A brace from Alvaro Saborio was all visiting Real Salt Lake needed in a convincing 2-0 win over the host San Jose Earthquakes.
Playing without a host of regular starters due to a number of injuries to start their 2013 season, the Earthquakes did not look as impressive as in their 2012 Supporters’ Shield winning season, and they dropped their first regular season match at Buck Shaw Stadium since August of 2011.
“The goals we conceded were not good,” said head coach Frank Yallop. “Good finishes, but we need to do better than that to win games.”
Salt Lake did their damage in the second half after surviving a first half that saw the Earthquakes squander too many scoring opportunities.
“We created enough chances to score more than one or two goals but didn’t take them,” added Yallop. “They didn’t defend well in the first half and should have punished them.”
For RSL, the victory was a measure of revenge for a 5-0 loss they suffered in San Jose last July. Chris Wondolowski scored a hat-trick in that match, but in this match was unable to break through against a stingy SaltLake defense, especially in the first half. Admirably bearing the burden of being elevated to Designated Player status, the reigning MLS MVP was contrite in his assessment of his performance.
“Horrible finishing by me,” said Wondolowski. “I had four point-blank chances and didn’t put any of them on frame. If I finish those chances it’s a whole different game and we’re cruising after that.”
Instead of rolling to a comfortable victory in front of a packed Buck Shaw Stadium, the Earthquakes were barren on the offensive side of the ball and at two inopportune times during the later stages of the game porous on defense.
“We’re not going to feel too bad about ourselves,” said centerback Jason Hernandez. “We were really dangerous offensively and created a lot of chances. Soccer is a cruel game sometimes, but we played well enough to win.”
The Earthquakes will return to action this Sunday against the New York Red Bulls with a chance to make amends.
After an opening quarter hour when each side was testing out the other, Wondolowski nearly opened the scoring with a pair of quality opportunities. On the first of successive corner kicks in the 14th minute, the Earthquakes talisman attempted a side volley near the back post, but the shot was deflected out to safety. On the restart, a loose ball fell to Wondolowski just outside the six-yard box, but his shot was partially blocked by defender Tony Beltran and palmed off the crossbar by goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
A counterattacking sequence in the 21st minute found Shea Salinas with space to roam on near the right sideline. The winger spied Mike Fucito cutting across the top of the penalty area and sent in a low pass. Fucito stepped over the entry pass, which allowed Wondolowski to return a perfect ball into the area for his forward partner, but Fucito missed his low shot to the far post.
Jon Busch saw his first action of the match in the 24th minute, as a well struck ball from RSL’s Luis Gil required the veteran ‘keeper to paw the ball from danger. In the 41st minute, Sebastain Velasquez sent in a knuckling shot from 25 yards that Busch punched to safety.
Visiting Salt Lake, with former Earthquake Khari Stephenson in the midfield, was unable to mount much of a challenge on the home side’s defense through the remainder of the first half and the teams entered the locker room in a scoreless tie.
A choppy start to the second half saw neither team threaten to score, and numerous flare-ups disrupted the flow of the game. In the 58th minute a San Jose free kick was quickly taken by Salinas and found an uncontested Wondolowski gliding into the area. With his back to goal the newly minted Designated Player attempted to back header, but the shot drifted wide of the target.
The teams traded yellow cards midway through the second half as Kenny Mansally was cited for delay of game and Victor Bernardez was adjudged to have taken down forward Robbie Findley on an RSL counterattack.
Real Salt Lake broke the deadlock in the 71st minute on a quick change of possession. After he received the ball just inside the Earthquakes half, second half substitute Joao Plata lifted a ball toward the center of the field. Costa Rican forward Saborio raced past Hernandez to get to the ball first, and he calmly slotted a shot past a helpless Busch to make the score 1-0 RSL.
Down a goal and hoping to capture some of the late-game magic that defined the team in 2012, Yallop brought in a pair of young, speedy wingers to replace veterans Salinas and Ramiro Corrales. Soon after, Adam Jahn, the tall rookie forward from Stanford University, made his Earthquakes debut.
Instead of conjuring up a comeback, San Jose soon fell down 2-0 through Saborio. With space to maneuver atop the penalty area, Kyle Beckerman toe-poked a perfect pass into the path of Saborio, and the burly forward turned and fired a left footed shot past a diving Busch.
The Earthquakes, much to the disappointment of the sold out Buck Shaw Stadium, failed to challenge Real Salt Lake the rest of the way, and the match ended with the visitors victorious.