'Quakes ride 2nd half surge to end winless streak


'Quakes ride 2nd half surge to end winless streak

Nick Rosano

Its been a long time coming, but the Earthquakes havefinally snapped their 13 game winless streak. On the back of a strong secondhalf showing and goals from Chris Wondolowski and Ramiro Corrales, theEarthquakes were able to overcome the Chicago Fire 2-0 to keep their slimplayoff chances alive for another week. It wasnt always easy, though.After Wondolowskis 10th minute opener andhalf-chance for Khari Stepehenson minutes later, the Earthquakes found thegoing tough as Chicago dominated the run of play, creating a number of chancesagainst a beleaguered San Jose back line. We weathered the storm in the first half; they should havescored, but we got through that and our response in the second half was great,said head coach Frank Yallop, adding, Their chances in the first half came offour mistakes. In particular, the team was bailed out by Jon Busch twice inthe dying minutes of the first half. First, he did well to deny the FiresDominic Oduro on a one-on-one chance after a giveaway in the midfield. Secondslater, he was on hand to deny a volley from Sebastian Grazzini after theEarthquakes failed to fully clear their lines from a corner. However, the second half yielded much more positive play asthe team connected its passes better and put pressure on Chicago right from the restart. Simon Dawkinsand Rafael Baca were active in the center of midfield, while Wondolowskicontinued to test Sean Johsnon in the Chicagogoal, albeit without much luck. It took a little bit of concentration and execution on ourpart. I thought the movement was there in the first half, we just couldntconnect on some passes, Wondolowski said of the teams second half improvement.While Wondolowski was unable to convert a 53rdminute penalty kick, he spared himself some blushes when he set up Corralessecond goal in the 69th minute after a nicely-worked passingmove.In the second half, we connected our passes and executed onour chances. I am a little disappointed I couldnt get that second goal, but Iam thankful for our defense and Ramiro (Corrales) to clean up and get us the2-0 win, he added. Baca in particular impressed Yallop with his active play inthe midfield, earning commendation from his coach, who said, Im very happyfor Rafa; good player, good kid. Hell continue to see time if he keeps playinglike that. Alongside Baca, who is just now enjoying a run in theEarthquakes first team after signing for the team in July, Yallop reservedpraise for a player on the opposite end of the spectrum. Corrales, playing inhis 209th Earthquakes game, was dangerous on the left flank and dida reasonable job of containing Chicagospace on the other end of the field. Ramiro was very good tonight, and of course he scored thesecond goal, Yallop said. His general play is fantastic right now. Hes ourcaptain and I think his play is indicative of what hes done all year.Despite the impressive contributions across the Earthquakesattacking front, the teams defensive ability told as they managed to get aclean sheet, the teams first since a 0-0 draw at the Columbus Crew on July 16.(Jon) Busch was the man of the match and our defense playedgreat, Wondolowski said. To get a shutout against that team, it makes thiswin that much more special. In addition to Buschs five saves, the defense did well tocontain a Fire offense that has scored two goals in each of its last threecompetitive matches. In particular, Oduro, one of MLS hottest strikers, wasnot able to use his pace to great effect against a well-drilled Quakesbackline. After a win that Yallop was quick to characterize as arelief, the Earthquakes will travel to face the Houston Dynamo to kick off athree game road trip. A win in Houstoncould see the Earthquakes reassert themselves in the playoff race, while a losscould all but kill the teams already slim chances.Hopefully we can go to Houston with a fresh attitude, and if we canwin there, well be right back in it, Yallop said.For more Earthquakes, MLS and world soccer musings,you can follow Nick Rosano on Twitter: @nicholasrosano

Gold Cup roundup: Five takeaways from USMNT's championship win


Gold Cup roundup: Five takeaways from USMNT's championship win

For the sixth time in Gold Cup tournament history, the United States hoisted the championship trophy – this time in front of 63,000 fans Wednesday night at Levi’s Stadium.
Jozy Altidore opened the scoring in the 45th minute with a beautiful free kick. However, Jamaica equalized only five minutes into the second half.
Stanford product Jordan Morris later scored the game-winner in the 88th minute to secure a U.S. title. 
Here are five things you should know about the U.S.’ latest tournament championship.
-- Aside from a little extra gold in the trophy case, the biggest thing the United States takes from winning the cup is confidence. They’ll have about a month worth of rest before the Hexagon resumes – and right out of the gate, it’s a date with Costa Rica, who the U.S. beat on their road to the tournament title.
Currently, Costa Rica sits three points clear of the U.S. in the CONCACAF’s 2018 World Cup qualifying table. A victory against Los Ticos on Sept. 1 would be the biggest win of this latest Bruce Arena era.
-- Speaking of Bruce Arena, it can’t be understated just how big of tournament win this is for the U.S. Soccer manager. Hired to jumpstart a team that to many pundits looked flat and lacked fire under Jurgen Klismann, Arena has now won a trophy, helped the USMNT get back into Hex contention and has not lost a match. In 15 matches, Arena has a 9-0-6 record. He now has 84 career wins as the USMNT front man.
-- We’re still on record breaker watch since Clint Dempsey did not start or play in Wednesday’s final. The Seattle Sounders, who recently took down the San Jose Earthquakes to move ahead of them in the standings and are Dempsey’s club of employment, play their next MLS fixture on Saturday. The risk of shot rest could explain Bruce Arena’s apprehension to not start Dempsey. He came in during the 57th minute. Captain America came really close to scoring twice. 
So, the record, shared by Dempsey and Landon Donovan at 57 international goals, will sit there for at least another match.
-- Quick look at the numbers and there isn’t a clear contender for the U.S. Player of the Gold Cup. So after stumbles against Panama and Martinique to start the tournament, what was most impressive is how the U.S. defense came together to close out the Gold Cup. In five games, they surrendered just one goal. So, hats off to Omar Gonzalez, Graham Zusi, Matt Besler and Jorge Villafaña who were instrumental during that stretch – but let us not forget Matt Hedges, Eric Lichaj and Justin Morrow who really got that impressive defensive stretch rolling.
-- Morris had been struggling to score all season but he may have now forced Arena’s hand with his Gold Cup performance. While he did get beat on defense on Jamaica’s goal, the search for a scoring defender by the USMNT as qualifiers creeps up is ongoing. Morris, who burst onto the MLS scene last season, is making a strong case for himself.

