield needed to be sharp in the face of constant pressure from their Sounders counterparts.

Seattle is a good team but we came in tonight and played well right from the start, said Dawkins. It was important to show them why we are on top of the league. It was a great result against a good team.

The Earthquakes started with aplomb, and quickly silenced the announced crowd of 38,948 primarily pro-Sounders supporters with a goal in just the 2nd minute of the match. Collecting a pass in the center of the field, forward Alan Gordon turned the ball wide for a trailing Dawkins. The English midfielder cut the ball back across the top of the area and shook loose of two defenders before unleashing a 25 yard bomb that detonated in the upper right corner of the goal to give San Jose a 1-0 lead.

The Sounders equalized in the 14th minute following a deep throw-in near the Earthquakes byline that was turned into the area by Sammy Ochoa. Shedding defender Jason Hernandez and driving toward goal, Ochoa squared the ball across the six-yard box for Zakuani to slam home at the far post to level the score at 1 goal apiece.

In the 30th minute, the Earthquakes retook the lead through a corner kick opportunity. Mehdi Ballouchys in-swinging restart was headed out of the mixer by defender Brad Evans and right to the foot of Victor Bernardez. The big defender sent a hard cross toward goal where Wondolowski redirected the ball past a helpless Sounders goalkeeper Michael Gspurning to put San Jose up 2-1.

Playing an all-hands-on-deck defense for the better part of the second half, the Earthquakes denied the Sounders at every scoring chance. With the final whistle, San Jose stretched their unbeaten streak to 5 games and pushed their season points total to 60. Coupled with a draw by Sporting Kansas City earlier in the day, the Earthquakes widened their lead in the MLS Supporters Shield race to 5 points. San Jose returns to Buck Shaw Stadium next Saturday night to host FC Dallas.

Quakes look to regroup after disappointing 2016 season


Quakes look to regroup after disappointing 2016 season

This time last year, there was a totally different kind of disappointment over at San Jose Earthquakes headquarters. Yes, they had missed the playoffs for the third consecutive season, but they battled to the very end and came within a couple of points of earning an invitation to the dance.

That sort of late-season run filled the franchise and fans with optimism heading into 2016.

But after an 8-12-14 mark, a ninth place finish in the Western Conference that tied for the worst since their return to MLS and the firing of a general manager midseason, the Quakes are a team faced with the idea of having to stop backwards momentum and restore faith with a fan base that is antsy for a winner on the field.

MVP: Chris Wondolowski fits the truest definition of valuable for the Earthquakes. Off the field, the forward continued and expanded his role of face and ambassador for the franchise. You’d be hard pressed to find another MLS player who exemplifies their club more than Wondolowski.

On the field, it’s almost cringe-worthy to think of where the Quakes would be without Wondolowski. As expected, for yet another season, he led the team in goals with 12 and was fourth in assists -- but his numbers are amplified by a San Jose offense that finished last in MLS with just 32 goals scored this season.

And most importantly, an offense that already struggled to find the back of the net would take an even greater (and incredibly visible) hit when Wondolowski was not in the lineup playing for the U.S. Men’s National Team, or just flat out struggling – consider that in the months when Wondolowski did not score, whether on international duty or not, the Quakes only managed 12 of the possible 36 points and scored two or more goals in a single match just three times.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: A few names come to mind, but with a back line that was ravaged by injuries peppered throughout the season, Marvell Wynne demonstrated the versatility and consistency the Quakes desperately needed. Wynne played all along Dominic Kinnear’s back line, logging the fourth-most minutes on the team behind two other DPOY candidates in David Bingham and Victor Bernardez, plus the aforementioned Wondolowski.

San Jose will have a tough choice to make with Wynne in the offseason with his contract up and a well-deserved raise in the cards -- but his age and its value proposition comes into question. Yet in 2016, Wynne was a lifeline for the Quakes.

BEST OF TIMES: With just eight wins this season, there weren’t a ton of bright spots for the Quakes. But they earned a huge moral victory for northern California soccer when they hosted the MLS All-Star Game.

For a week, San Jose, Silicon Valley and Avaya Stadium was the center of the MLS universe as the stars convened on Coleman Avenue to celebrate the sport.

WORST OF TIMES: It seems pretty crazy to remember that the Quakes actually got off to the best start in franchise history when they won back-to-back games for their first 2-0-0 start ever and a strong 3-1-2 record through their first six matches.

But injuries to the back line and up front (see: Quincy Amarikwa), made thing very difficult for Kinnear to put his best 11 on the field consistency.

Those injuries, coupled with San Jose’s inability to find any sort of traction or winning consistency away from Avaya Stadium really put the season on the down slope. The Quakes only won one road match in 2016.

THE GREAT UNKNOWN: Currently, the Quakes are a team without a general manager. And for a team that obviously needs a couple of pieces, the sooner they hand the reins to someone, the better.

The Earthquakes hired Nolan Partners, the world's largest sports executive search firm, to help identify the club's next GM while technical director Chris Leitch currently fills that void.

According to the Quakes, Nolan Partners will conduct the search both domestically and internationally, using a strict set of criteria to find the best candidates in line with the organization's long-term aspirations.

The clock is ticking though.


Not to sound overly dramatic with the one-word paragraphs, but with just 32 goals this season, and a formula dependent so much on just one player, the Quakes have to hit the drawing board hard and look to add a couple of pieces to make them more competitive up front.

A full offseason with Simon Dawkins could be beneficial – so should the resigning of Alberto Quintero.

But finding a true No. 9 to play in front of Wondolowski and allow the master to roam free underneath where he can do major damage would go a long way in making a much-needed ascent up the offensive categories.

THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS: For those who have resigned themselves to the idea of San Jose being a big-market, high-budget team, the focus has naturally shifted to the youth movement that should follow. The Quakes have taken steps towards that with affiliation deals in the Premier Development League (Burlingame Dragons FC) and the United Soccer League (Sacramento Republic and Reno 1868) to look and develop the next wave of Earthquakes.

The big picture revolves around when the Quakes decide to flip the switch and fully commit to young talent coming through that pipeline. In 2016, San Jose was one of the oldest teams in MLS – could 2017 be the start of the long-awaited Quakes youth movement?

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.