San Jose Earthquakes 2011
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San Jose Earthquakes
Sporting Kansas City
After coming within a game of MLS Cup in 2010, the San Jose Earthquakes felt at the beginning of the 2011 season they were closer to a third MLS title than they ever had since being reborn in 2008.
It didn’t quite turn out that way.
The Quakes opened the year in a 1-4-2 tailspin and, despite a brief interlude that saw them get back into sixth place in the Western Conference, a team-record 13-match winless streak in league play – stretching from June 11 to Sept. 10 – finished off any hopes San Jose had of getting back into the playoff picture as they posted a record of 8-12-14.
Injuries were an undeniable problem, but the Quakes also simply weren’t as efficient at finishing off games as they had been a year earlier – San Jose finished 16th out of 18 clubs in terms of winning percentage after scoring first.
However one of the best moments of this season was seeing Chris Wondolowski tie D.C. United's Dwayne De Rosario for the league lead in scoring with a 34th-minute penalty kick in the Quakes’ final game, a 4-2 home win against FC Dallas on Oct. 22. San Jose fans never got a chance to properly celebrate Wondolowski’s Golden Boot victory in 2010, since he scored his final goal in Kansas City, then had to outwait the LA Galaxy’s Edson Buddle. This time, they reveled in Wondolowski’s success, even if he didn’t manage to claim a second straight award (De Rosario won on the assists tie-breaker).
Yet there were some low moments for San Jose throughout the 2011 season, one such instance came when Quakes forward Steven Lenhart had a pair of breakaway chances against Vancouver goalkeeper Joe Cannon and couldn’t put either on net. Talented striker Lenhart was dispossessed by recovering defenders in the first instance, pushing a shot wide in the second and it spoke to the depth of the 25-year-old’s continuing pain and anguish over the death of his father. Lenhart left the team after that contest, and the club announced a couple weeks later that he was on an indefinite family leave of absence. He did not appear for the Quakes again all season, and San Jose slid to a 3-6-5 finish.
For a team that languished near the bottom of the charts in terms of total goals, there were a surprising number of candidates for goal of the season, but the winner came from an unlikely source. Rookie goalkeeper David Bingham, making his first-team debut in an international friendly against English Premier League side West Bromwich Albion on July 13, became a million-hit YouTube sensation in the third minute when he launched a long pass from the edge of his own box. The ball bounced over the head of sun-blinded Baggies ‘keeper Boaz Myhill and into the net for a stunning 90-yard strike.
Veteran goalie Jon Busch again came up big in 2011, making a league-leading 113 stops. His best moment came in the 84th-minute sequence from the Quakes’ 2-2 tie with New York on July 2, a nationally televised game played in front of 41,028 fans at Stanford Stadium. First, Busch had to sprint off his line after his back line was laid bare by some precise Red Bulls passing and brush aside a 15-yard attempt from the wide-open Dane Richards. Four seconds later, Busch had just managed to scramble back to his net before having to make a diving, leaping deflection on Joel Lindpere’s blast from the edge of the box.
Two key players emerged after Lenhart’s sad departure, with Wondolowski and Busch doing their best to anchor the team at either end of the pitch. In the end, Wondolowski’s late rush, scoring six times in the Quakes’ final five matches made him the team’s standout guy for 2011.
23-year-old midfielder Simon Dawkins, who came to Northern California on a one-year loan deal from EPL power Tottenham Hotspur also impressed throughout the campaign. Dawkins’ promising career in England had been derailed by injury, and though he did have to go on the shelf in a couple of instances during 2011, he accomplished enough in his 1,773 minutes to leave fans suitably impressed, scoring six goals (second on the team) and dishing out two assists.