A Chris Wondolowski hat-trick paced the San Jose Earthquakes to a 4-1 victory over the Colorado Rapids at Dicks Sporting Goods Park Saturday night. With the win, the Earthquakes clinched the regular season Western Conference title and a number one seed in the MLS Cup playoffs.
Less than two minutes into the match, Marvin Chavez opened the scoring for San Jose against Colorado, and Wondolowski followed with his 23rd, 24th, and 25th goals of the season. A late red card shown to defender Jason Hernandez resulted in a penalty kick for the Rapids that was converted by Andre Akpan to prevent the home side from being shut out.
With three goals scored, Wondolowski raised his San Jose career total to 62 goals and passed Ronald Cerritos to become the Earthquakes franchise all-time goal scorer. With two more goals in the teams remaining two regular season games, Wondolowski would draw level with Roy Lassiter for the single-season record of 27 goals scored.
The victory moved the Earthquakes six points clear of Sporting Kansas City at the top of the Supporters Shield standings. A loss by Sporting to the Columbus Crew on Sunday would virtually clinch the Shield or San Jose.
Following their road draw with FC Dallas last weekend, the Earthquakes refigured their line-up in search of a victory against the struggling Rapids. Head coach Frank Yallop unveiled a Starting XI that featured the teams three leading scorers this season: Wondolowski, Steven Lenhart, and Alan Gordon. With such offensive power on the field, it did not take long for the visitors to capitalize.
In the second minute, Sam Cronin sent a long free kick into the Rapids area that was cleared right to the feet of Chavez. The Honduran midfielder, who will depart directly from Colorado to join his countrys national team for a pair of World Cup qualifying matches this week, drilled a shot through traffic that left goalkeeper Matt Pickens flat-footed.
The Earthquakes doubled their lead in the 11th minute through Wondolowski, who chested a cross from Rafael Baca past Pickens for what would eventually be counted as his 11th game winning goal of the season.
Colorado twice had opportunities to get on the board in the first half but Justin Morrow cleared a Luis Zapata chipped shot off the line in the 30th minute and Ramiro Corrales nicked a shot from Omar Cummings beyond the far post in the 43rd minute.
Wondolowski netted his second goal of the game in 51st minute after a cross into the area deflected into his path in front of goal. Defender Drew Moor made a touch on the ball as the shot rifled on target, and Pickens was unable to make a try on the goal.
The MLS Golden Boot leader completed his hat-trick in the 83rd minute when the Colorado defense completely lost track of him at the top of the area. Cronin, spying the wide open Wondolowski fed him the ball with plenty of time to turn and shoot on target. The goal extended the Earthquakes lead to 4-0 on the night.
The Rapids pulled one back in stoppage time following a red card to Hernandez and a penalty kick conversation from Akpan. As the last defender on a breakaway, Hernandez tackled Akpan in the area to earn the ejection. The Earthquakes defender will be required to sit out the teams next match.
After a two week break in the schedule, San Jose returns to action on October 21 in a home match against the LA Galaxy at Buck Shaw Stadium. They close out their season with a trip away to Portland the following weekend.