Former Stanford star scores winning goal for USA in Gold Cup victory


Former Stanford star scores winning goal for USA in Gold Cup victory

SANTA CLARA -- As the victorious American players bounced so hard the podium shook, medals round their necks, a beaming Bruce Arena in the back raised his arms to the air right along with them as gold confetti began to fall.

The U.S. resurgence is off to an impressive start since Arena returned late last year. Another CONCACAF Gold Cup crown, and now on to more important business: qualifying for next year's World Cup.

Former Stanford star Jordan Morris scored a tiebreaking goal in the 88th minute, and the United States beat Jamaica 2-1 on Wednesday night for its sixth Gold Cup title and first since 2013.

Jozy Altidore's goal on a 28-yard free kick in the 45th minute beat backup goalkeeper Dwayne Miller after Jamaica captain Andre Blake left early with a hand injury.

Je-Vaughn Watson tied the score when he got away from Morris for a 4-yard volley off Kemar Lawrence's 50th-minute corner kick.

Morris, who left nearby Stanford in his junior year, has won the 2015 NCAA title, the 2016 MLS championship with Seattle and now the 2017 Gold Cup. He got the breakthrough goal with a 14-yard right-footed shot after Gyasi Zardes crossed.

"I was nervous. It was my guy that scored on the goal, so I was trying to make up for it any way that I could," Morris said. "Obviously. I take responsibility for that. But luckily I could put one in the back of the net."

Jermaine Taylor tried to clear with a header and the ball was knocked by Clint Dempsey with a leg back to Morris. It was the fifth international goal for the 22-year-old Morris, who tied 16-year-old Canadian Alphonso Davies for the tournament lead with three goals.

"That was like a dagger in the heart," Jamaica coach Theodore Whitmore said.

The U.S. extended its unbeaten streak to 14 games (9-0-5) under Arena, who became the first coach to win three Gold Cup titles.

"Bruce brought in a new energy," goalkeeper Tim Howard said. "He just gave us a tremendous lift."

U.S. captain Michael Bradley earned the Golden Ball at the tournament's top player.

The Americans had a chance in the 19th minute when Altidore's swerving 30-yard shot was parried by Blake, who dived left and then beat Kellyn Acosta to the rebound at the 6-yard box. Acosta collided with Blake and appeared to kick the keeper's right hand before Jamaica's Damion Lowe cleared. Blake's hand was wrapped but he couldn't continue and was replaced by Miller four minutes later. As Blake left the field, he acknowledged the cheering fans with a wave of his left hand, then later emerged for the medal ceremony with his hand bandaged after receiving seven stitches. Nothing was broken.

"It was a very unfortunate situation. What to say? Very sad situation," Whitmore said.

Altidore put the U.S. ahead with a curling shot past Miller's outstretched right hand into the upper corner of the net just beneath the crossbar, his 39th goal in 108 appearances.

Lawrence, who scored in a 1-0 semifinal win Sunday against Mexico, took another corner kick in the 75th minute moments after Alvas Powell's shot from close range deflected off Graham Zusi - a sequence that had Howard yelling at the defense.

Using a lineup with about half its regular starters - the rest are in preseason with European clubs - the U.S. reached its record 10th final. The Reggae Boyz were a surprising final opponent after they stunned Mexico in a semifinal Sunday to reach the title match for a second straight time.

With 18 of 22 starters from Major League Soccer, this was a rematch of the 2015 Gold Cup semifinal won 2-1 by Jamaica at Atlanta. For the first time since replacing Jurgen Klinsmann in November, Arena kept his lineup unchanged. He inserted the 34-year-old Dempsey in the 55th minute.

Chunks of turf came loose yet again at Levi's Stadium, the $1.2 billion, 3-year-old home of the NFL San Francisco 49ers. The field has been an ongoing issue.

The Americans hope for momentum built during this run as they prepare to resume World Cup qualifying. The U.S faces Costa Rica in a rematch of the Gold Cup semifinal on Sept. 1 at Harrison, New Jersey, and play four days later at Honduras. The hex concludes against Panama on Oct. 6 in Orlando, Florida, and at Trinidad and Tobago four days after.

"We're not worried one bit about World Cup qualifying today. I can promise you that," Bradley said. "This was about a group of guys winning a trophy and that's been the only goal."

Arena already was looking ahead.

"We're a long way from qualifying for a World Cup, and that's the objective, for sure," he said.