If there was any doubt as to which team deserved to be at the top of the MLS Western Conference standings, it was erased with the San Jose Earthquakes 5-0 dismantling of Real Salt Lake. Chris Wondolowski netted a hat trick for the Quakes, with Alan Gordon and Simon Dawkins adding to the score.
The victory, played out in front of a Buck Shaw Stadium crowd of 10,744, was the Quakes' third of the season over RSL and helped them extend their lead in the race for the Supporters Shield. In addition, Wondolowskis three goals extended his lead in the MLS Golden Boot to a league-topping 17 goals.
Most of the damage against Real Salt Lake came after captain Kyle Beckerman was sent off in the 58th minute for a straight red card offense against Quakes midfielder Sam Cronin. The Earthquakes were leading comfortably by a score of 1-0 at the time, and quickly built their advantage to five goals over the next twenty minutes. The five-goal margin of victory marked the largest in franchise history, achieved on three other occasions.
With the setting sun shining directly into their eyes, the Real Salt Lake defense had some tense moments early on. A misplayed clearance by Jamison Olave in the ninth minute bounced to Wondolowski just outside the area. He carried the ball toward goal and unleashed a low shot that eluded RSL keeper Nick Rimando, but skidded just beyond the far post.
Wondolowski would not miss his next opportunity, as the Earthquakes' MLS All-Star First XI selection tallied his 15th goal of the season in the 18th minute. A corner kick from Marvin Chavez was headed into the mixer by Gordon and redirected toward goal by Justin Morrow. With Rimando rooted to his line, Wondolowski executed a perfect diving header at the far post to give the Earthquakes a one goal lead.
The Earthquakes threatened to double their lead in the 26th minute on a counterattack, but a wide ball to Chavez was poorly crossed into the midsection of RSL defender Kenny Mansally. In an ensuing retaliation tackle against Mansally, Chavez was shown a yellow card.
The match took another turn in favor of the Earthquakes in the 56th minute, when a near melee broke out following a rough challenge on Cronin by RSL midfielder Beckerman. With players jostling near the centerline, referee Allen Chapman showed a straight red card to Beckerman. Additional yellow cards were shown to Morrow for the Earthquakes and Fabian Espindola for Salt Lake.
San Jose didnt need long to double their advantage when, in the 62nd minute, a yellow card foul on Mansally gave the Earthquakes a free kick deep in RSL territory. Chavez delivered a low kick that was headed by Victor Bernandez off the inside of the far post. Gordon, following up the play, made the simplest of touches to send the ball into the back of the net for his seventh goal of the season and a 2-0 Earthquakes lead.
Wondolowski scored his second goal of the night in the 72nd minute, when he was able to sneak behind the defense and redirect a Shea Salinas cross with the outside of his boot just inside the near post. The goal was Wondolowskis 16th of the season, matching his entire total for the 2011 season when he shared the MLS lead with Dwayne De Rosario.
As the game devolved more into an Earthquakes shooting drill, second half substitute Dawkins put his name on the scoresheet with a goal in the 79th minute. A corner kick from Salinas was redirected in the area by Wondolowski for the Tottenham loanee to blast into the roof of the net for a 4-0 lead.
Wondolowski completed his hat trick in the 80th minute with a one-on-one finish against besieged RSL keeper Rimando. After second-half substitute Khari Stephenson threaded a through ball to Wondolowski, he calmly shot the ball low and to the far post for the Earthquakes' fifth goal of the night.
The Earthquakes next host FC Dallas at Buck Shaw Stadium on Wednesday, July 18.