The San Jose Earthquakes continued their march to the Western Conference title by earning a 3-0 win against Chivas USA on Saturday night at Spartan Stadium. Second half goals from Mark Chung, Ricardo Clark and Brian Ching paced the San Jose attack, while Pat Onstad earned his team record 10th shutout of the season.
The result saw the Quakes extend their lead atop the Western Conference standings, now 12 points ahead of the second-place Los Angeles Galaxy. For Chivas USA, the loss officially put an end to any hope they had for their inaugural season, eliminated from postseason contention with five games left to play.
The first half was played at a breakneck pace, as the Quakes wasted little time going on the attack. The home side peppered the visitors' goal with a series of crosses and corner kicks that had Chivas keeper Sergio "Matute" Garcia scrambling. The spell of early pressure culminated in the 12th minute when Chung's free kick from 22 yards was touched over the bar by Garcia.
Chivas eventually found their feet, and nearly broke on top in the 19th minute. Francisco Palencia broke free on the right wing, but his attempted cross was cleared away by Quakes defender Danny Califf.
The Quakes' Clark forced another fine save from Garcia in the 26th minute, when his 30-yard blast was parried away by the Chivas 'keeper.
Chivas then squandered an incredible chance to break on top two minutes later. A Ramon Ramirez free kick was spilled by Onstad right to the feet of Ezra Hendrickson, but the Chivas defender skied his shot over the bar from only five yards out.
Chivas attacker Juan Pablo Garcia put on a dribbling exhibition in the 35th minute, as he beat four San Jose players in the Quakes' half. The visiting midfielder's eventual attempt to work a one-two with a teammate saw him try to win a free kick by going to ground, but referee Ben Jones wasn't buying it and waved play on.
Play became increasingly rough, with Chivas seeing three players earn yellow cards with only one for San Jose. The primary target of their ire was the Quakes' Brian Mullan, whose 24th-minute takedown of Ramirez wasn't punished with a caution. In an attempt at retaliation, Chivas players Hendrickson and Antonio Martinez then saw yellow for late hits on the San Jose midfielder.
There was no letup in the pace to start the second half, and San Jose went ahead courtesy of a fortuitous bounce. De Rosario stole the ball just inside his own half, and was quickly off to the races. His pass found Chung streaking down the left wing, whose shot took a deflection off Sequeira and looped over a hopelessly stranded Garcia for the San Jose midfielder's sixth goal of the season.
In the 74th minute, the Quakes effectively killed off the contest courtesy of Clark's goal. The San Jose midfielder took a feed from De Rosario and proceeded on a long, mazy run to the top of the Chivas box. Sequeira got a touch to Clark's dribble, but the ball bounced straight back to the Quakes' attacker and he rifled home his shot from 20 yards, making the score 2-0.
Chivas gamely tried to climb back into the match, and had a glimmer of hope in the 85th minute when Francisco Mendoza was put through on goal, but his goalbound shot was kicked just wide by Onstad.
San Jose then put the icing on the cake in the 87th minute on Ching's fifth goal of the season. De Rosario's pass found the Hawaiian wide open in the box, and he easily beat substitute goalkeeper Brad Guzan for his first tally since returning from surgery to repair a torn hamstring.
San Jose will attempt to make it two in a row against Chivas next weekend, when they travel to The Home Depot Center to take on the expansion side.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Dwayne De Rosario (San Jose Earthquakes)
Jeff Carlisle is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.